The last year of operation for the Northwest Pacific Railroad in Sonoma Valley, which ran on the east side of Sonoma Creek, was 1942. That year freight service ended, and the tracks were torn up for steel for the war effort. Traces of the right-of-way can be seen in several places in El Verano, Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, and Agua Caliente.
From El Verano going north:
In El Verano the tracks run through the Paul’s Resort property, where the Verano (not El Verano) depot was located.
Paul’s Resort, 1960s
From there it parallels Fairview Ln. (which may have been right-of-way) until it gets to Thompson, where Sierra Dr., formerly Meinke Ave., takes over the roadbed. (More about Sierra and Mienke.) Manzanita St. might have been a spur. It features several buildings that look as if they could have been built by the railroad.
House on Manzanita near Academy Lane
Where Sierra turns east to the Highway the right of way continues north through the Sonoma Mission Inn (originally the Boyes Hot Springs Resort) grounds and past the BHS depot, which land is now the parking lot for the Plaza Center building (More here).
Right-of-way next to old commercial buildings at Boyes Plaza, which were demolished in 2018. Photo taken from the apporxiamte location of the Boyes Depot.
Continuing north it parallels the Highway and can be seen crossing Lichtenberg Ave, parallel to Johnson Ave.
The next trace is the old Fetters Depot building on Depot Rd in front of Flowery School. It crosses the Fetters Apartments and Charter School properties and is seen again at Vialetti Dr. The old roadbed has become the alley the runs from Vailetti to Marin Ave. That is the last appearance of the right-of-way in the area.
Fetters Depot 1910s
At Marin Ave. looking south.
At Marin Ave. looking north.
At Vailetti Rd. looking north
Maps and photographs courtesy of the sonoma Valley Historical Society unless noted otherwise.
In a sense, this exhibit is a follow-up to Michael Acker’s book “The Springs, Resort Towns of Sonoma Valley,” (Arcadia Publishing, 2017) with many more photographs and ephemera, and in color. Here is a small preview.
Thanks to the Sonoma Valley Historical Societyfor assistance, especially Lorrie Baetge Fulton, Patricia Cullinan, Kate Shertz, Peter Meyerhoff, Roy Tennant, and Lynn Downey, and for images, and access to the Index Tribune archive.
Thanks also to the many community members who have shared their memories and photographs with the author.
The building now know as 18135 Highway 12, in Boyes Hot Springs, is one of the oldest commercial buildings in the community. The original business, Kramer’s Inn, goes back at least to 1918. That building was destroyed in the great fire of September 1923 and the current one dates from that year.
1938, 1950s, 1960s, 2021. Valley Hardware was in a building where the glass company (blue awnings, top photo) is now. It was right next to Gallo Bros. car dealership. This composite shows the building after it was sold to Esposito. Read on.
The sign says “Kramer’s Inn, Stage Depot.” Before or after the fire of 1923? The top of the façade looks like the later building, but we don’t know that he didn’t rebuild to duplicate the one that was destroyed. Anyway, what an interesting bunch of folks. All men but two. I particularly like the two guys in the center, one draping his arms over the other.What occasioned this group photo?
Immediately after the fire there was great determination to rebuild. Kramer set up his temporary store right away.
“The ashes at Boyes Springs were hardly cold before many of the enterprising property owners and business people began to re-establish themselves and put up buildings. Kramer, the grocer is doing business in a tent and will rebuild at once.” Index Tribune September 1923. October 20, 1923: “The Kramer store is nearing completion and many other improvements are contemplated as soon as the new state highway grade is authoritatively established.” Yes, this is incredibly fast construction! Remember, no permits were required.
In 1924, Kramer improved the store with a stucco front. In 1930, he became Greyhound agent for the Springs.
Noble Kramer was born in 1878 in Ohio. He came to California with his wife Luisa and daughter Lucille sometime before 1920. He had some political ambitions. In 1942 he ran for judge but was not elected. He ran for judge and county clerk several times without success, and applied to become the postmaster of Boyes Hot springs in the year the job was awarded to Marion Greene, of the Woodleaf Market.
In 1938 Kramer sold to A. Desposito who renamed it the Boyes Springs Store.
Noble Kramer Died 1948.
In 1942 Mike and Rose Gitti took over and ran the store as Mike and Rose’s Market. They retired in 1959. At that point (in 1959)the IT says “The store is now being remodeled and will be the new location of the Ammann’s Boutique women’s shop, which in the future will also carry a line of men’s clothing. The Gittis came to the Springs area in 1941 from San Rafael and Mike, who has been in the butcher trade since 1933, was employed at the Woodleaf Market until the couple opened their own store.” IT Jan 22, 1959
Zan Stark photo showing Mike and Roses’ Market across the street from the Sonoma Mission Inn and next door to Valley Hardware and Gallo’s. It’s difficult to see but the hardware store has a Sherwin Williams “Cover the Earth” sign.
After 1959 there is a blank in the record.
We pick up the trail again in 1973. In June of that year the building housed The Bookworm used bookstore.
In August of 1975 we find Pam’s Professional Grooming in residence.
July 1977 finds Crafty’s, a store selling dolls, dollhouses, and little bitty furniture.
February, 1978 Better Homes Realty takes over the space. They remain until December of 1979, when Bill Coombs, real estate agent, puts his franchise up for sale for $6,000.
Apparently that did’t work out because Coombs transitioned into the used record business using his former realty office. In March of 1981 he transferred that business to Jared Simpson who operated it as “Love Me Two Times” (obviously he was a Doors fan.)
The next mention in the IT is in 1991, when it was listed as a residence in a crime report.
It was again vacant of businesses, as far as we know, during the years-1990-2005.
In the 21st Century
Mas por Menos, an all-purpose business catering to Spanish speaking people took the space in 2009. They cashed checks, provided email, fax and Internet services, sold phone cards, provided “envois de dinero” and even sold airline tickets. Unfortunately they lasted only a year, but they did do some much needed maintenance to the facade.
In 2010 Lonesome Cowboy Ranch, purveyors of vintage Western wear and memorabilia set up shop and did well until 2020, when they closed.
Today we are lucky to have Heritage Furniture. They make the classic Adirondack chair using high-tech laser cutting and CAD design. We wish them success and a long tenure at 18135 Sonoma Highway.
Photographs and Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and author’s collection.
A History of Boyes Hot Springs should begin in April, 1847, with the arrival at San Francisco of Thaddeus M. Leavenworth, a native of Connecticut, purporting to be an Episcopal chaplain. He had enlisted in Stevenson’s Regiment of New York Mexican War Volunteers. After serving as a controversial alcalde in San Francisco from October 1847 to June 5, 1849, where he also took part in school and church affairs, he became interested in farming, or, more specifically, farm land, and speculation in farmlands. The fertile fields available north of San Francisco brought him to Sonoma Valley, where he acquired a 320.23 acre piece of land which would figure prominently in history as the site of Boyes Hot Springs.
Actually, these 320.33 acres covered all the land now known as Agua Caliente, Fetters Hot Springs, and some of Maxwell Farm
In 1853, both Thaddeus Leavenworth and State Senator M.G. Vallejo made application to the Land Claims Commission for title to the 320.33 acres, both referring to the land as a portion of the Agua Caliente Rancho, and both contending before the commission that they were the successors in interest to Lazaro Piña, who purportedly had received title to the property on July 13, 1840, by grant from the Mexican Territorial Governor Juan B. Alvarado. Eventually, in1855, Leavenworth’s claim was approved, Vallejo’s claim having been rejected by the Commission. Apparently Leavenworth had better appearing forged documents than his adversary. From A History of Boyes Hot Springs by Robert Parmalee, 1992, used by permission of the author.
The plat of Leavenworth’s claim was drawn in 1860 by the US Surveyor General in SF. Near the center is a small square with the inscription “Leavenworth’s house.” Also on the plat are the township and range lines of the Public Land Survey System, with their alpha-numeric designations(“T5N R6W”). This system is still in use, allowing the US Geological Survey quadrangle map to be superimposed on Leavenworth’s plat. Ecological historian Arthur Dawson has done just that, writing in the names of the streets as we know them today(Queens, or Queeno street is the un-signed alley that runs along the south side of the Sonoma Mission Inn property.)
Thus we have a pretty good idea of where Leavenworth’s house was: within about 200′ of a point very near the base of the Sonoma Mission Inn water tower.
What did Leavenworth’s house look like? In 1884 TLM sold some of his land to Henry Boyes (and that is another long, interesting story) who incorporated Agua Rica Mineral Springs. They issued a post card showing a house. It might reasonably be assumed that the house, along with the land, was bought by Boyes from TLM, so the post card could be showing us Leavenworth’s house.
Thanks to Arthur Dawson and Robert Parmelee for permission to use their work.