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Napa County's Ten Threatened Treasures
Historic Preservation Blog from - historic, threatened, treasures, Napa California
Contributed By: Kristie Sheppard

Napa County's Ten Threatened Treasures

Old Adobe Leads Napa County Landmarks’ Ten Threatened Treasures of 2010

Napa, Calif., May 10, 2010 – In conjunction with National Preservation Month in May, Napa County Landmarks has announced its annual list of Ten Threatened Treasures for 2010. These irreplaceable sites of historic and cultural importance are in danger of destruction, sometimes by developers and sometimes simply by neglect.

Leading this year’s “TTT List” is a clarion call for National Register designation for the Old Adobe in Napa, the oldest structure in the Valley and a perennial nominee. While the List has changed little over the past several years, new additions in 2010 include The Vineland School in St. Helena and two historic service stations in Napa. As a sign of some progress, several previously listed properties have been removed – most notably perhaps being the Uptown Theater.

Landmarks’ Preservation Action Committee issues its list of Ten Threatened Treasures annually each spring to raise awareness of Napa County’s most at-risk historic resources and bring them to the attention of elected officials and appointed bodies – if they aren’t already on their radar screens. "It's equal parts moral persuasion and keeping up interest in these properties," said Mary Ellen Boyet, Committee Co-Chair. “Ultimately we hope it helps lead to their preservation.”

The nonprofit advocacy organization also publishes the TTT List to remind the public that it offers technical assistance, resources and support for the rehabilitation of historic structures. They encourage building owners to approach them in the pursuit of preservation before these structures are beyond repair or are demolished in the name of redevelopment. Its all-volunteer board consists of architects, historians and structural engineers who frequently review and offer professional advice on restoration and rehabilitation projects, and submit letters of support for those that comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration when special use permits or variances are required.

“We can help building owners find creative ways to make preservation possible, and more economical,” emphasized Landmarks Executive Director Marie Dolcini.  “Be it by reviewing plans for a seismic retrofit, assessing the potential for official landmark designation, identifying tax credits or advocating for a variance so that a building can be adapted to a new use. Just give us a call.” 

Landmarks also emphasizes that restoring historic sites goes beyond historic and aesthetic considerations. A recent report by The Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University confirms earlier findings that historic rehabilitation work not only creates more higher-paying jobs than new construction, but more jobs overall. It also documents that historic rehabilitation outperforms many other traditional stimulus investments, and has positive impacts on communities and on the environment.

Landmarks invites citizens to contact them for assistance and with their suggestions for next year’s list – including project nominations for their Annual Awards of Merit in the fall. “The longer our architectural treasures languish, the greater the risk they’ll be lost completely,” added President Juliana Inman. “We need more ‘citizen watchdogs’ to let us know what they consider to be Threatened Treasures – as well as preservation success stories!”

The non-profit organization is planning a photo exhibit of the Ten Threatened Treasures at the Goodman Library later this month and has also created an interactive map online that shows the locations of all named sites. “We’re exploring new ways to increase public appreciation of these endangered properties,” said Dolcini. “We hope they encourage people to see them up close.” To access the map, go to and visit the Ten Threatened Treasures page.

Napa County Landmarks’ Ten Threatened Treasures

1.  The Cayetano Juarez Adobe (376 Soscol Avenue, Napa)
The “Adobe House” (formally the “Old Adobe” Restaurant), is the City’s oldest building and dates from 1845. Once the home of Cayetano Juarez, a major landowner of the period, the structure is now owned by the Fuentes Family and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Placing it on the National Register would help protect it from development not in keeping with its historic nature, but the Fuentes would have to agree to have it nominated. Once on the list, a strict set of guidelines put in place by the Department of the Interior governs any work done on the structure and its appearance.

Landmarks would like to see the Old Adobe as the centerpiece of any plans for the Soscol Corridor Redevelopment Area and restored in a manner befitting its historic status and association. “We are aware that other preservation-minded groups feel similarly and invite them, the Fuentes Family, and local Hispanic cultural associations in particular, to collaborate with us on pursuing a plan for National Register designation,” said Dolcini.

2. Two Historic Service Stations in Napa (1501 Third Street & 1802 Silverado Trail)
Running a close second as the County’s most endangered resources, these two historic service stations serve as reminders of our early automotive history and are unique structures in Napa. Downtown, the Streamline Moderne service station at 1501 Third Street may be demolished if it isn’t relocated within the next few months. Since the owner of the one-of-a-kind structure successfully appealed the Cultural Heritage Commission’s denial of a demolition permit, Council has ordered that it be removed from the site and relocated within 120 days of its availability being published in the Napa Register. Landmarks advocated that the building be repurposed in its current location, but would prefer to see it relocated in Napa as an alternative to demolition. Anyone with an available relocation site in Napa is encouraged to contact Landmarks. The circa 1920 Grippi Service Station on Silverado Trail is also immediately discernable as an old filling station. Landmarks has learned via the Napa Community Development Department that the current owner has submitted plans to develop the property which could negatively impact the resource. Landmarks hopes the owner appreciates that the station is one of the only such structures from the era remaining in the county and that s/he continue to maintain and protect its historic integrity.

3.  The Vineland School (401 St. Helena Highway, South St. Helena) 
Some attest that this one-room school house is the oldest poured concrete building in the County. Currently, it is surrounded by trailers in a mobile home park and obscured from the road. Katherine Hall of the adjacent Hall Winery owns the parcel and has proposed tearing the schoolhouse down and removing the trailers to build market-rate housing, but winery representatives now say plans for the property are on hold.

4.  Historic Bridges (Napa County)
Once known as “The County of Stone Bridges”, Napa County’s remaining historic bridges continue to be a major area of concern from previous years. Landmarks has kept its focus on saving these beautiful and functional remnants of the past, and has encountered both setbacks and successes in the past few years. As many Napans know, the 1862 First Street Bridge over Napa Creek (California’s second oldest masonry arch bridge) was torn down as part of the Flood Control Project. Community supporters of the bridges, notably the late Al Edmister, Landmarks and other community supporters were successful, however, in having the bridge carefully dismantled, the stones numbered and protectively packaged on pallets to be stored until such time it may be possible to reconstruct the bridge in another location.

Since then, Landmarks nominated six more bridges to the Historic Register, which were subsequently approved, and also nominated the Main Street Bridge to the National Register, but with less success. Although this 1860 bridge is the oldest masonry arch bridge in California, the Keeper of the National Register did not judge it to be National Register eligible because the railings had been removed and the bridge covered with a new roadway. Landmarks urged the Keeper to reconsider his evaluation and consequently State Historic Preservation officers reviewed the bridge and agreed with NCL’s assessment. Landmarks is in the process of gathering additional information which it hopes will lead to a successful renomination.

5.  Historic homes in and on the edge of Napa’s Downtown core threatened by the Downtown Master Plan’s emphasis on commercial conversions (Napa)
The Downtown Master Plan as it now exists, threatens to convert more of Napa’s historic homes from residences to commercial venues and in some cases threatens the structures themselves. Landmarks is currently concerned about the fate of three houses on Coombs Street north of Division that are on the edge of, and contributors to, the National Register-designated Fuller Park/Napa Abajo historic district. “These modest homes are typical of early Napa architecture,” said Boyet who noted that the owner has expressed interest in moving the houses elsewhere to make room for a more lucrative development. “We view with dismay the gradual creep of commercialization into traditional residential areas.”

6.  Cement Factory Silos and Rotunda Building (east terminus of So. Napa Junction Road, American Canyon)
Those who commute along Highway 29 have probably noticed the long-abandoned buildings set back to the east – three tall silos, and a round, low building. These are the remains of the old Portland cement plant that was an important local industry at one time. American Canyon’s planned new city center will result in the destruction of these buildings. Since the City has few structures that can be considered landmarks, it is very important to try and preserve and protect what little of its heritage remains. “Though we’ve been told the structures are beyond repair, we still hope it might be possible to incorporate them for a new use in conjunction with the city center or any other development,” said Boyet. 

7.  The Rutherford Depot (St. Helena Highway & Rutherford Cross Road, Rutherford)
The Rutherford Depot returns as a listee since sitting vacant for years and based on Wine Train ownership continuing to assert that they have no immediate plans for the building. Meanwhile, the old depot falls further into disrepair. Wine Train owner Vincent DeDomenico had intended to renovate it, but after eviction of the former tenants years ago, it now serves as an example of demolition-via-neglect as well as early railroad transport.

8.  The Remaining Unreinforced Masonry Buildings in Napa 
The owners of these properties have ignored the City’s deadline to reinforce their buildings and they continue to pose a public safety risk. The potential damage/collapse of these building may also result in the loss of these historic structures. St. Helena implemented a mandatory seismic retrofit ordinance in 1999 and all its unreinforced masonry buildings have been retrofitted or are in the process of completion, but Napa, Yountville, and Calistoga still have many buildings that have not been made safe. It is interesting to note that in Napa the owners that have gone to the considerable expense of retrofitting their buildings seem to be doing well in attracting tenants.

9.  Aetna Springs (1600 Aetna Springs Road, Pope Valley)
In earlier days, Aetna Springs was a popular family resort and held the first public golf course in Napa County and perhaps in the State. After passing through a series of owners who allowed the site to deteriorate, Aetna Springs was purchased by developers Bill Criswell and Robert Radovan to restore it to its original use as a private resort with an expanded golf course. As of the economic downturn, the owners of the 672-acre National Register site have put restoration plans on hold and the fate of the 32 contributing structures there (some of which may have been designed by the noted architect Bernard Maybeck) remains uncertain. Landmarks is concerned that this wonderful site may not be preserved after all.

10.  Soda Springs (Atlas Peak area, Napa County)
Soda Springs is another historic 19th century resort from the days when people traveled to Napa to "take the waters" and another site that has been on the list for many years. Owner Richard Ehrenberger once submitted a plan to the County for preservation of the historic buildings along with a multiple property development. However no follow-through was done with an EIR and the project remains in limbo while the historic buildings continue their downward slide. “Landmarks would love to help find a way to save this important piece of Napa history while there’s still time,” said Inman.


Keywords: historic, threatened, treasures, Napa California

Posted: August 2, 2010
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