Fetters Hot Springs, History, Resorts

Leixner/Nimpfer/Weghofer

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The Viennese

Martin Leixner started a tailoring business in Sonoma in 1919. He was among a group of Viennese immigrants to settle the area. In 1923 he joined with another Viennese tailor, Herman Weghofer, to enlarge the business, which was located “in Fetters Springs, on the Highway, opposite the Hotel.”

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In 1924, Leixner took on another partner, a Mr. Nimpfer, and another business, that of chauffer. The next year we read in the Index Tribune that “Mrs. Putnam, two children, maid and chauffer of Commonwealth Avenue, San Francisco, spent the last week end at Leixner’s Resort, one of the attractive places of the Springs. Mr. Leixner has utilized the rocky formation of the hillside where his resort is situated for rustic stone stairways, and made it otherwise very artistic.” This is undoubtedly the same site at which his tailoring business was located. At some point, Mr. Nimpher’s name appears on the resort in place of Leixner’s.

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The new facade is dated 1933

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Herman Weghofer went on to open his Vienna Coffee Garden just a few hundred feet south of there, a few years later.

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ViennaCoffeeAd1933On Friday, September 10, 1937, the Index Tribune tells us, a large group of tailors “visited their friend, Herman Weghofer, at Vienna Gardens, in Fetters Springs… This was a veritable tailor’s convention and Mr. Weghofer, who formerly tailored for the City of Paris, was very happy.”

Index Tribune, January 1, 1954-“Death Claims Mrs. R. Nimpfer, Long Time Resident of Fetters”…..She and her husband, Gottfried, who survives her, were proprietors of a Sonoma bakery form 1924 to 1929. The later became proprietors of a grocery store and resort directly opposite the Fetters Hot Springs Hotel, which they operated for nearly 20 years, until selling to Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Roy (Rohr, actually).”

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In 1945Leixner and Nimpfer “branch” out.

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At some point the grocery was renamed Roy’s.

Fire at Roy’s Grocery, 1970 (Index Tribune photos courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society)

In later years the buildings housed various restaurants. In 2019 a photo posted on the Facebook group “You know you’re from Sonoma when..” elicited some memories:

The building on the left that has the “Grocery” sign on the front eventually became my mother-in-law’s Mexican restaurant, Mi Tienda. (see photos above.)

Oak Tree Cantina! Mmmmm!

We use to dine on the roof and watch Juanita throw people out of her establishment! 

The big one with the garage, my dad and mom leased for 5 years, it was a bar called Ev’s Stop. Lots of good times there, early 60s I think. 

I spend a lot of time in Roy’s grocery watching my mom and dad play cards in the back of the the store and sometimes I would go upstairs and watch TV. And if I got bored I would walk home I lived on Hillside Ave. 

Yeah we got on that roof also. So cool to have a birds eye view. Great just to hang out there. 

Was that in the area of Roy’s Sharon and Shorty rented there when Brian was born. 

Roy’s was the building with the two shutters sticking out. 

Loved the Oak Tree! 

I worked at the Oak Tree in the 80s…I miss that place! 

Before Oaktree it was the Hashery. 

After. It was the Oaktree first then the Hashery. 

What a great memory, the Greyhound. Doesn’t look like it changed much from the 30s to the 70s.

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Close-up showing fragment of Mexican restaurant sign, 2018.

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2009

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2008

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2015

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April 2018. Dilapidation increases. How long can these buildings stand?

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December 2018. New windows and new paint give hope!

About my first sight of these buildings: Long before I moved there (from San Francisco) I happened to take a drive down Highway 12 from Calistoga Rd. to the town of Sonoma. The setting, these buildings, and the place names, Agua Caliente, Fetters Hot Springs, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, immediately and permanently enthralled me. I remain enthralled.

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photo collage/painting by Michael Acker

All photos by author or from his collection, except where noted. Newspaper clippings courtesy Sonoma Valley Historical Society.

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Newly discovered photo of patrons relaxing at Vienna Garden Cafe.

 

 

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Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, History, Photographs, Resorts, Uncategorized

Railroads in Sonoma Valley

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The history of railroads in Sonoma Valley is complicated and confusing. It started in the 1860s and included at least 15 different companies, but by 1889 there we just two: the Santa Rosa and North Pacific, and the Northern Railway. The SR and NP became the Northwestern Pacific in 1907, and Southern Pacific subsumed the Northern in 1898. The NWP tracks were on the east side of Sonoma Creek, with a depot in Boyes Hot Springs, and SP on the west, stopping at El Verano. The old rights-of-way can be glimpsed in some places. Sierra Drive in Boyes is one location. See https://springsmuseum.org/2018/03/29/sierra-drive-meincke-road/

A precursor to the NWP, the Sonoma Valley Railroad, existed until 1889. In this schedule we see that it visited a stop called Pioneer Grove. This was the name used before Boyes Springs was used.

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The railroads served the populace of San Francisco, primarily, who wished to spend warm summer days at the resorts. They came in their thousands by rail. But as early as 1920, the railroads were challenged by bus lines and automobiles. (The “auto-camp,” precursor to the motel, originated in the 1920s.) The Index Tribune reported in 1921 that executives of the NWP were considering new, modern electric cars on the Santa Rosa-San Rafael line to counter the competition from buses. To no avail. In 1930, the Glen Ellen depot was eliminated.

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The editorial comment in the IT was prophetic. Rail service was gone by 1942.

Following is a collection of images of depots in Sonoma Valley, with some maps, which are courtesy of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society.

 

NWP depots:

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Agua Caliente, year unknown

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A later Agua Caliente depot? Similar to Boyes Depot of 1923

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The name was changed to Boyes Hot Spring at least by 1908, but Model T production started in 1909, so perhaps all of the signs were not changed at one time.

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Marie and Elsie stand in front of a depot called “Boyes Springs,” in 1921. apparently the word “Hot” in the name came and went. This station was destroyed in the fire of 1923.

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1916 map showing the old hotel and the canal that ran down Pine Street.

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Still from the 1923 Harold Binney movie “Account of the no-account Count.” The film shows the train arriving at Fetters Springs.

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Boyes Hot Springs depot in 1942, the year service ended. The Woodleaf Store can be seen behind the depot.

 

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The Verano depot, across the creek from El Verano.

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Verano depot circa 1905

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Glen Ellen, year unknown.

Southern Pacific depots:

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Eldridge depot 1898

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El Verano, circa 1890s

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El Verano depot shortly after construction, 1880s

Images courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society.

 

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Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, History, Photographs, Resorts, Springs Historic Photo Database

New to the Springs Historic Photo Database

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Probably around 1910

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His name is Gus. Post marked Boyes Hot Springs, but is this the Plaza? 1912

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The “Old Hotel.” Before 1923

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El Verano Villa. Near Verano Ave. and the creek.

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Gables Hotel. Exact location unknown.

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Sonoma Mission Inn, 1937, ten years after it was completed.

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Sonoma Grove, on the Highway between Sonoma and Boyes.

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Architecture, Fetters Hot Springs, History, Now and Then, Photographs, Resorts, Uncategorized

Reclamation?

This is the key historic building still standing in Agua Caliente. Apparently undergoing demolition-by-neglect, it has, in August 2018, gotten a set of new windows and a paint job. We can only hope that the structure behind the stucco still has integrity.

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Before the new paint, the ghost of the word “Mexcian” could be seen near the sidewalk. Various restarants and markets have been housed in the building.

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After paint. The windows still have the factory sticker.

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In the days of Liexner’s Resort.

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And Nimpfer’s.

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History, Photographs, Resorts, Uncategorized

Caliente Villa

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Courtesy Robert Palmelee

The resort was located on the east side of Sonoma Highway, near the corner of what was then known as Sonoma Avenue, now Marin Avenue. The Agua Caliente post office was reportedly located in one of the resort buildings.

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Map courtesy of Jeff Gilbert

In a 1941 article, the Index Tribune located the resort across the road from (the old) Flowery School, which was at the corner of Vailetti Drive.

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In this alarming article from 1972, the address is listed as 17127 Sonoma Highway.

The founders of Caliente Villa in Agua Caliente are not known, but we do know the resort was owned by A. Nevraumont by 1917. Nevraumont was an early resort owner in El Verano, having established El Verano Villa before the turn of the 20th century.

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”My Great Uncle Joe Costa and My Great Uncle SFPD Officer Joe O’Rourke – Early 1930’s…Great Shot of Caliente Villa – Behind Them.” Jeff Gilbert via Facebook.

In 1923 the buildings changed hands.CalVilla1923Changeshands

CalienteVillaAdCourtesy Lynn Downey

In fact, the Villa went through many owners and managers. In 1920 Mrs. Lewis and Miss Ross were in charge. They…”have leased the (resort) and will conduct the popular springs resort on the apartment plan…” Along with “modern conveniences and comforts,” the new proprietors would provide “a long distance phone” and a “classy jazz orchestra!”

That same year, Lewis and Ross entertained “twenty four members of the Salt Lake City baseball team…Mrs. Lewis and Miss Ross were assisted by a number of young ladies…There was dancing, music and card playing…” and “everything was complimentary, including the smokes, and the boys report a swell time.”

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Courtesy California State Library

Jack Valente (his name is seen under Caliente Villa in the sign) ran the resort as of 1940. The term “auto camp,” however, was in use at least from the early 1920s. Automobile tourism in Sonoma Valley started before the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Note the dormers on the three buildings shown in the photo.

Several of the buildings were in existence in 1984 when Dan Peterson made his Historic Resource report for Redevelopment.

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The development proposal in 1986 probably resulted in the demolition of 17127, and it looks like the 20 multifamily units were indeed built.

17101 was still there in 2008.

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In 2018 only one survives (17123).

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Architecture, El Verano, History, mid-century, Resorts, Uncategorized

Rozario’s

Rozarios’ resort, the successor to Parente’s Villa, was located on Verano Avenue between the Highway and the bridge.

Louis Parente, a notorious bar owner, fight promoter and would-be politician, came to El Verano in 1906 from San Francisco. (Please see Jeff Elliot’s great santarosahistory.com for much more on Parente: http://santarosahistory.com/wordpress/2016/07/the-village-of-vice-in-the-valley-of-the-moon/

By 1925 he had built a “new” hotel.

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According to the Index Tribune, “The 43 room hotel, hut, cottages and grounds were purchased by the Rozarios in 1943, and it was on January 1, 1944 that they opened it for business. The former San Francisco and Marin county residents had purchased the property from Joe Parente [actually Louis Parente], colorful Bay Area sports figure who brought many prize fighters here to train.”

Rozario’s was popular through the 1950s for wedding receptions, fashion shows, and formal dinners.

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The Rozarios sold the resort to Carl Innskeep and Joe La Rango in 1955.

It later became known as the El Verano Inn.ElVeranoInnweb

The buildings were torn down in 1985 to make way for an extension of the Finnish American Home Association’s housing complex for retired people, which was located behind the old resort building. In that year, the editor of the FAHA Manor News explained in a letter to the editor of the Index Tribune that FAHA wanted to preserve the building, but “could not afford the very expensive improvements necessary…” Thus we lost another piece of our history.RozariosTornDown1985clip

 

 

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History, Photographs, Resorts, Uncategorized

Images of America, The Springs:Resort Towns of Sonoma Valley

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Michael Acker’s book will be out on March 27. There will be a book signing at Reader’s Books in Sonoma on March 30, 7PM. Other events to follow including one at the Depot Park Museum, date TBD.

The book features 210 photographs of the Springs from 1885 to 2016. Part history, part nostalgia, part pride of place in the here and now, it is sure to interest and delight residents, visitors, and the curious alike.

Buy it here: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467124300

 

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El Verano, History, Resorts, Uncategorized

Crane’s Hotel/Our Resort/McNeilly’s

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UPDATE! New to our Historic Photo Database, this image of Our Resort during the early years of Rose Pensar’s ownership. The horse and rider are on the present Willow Street, Second Avenue then (circa 1924). The auto and driver, Verano Avenue, which was called Arbor Avenue at the time. (Author’s collection)

First, the confusion.

There was a Crane’s Hotel, and a Crane’s Sanitarium. Cranes Hotel was at the corner of Willow and Verano Avenue, and existed as early as 1908, according to an advertisement in the Press Democrat. Crane’s Sanitarium was “between Boyes Hot Springs and El Verano,” according to an ad they placed in the Index Tribune in 1921, and “Near Verano Station, between Boyes Hot Springs and Sonoma City. Just off the highway,” according to a tourist guidebook from around 1920.

Crane’s Sanitarium was the precursor to Sonoma Valley Hospital (Please see http://www.svh.com/the-evolution-of-sonoma-valley-hospital/.) Crane’s Hotel became Our Resort, then McNeilly’s Tavern. The two establishments, the sanitarium and the resort, were not one and the same.cranesshotelcraneshoteltrees1912Post marked 1912.

An Index Tribune archive search does not turn up much for Crane’s Hotel. The span of years between the first and last mention of Crane’s Hotel is 1908-1916. It became Our Resort sometime after 1916. Rose Pensar is listed as owner in 1924 and mentioned in 1938 as being “of Our Resort.” There is a 1924 Oakland Tribune ad for Our Resort.pressdemo1908craneshotel oaklandtrib1916craneshotelourresortoaklandtrib1924ourresort2webourresort1web

Baseball was very important in Sonoma Valley for many years. In May of 1935, Our Resort hosted The Greyhounds team from San Francisco. In later years, the resort sponsored a softball team that won many local championships.ourresortchampions

Notice that the ad says “Just West of the New Bridge.” The new bridge on Verano Avenue opened on September 17, 1950. The map shows the location of the old bridge and, at the time, proposed new one. After the new bridge was completed, the county tried to sell the old steel trusses, but there were no takers.oldevbridgemapelveranobridge

McNeilly’s opened in February, 1981, with a “new 25 inch color TV,” according to the Index Tribune. The pool table was replaced by a Space Invaders game. The Tavern was still in business, and still sponsoring sports teams, into the 2000s.After it closed, the building was vacant and derelict, and seemed headed for demolition. But, early in 2017, new owners had a new foundation installed, and it appears the structure will be saved, if not “restored.” Tearing off the siding revealed the old “Our Resort” sign. Perhaps that can be preserved as a memorial to the history of the building and the days of the resorts.ourresort2017February 2017

 

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