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Napa’s Historic Homes, Victorian Inns and Bed & Breafasts
As wealth came to Napa in the late 1800s and early 1900s, downtown neighborhoods filled with homes of diverse Victorian architecture—Italianate, Second Empire, Stick-Eastlake and Queen Anne frequently combined with Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Neoclassic and other styles. Some were opulent, other quite modest.
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Within the turrets, and beautiful, carved-wood interiors of these homes lived families responsible for Napa’s growth.
Many homes still carry the names of the families. Some have become inns, some apartments; some remain private residences.
Many of Napa’s Victorian mansions became inns during the 1980s and 1990s. While some mansion-inns have been through various incarnations as boarding houses, office buildings, even foster homes, they have all been renovated and restored.
More than 250 residences of historic character—from small cottages to enormous mansions—make the 30-block area on the south rim of downtown one of the largest historic districts in California. These streets include the Abajo and Fuller Park neighborhoods. As the city grew, Victorian homes sprawled west around First Street and north into what was called the Spencer addition.
Originally meant to be a separate town, 140 acres just south of Division Street ended up incorporated into the city of Napa in the 1870s. This area has the highest concentration of Victorian architecture, and officially became the Napa Abajo National Register Historic District in 1997. Here, steamboat captains, merchants, bankers, tannery workers and industrialists who prospered in the 1880's and 1890's, built their homes.
Stand where Randolph, Division and Fifth streets converge and glimpse several wonderful Victorian mansions:
The Gifford House (circa 1888) is a Queen Anne style Victorian at 608 Randolph Street in Napa CA.
Since it is just north of Division Street—so named because it divides the Abajo District from downtown Napa—the Gifford House is outside the Abajo District. Like several of the buildings featured in this article, the Gifford House was designed by local prominent architect Luther Turton.
E.R. Gifford owned a clothing and dry goods store in the native stone Migliavacca building at First and Brown Streets in Napa.
McClelland-Priest House (B&B)
The McClelland-Priest Bed & Breakfast Inn (1878) at 569 Randolph Street in Napa CA.
A beautiful example of Second Empire Italianate, this home was built for Joseph McClelland, a general store owner, who became vice president of Napa’s First National Bank in 1879.
Ethel and Carlton Priest bought the home in the 1930s, she a physician and he an orthodontist. Ethel lived in the home until she was 97. The current owner bought the mansion in 1988, restored it and opened the B&B in 1991.
The Hayman House (1905—a mix of Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Shingle styles) at 1227 Division Street in Napa CA was home to John Hayman, who worked for the Napa Register newspaper.
Strolling in the Abajo district, one is surprised by the size and grandeur of some mansions.
Churchill Manor (B&B)
The Churchill Manor Bed and Breakfast (1889) is at 485 Brown Street in Napa CA.
The gate, the sprawling front lawn and the columns evoke the wealth and aristocracy of the time. Edward Churchill, a successful banker and owner of a brewery and a vineyard, built this Second Empire style, 10,000-square-foot mansion, one of Napa’s largest during the late 1800s. San Francisco financiers and bankers rode steamships up the Napa River to attend elaborate parties here.
Churchill’s death in 1903 at age 61 is an oft-told Napa legend. Suffering from the flu, he went to the medicine cabinet for some paregoric (pain killer) but accidentally drank carbolic acid (an antiseptic) and died from heart failure before reaching the hospital.
In later years, his wife added the Colonial Revival porch and veranda to the manor. Today the manor is a sumptuous Bed & Breakfast inn with fine woodwork throughout. One of the enormous sliding doors between rooms is created from one museum-quality heritage burl redwood.
Cedar Gables Inn (B&B)
The Cedar Gables Inn and Tavern (1882) is at 486 Coombs Street in Napa.
Just a block east of Randolph Street on the corner of Coombs and Oak streets you will be bowled over at this sprawling, 10,000-square-foot mansion. A blend of Shingle and English Tudor Revival, it looks straight out of Shakespeare’s time.
This home was a wedding present from Edward Churchill for his son E. Wilder Churchill, and his bride, Alice Ames, a singer. E. Wilder, a banker and an actor, carried on his father’s party tradition, but on a grander scale. The flamboyant couple were entertainers, who performed in their home and in town.
Current owners say Cedar Gables was the social center of Napa, the floors always polished for dancing. Locals came here for plays, concerts, and parties.
Later, Cedar Gables went through many incarnations, including as a boarding house in the 1930s, and again during WWII for military nurses. After being a single-family home for a time, it became a women’s luxury spa.
Restored today to its original beauty, the innkeepers/owners also love to entertain.
Manasse Mansion—White House Inn (B&B)
The White House Inn & Spa (1886) is at 443 Brown Street in Napa CA.
White columns and sprawling lawns here, too, conjure the elegance of the very wealthy who lived in Napa during the turn of the twentieth century.
This 12,000-square-foot mansion, a mix of Queen Anne, Eastlake and Colonial Revival styles, was built for German immigrant, Emanuel Manasse. Manasse came to Napa to became superintendent of Sawyer Tannery, where he invented two tanning procedures that led to the growth of Napa’s tanning industry, and are still in use today.
Inn on Randolph (B&B)
The Inn on Randolph (circa 1860's) is at 411 Randolph Street in Napa CA.
This Gothic Revival home, built on a half-acre lot for Hannah Moore in the 1860s, remained in her family for over 90 years.
In the 1930s the family added three small cottages of a similar architecture to the property. These are now part of the Inn’s ten accommodations.
The Moore family must have also planted the 100-plus year old fig and persimmon trees, which are still producing plenty of fruit. Deborah, the current owner took four years to refurbish the inn before opening in 1994.
Named for Napa mayor John A. Fuller (1899), Fuller Park is just a few blocks west of the Abajo district. Created in 1905, the shaded park boardered by Jefferson, Oak, Laurel and Seminary streets has some 83 different species of trees.
The surrounding neighborhood is also one of Napa’s oldest, with a wide range of Victorian and other style homes.
The Turton House (circa 1915) is at 1767 Laurel Street in Napa CA on the south side of Fuller Park.
Napa’s most beloved and prolific architect, Luther M. Turton, lived in the Fuller Park area. Turton is responsible for much of Napa’s remarkably diverse collection of Victorians, including the Romanesque Goodman Library, the Italianate Semorile Building on First Street (left), and his Gothic United Methodist Church on Randolph Street.
The homes he designed vary from large to small and in all Victorian styles.
Turton designed his own home in the more simple Prairie style, which Frank Lloyd Wright made popular as American architecture in the early 20th Century.
The Migliavacca Mansion (1895) is at 1475 Fourth Street in Napa CA.
One of Luther Turton’s grand creations*, this Queen Anne style with Oriental influences Victorian mansion a few blocks from Fuller Park is one of Napa’s largest and most flamboyant.
Its first owner, Giacomo Migliavacca, an Italian immigrant and local banker, settled in the area in 1866. Migliavacca helped develop the Bank of Italy (which later became Bank of America).
To save the mansion from demolition, it was moved from Coombs Street to its current location, where it was restored and transformed into an office building.
First Street Area
In the early 1900s as the town continued to grow, Victorians began pushing out the western edges of downtown, including First Street and its surrounding streets.
Kahn-Voorhees House—Beazley House Bed & Breakfast Inn
The Beazley House Bed & Breakfast Inn (1910) is at 1901 1st Street in Napa CA.
Strikingly beautiful with redwood shingles, white trim and blue and white striped awnings, this enormous mansion on the corner of First and Warren streets is a mix of Colonial Revival and Shingle styles.
Originally designed by Luther Turton for Dr. Adolph Kahn, who served as Napa County Physician and as a member of the Napa city council, the home was later owned by A.L. Voorhees, a men’s clothing merchant.
For a time it was owned by Hanna Boys Center as a foster home for their more difficult youngsters, and then later by the flamboyant and amorous San Francisco socialite, Joan Hitchcock, who married either six or seven times and claims she had an affair with John F. Kennedy.
The Beazleys bought the house from Hitchcock, renovated it, and created Napa’s first Bed & Breakfast, which opened in 1981. They’ve even renovated the old carriage house for additional lodging.
Napa Inn (B&B)
Two Victorians, the Johnston House and the Buford House, facing different streets, have conjoined properties to make up the historic Napa Inn.
• Johnston House
With its turret and gabled roofs, this Queen Anne, designed by Luther Turton, was a wedding gift for Harry Johnston and his bride Madeline Migliavacca (two prominent Napa families).
The couple lived their married lives out on First Street where the house originally stood. Having had no children, they left the home to the city.
It was used for city office space and, briefly in 1974, as the police department. In 1977, to make way for a parking lot, the home was moved to Warren Street, where today it stands restored.
• Buford House
This Italianate home was built for Simon H. Buford, a wealthy rancher. Buford, whose ranch is now underneath Lake Berryessa, used this as his in-town-house.
In later years, the house was a children’s detention home, an office for the California Agricultural Extension Service, and at one time was even condemned, but it was restored and turned into five residential units and then renovated once again to become part of the Napa Inn.
Shwarz Mansion—La Belle Epoque Inn (B&B)
The La Belle Epoque Inn (1887) is at 1386 Calistoga Avenue in Napa CA.
At the corner of Seminary and Calistoga streets, this ornate Queen Anne, was Herman Shwarz’ wedding present for his daughter. Stained glass windows, are everywhere in the house.
A Napa hardware store owner, Shwarz brought a rabbi from San Francisco so his daughter could marry in their religious tradition. One hundred and fifty people attended the wedding up in the attic.
In addition to the main house, La Belle Époque also offers two rooms in the nearby Buckley House, which they call La Petite Maison. The two rooms are named for the Buckley daughters, Caroline and Elizabeth. Both were teachers who live out their lives in the Buckley House.
This section of town was mainly agricultural until landowner Dwight Spencer subdivided the 30 blocks just west of Jefferson Street and north of Napa Creek in 1872. Most of the homes here are small Craftsman and Victorian bungalows and some Victorian farmhouses, only one Inn.
Rumble House—Arbor Guest House (B&B)
The Arbor Guest House (1905) is at 1436 G Street in Napa CA.
Though there’s no record, most people think William F. Rumble, a lathe and plasterer originally from Michigan, built this Colonial Revival home with his own hands. The Rumbles likely planted the 100-plus-year-old giant sequoia that stands next to the house.
Along with producing five children, the Rumbles were active members of the local Salvation Army, working with orphans, prisoners and others in the community. Napans say that anyone who needed help came to the Rumble’s place.
Today’s owners have completely renovated the house, offering three suites in the main house and two in the carriage house.
Hennessey House (B&B)
The Hennessey House (1889) is at 1727 Main Street Napa CA.
Dr. Hennessey, the original owner of this Queen Anne-style mansion (with Stick and Eastlake influences), was a prominent and successful physician who pioneered the use of x-rays in the State of California. He brought his family from Illinois to Napa. Dr. Hennessey also served as mayor of Napa for one term.
A curved porch was added to the structure around 1901 and the carriage house was moved from directly behind the main hous in the early 1900's. The house has changed ownership several times, first being converted to a bed and breakfast in 1985.
West of Downtown
The Candlelight Inn (B&B)
The Candlelight Inn (1929) is at 1045 Easum Drive in Napa CA.
Take First Street about a mile and a half west of downtown to Easum Drive and turn right. Having driven past small bungalow homes of recent years, this beautiful English Tudor style mansion with a sprawling lawn at the end of Easum is a big surprise.
At one time this was home to Napa’s postmaster. Sitting under 100-year-old redwoods near Napa Creek the ten-guest room B&B situated on one acre feels like it’s tucked away the countryside.
The Candlelight Inn is one of the only B&Bs in Napa with a swimming pool.
Learn more about specific Victorian styles and representative San Francisco Victorian mansions and houses as well as the famous Postcard Row and other Victorians around Alamo Square in SF. More historic Victorian mansions can be seen in the Garden District of New Orleans and in San Diego's Heritage Park, and my latest Victorian Homes around the U.S. photo essay.
Sandy Sims, an award winning journalist, newspaper editor, and travel writer, also writes fiction.
*Some sources credit W.H. Corlett with designing the Migliavacca Mansion. The Napa City Landmarks Historic Walking Tours of Napa specifies Luther Turton as its designer. It's possible Corlett was the contractor and Turton the designer as was the situation with the Gifford House.
Orher resources for this article include: Napa County Landmarks Listing, Historic Facts & Walking Tour (pamphlet), Napa Valley Register (4/4/99 article on Napa Inn), Better Homes Realty write up on Buford House, San Francisco Examiner (6/7/03 article on Luther Turton), Napa Valley Register (4/19/08 article on Luther Turton), New York Times (9/10/04 travel article on Napa), several Napa history websites, Napa Inns websites and personal interviews. In addition the book Napa, An Architectural Walking Tour by Anthony Raymond Kilgallin provided details for some photo captions.
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