Recently Napa County Landmarks (NCL) through its Preservation Action Committee (PAC) released the 2019 version of the Napa County Ten + 1 Most Threatened Treasures list. For those of you not familiar with this list, NCL made an annual compilation of historic structures throughout Napa County that were in danger of being lost. Usually this was due to “demolition by neglect”, however it also could have been due to an earthquake or an owner’s plans to do something else with their property. It’s been over five years since NCL has surveyed the County and published such a list. Since May has been designated National Preservation Month by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it was felt the time was right to once again embark on this task. On May 8th an article ran on the front page of the Napa Valley Register.
There are several examples of historical structures that once were on the former Ten Most Threatened Treasures lists that have been since been brought back by owners to “like new” condition. Some examples of these include: The Old Adobe on Soscol Avenue; The Borreo Building where Stone Brewery is housed; the once neglected Italianate house formerly on Polk Street that was moved and restored to Clay Street; and the Francis House in Calistoga.
Here are the 2019 Napa County Ten + 1 Most Threatened Treasures:
- Health & Human Services (HHS) campus Old Sonoma Rd., Napa – This highly visible County owned property has three circa 1912 buildings that the County had for many years neglected to adequately maintain, sadly, these buildings suffered more damage in the 2014 earthquake. They were designed by William Corlett, a seminal architect in early 20th century Napa. They are of Mission architectural style and the first known local use of reinforced concrete construction technology. The “crescent” driveway has been deemed historically significant in its own right, as it dates back to the 1870’s, and remains in the same form as its original design. This site has been discussed as an ideal location for badly needed work force and affordable housing. It’s unknown at this time what role (if any) the three buildings circling the crescent might play in an adaptive reuse for this property. Also unknown is what type of agreement may be entered into between the County and City of Napa and any possible private developer.
2. Two Luther Turton homes at the Napa State Hospital – Luther Turton (1862-1925) was a very important architect in early Napa history. Among his many notable works, were two large (approx. 10,000 sq. ft.) homes that sit just off on the main driveway leading into the hospital grounds. For years they served as residences for hospital psychiatrists and their families. In more recent years they have been used as offices for hospital staff, however, like the HHS property, suffered significant damage in the 2014 earthquake. They were deemed unstable and unsafe at that time. There have been no visible attempts to stabilize them or repair them. It is unknown if the owner of these homes (the State of California) will ever allocate the required funds to rehabilitate and reuse these homes.
3. 2232 Oak St., Napa – This is an 1895 sq. ft. residence built in the early twentieth century that historically has been known as the Daniel J. Thomas residence. The Stick Eastlake style appears to be suffering from neglect and deferred maintenance. It is also becoming overgrown from vegetative growth that threatened to engulf it and eventually obscure it from the street.
4. The Center Building, 810 – 814 Brown St., Napa – This is a nineteenth century office building directly across the street from the historic Napa County Court House owned by local attorney and real estate mogul, Brian Silver. It, too, suffered serious damage after the 2014 earthquake, exacerbated by Silver’s decision to ignore the city’s mandate to retrofit this un-reinforced masonry structure. The Napa Valley Register has reported over the years that he intended to rehabilitate this building in conjunction with building a new office building on the cleared lot immediately adjacent to the north. To date no plans or proposals have been submitted to the City of Napa and it is unknown as to the fate of this building.
5. Aetna Springs, Pope Valley – At one time this was the summer vacation “playground” for generations of families from San Francisco and the Bay area to visit for relaxation in the thermal springs, for golfing, and for socializing. Originally designed by famed architect Bernard Maybeck, construction began in the 1870’s. Many architectural styles are represented there, including Victorian (1873-1900), Rustic (1900-1923), Farr & Ward (1923-1944), and Heibel (1944-1972). In 1987 Aetna Springs was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural and historical significance. Active use by visitors waned during the 1960’s. There are approximately thirty-two buildings on over one hundred acres. The last few decades have not been kind to them, as they have fallen into disuse, neglect, and decay. Over the last few years the property has changed hands and several owners have announced ambitious proposals for rehabilitation and revival of the resort, however to date nothing along these lines has occurred.
6. Jacob Meily Winery, Pope St., St. Helena — Owned by the city of St. Helena, this historic building is decaying and unused. Several cars have crashed into it over the years. Previous proposals for re-use of the structure fizzled due to probable neighborhood opposition and high costs of restoration.
7. 1870’s Pellet Winery, Vallejo St., St. Helena – This structure was built in the 1870’s by Swiss immigrant, Henry Pellet (1828-1912), who settled in the Napa Valley in 1858 and became St. Helena’s first mayor in 1876. At one time this winery was producing 80,000 gallons of wine annually. Mr. Pellet was unquestionably a very important figure in the early history of St. Helena. The winery structure is deteriorating badly, and reportedly the family does not agree on what to do next with this historic winery building.
8. Franco-Swiss Winery, Conn Valley Rd., St. Helena – Here is another historic, sadly crumbling stone winery that is being offered for sale, reportedly at least in part, because the current owners were unable to bring to fruition a restoration plan. Historical records indicate as early as 1876 “20,000 gallons of red and white wine” was being produced at the Franco-Swiss Winery. To add to this structure’s deteriorating woes, the roof partially caved in this past winter.
9. Three Silos at the old cement plant, American Canyon – These silos are the centerpiece of the city’s plans to establish a “town center” for American Canyon in a proposed agreement with a developer and the so called “Watson Ranch” development plan for homes, retail, and other services in this locale. However, these silos, like several other sites on this year’s list, suffered damage in the 2014 earthquake. As a result the developer has wavered at times in his commitment to stabilize and reuse the silos in the overall development plan.
10. The Brannan Stable, Grant St., Calistoga – This circa 1860’s structure is scheduled to be demolished soon to make way for the “Calistoga Vista” condominium project. It sits directly behind the Sam Brannan Store, which is a recognized historical structure and currently a private residence. The City of Calistoga has already approved the demo plan for the building, and the developer has pledged to “re-purpose” some of the old growth redwood in the condominium interiors. The Brannan Stable is probably the oldest stick-built structure still standing in Calistoga. It appears that none of the recent owners of the property have been able to come up with a creative means of reusing that building.
And Plus One, the Rutherford Depot, Rutherford. This structure was not on the original list of the Ten Most Threatened Treasures, however, subsequent to the compilation of the original list, compelling arguments were presented to add it to this year’s list and make it the Eleven Threatened Treasures of Napa County. The Rutherford Depot had been on the NCL Ten Threatened Treasures list in several prior years and has fallen into further worsening condition over this past winter. The current owners of the Rutherford Depot are also the owners of the Napa Valley Wine Train, which is under a larger business development enterprise called “Brook Street”. They have, in their words, “submitted a use permit application and are working with the County to gain approval for a reuse of the building but (we) have a long way to go. The process is not an easy path and will take some time and is a discretionary action”. In other words, there lies ahead an arduous process to perhaps turn the Rutherford Depot to its former glory with the uncertain approvals of the County approval and permitting process looming. If Brook Street is not successful in all the required steps to gain the ability to re-purpose this old rail station, the building’s future is tenuous at best.
It was for this reason that the NCL Board thought it important and imperative to add the Rutherford Depot to the 2019 list.