Tuesday, September 22, 2009

old house blog contest

A tweet via facebook from a really old house owner alerted me to a little blogger contest on the Old House Web. Here's the link to the contest:

The suggestion is to log-in and vote. I submitted "the wabe"; because, unlike Tweedledum and Tweedledee declaiming the longest poem they knew, this is a mercifully brief post - with picture, ghost winery, murder, and land use suspense in very few words. The winery is the historic Franco-Swiss winery (also known as "Crochat Winery").

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

on the verge

We are on the verge of something. This past week the Napa County Planning Commission unanimously approved and recommended to the Board of Supervisors that a zoning text amendment be adopted that will allow the restoration of the historic Franco-Swiss Winery (Crochat Winery) - a unique stone gravity flow "Ghost Winery". The picture above is one of the old hoppers used when the winery was converted to a perlite manufacturing plant. Unfortunately, many of the upper floor joists were removed to allow for the hoppers, furnaces and conveyors used in perlite production. As a result, the exterior stone walls are unbraced in many locations.

Here's another section of roof about to collapse. The concrete patch on the left is one of the many areas with joists removed.

On the north side of the building this intriguing red door remains, although the steps and landing are long gone. Notice the finely cut stone surrounding the door opening. Quoins at the corners of the building are equally well fashioned. The rougher rubble stone originally had a plaster finish.

Commissioners had a wonderful tour of the winery and barn buildings, on the verge of ... restoration? demolition? collapse? We shall see in a few more weeks.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


Historian and State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr spoke at the League of California Cities conference this week. His talk on cities and the classical idea of "polity" supported our understanding of the importance of local government/governance.

I felt like a groupie getting my new copy of "Golden Dreams" autographed. Mr. Starr's talk was near the end of the conference, but I stayed dutifully through the last vote as the delegate for the City of Napa. Due to cutbacks everywhere, the conference was shortened by one day. Thus, I got on the highway back from San Jose at about 5:15 pm. The rush hour drive was worth it for the discussion of Aristotle, the history of city government and the pueblos of California.

San Jose's inner city decay has been restored and revitalized. I loved the neon sign for The Sainte Claire Hotel:

This sign is quite a landmark all by itself.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bolgia Book Club

At long last my turn to host the Bolgia Book Club rolled around once again. The club is a coed group, 16 strong, comprised of equal numbers of men and women. After a suitable period of time agonizing about my next selection, I finally went with "pleasure" - as in - a pleasure to read, and a narrator recounting the pleasure of discovering her passion in life - Julia Child. The book selection was "My Life in France".

The food was particularly outstanding, as everyone worked to live up to the standards set by Julia herself.

I prepared Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child, and John prepared creme brulee a la John Poole. A salmon mousse appeared, vegetable side dishes, figs and tiny tomatoes from our garden, wines, bread and new Syrah Port from our home winery.

It turns out that several of our members have been professional chefs - working at such famous locations as the Diner in Yountville (now closed) and the French Laundry. Thumbs up all around for "My Life in France" - and a rollicking good time discussing food, passions, life's work, and memories of Julia and how her magnum opus affected our lives. It's the best beef stew in the world, by the way. Highly recommended!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Sierra Buttes and Yuba Pass

After months of walker, crutches, cane, physical therapy and "rehab.", I was able to return to the Sierras to hike on the remodeled hip. My goal was to get back on the trail by the end of summer, and by my accounting, Labor Day weekend still counts officially as "summer". Over the long weekend John and I met friends Francois, Gerda, Melt, Bob and Karen to camp at the Diablo campground near Sardine Lake. Melt towed Francois' classic Jeep up to the home base campsite, and we took this amazing little mule up a logging/fire trail part of the way up to the Sierra Buttes. We then hiked the rest of the trail up past the Pacific Crest Trail to the fire lookout on the top of the Sierra Buttes.

The Sierra Buttes are ancient rock formations that have fist to head-sized cobbles metamorphosed into a composite showing a range of colors and cobble types. These aren't little bitty crystals.

The top of the Buttes has a fire lookout station perched on the crest, with precarious steel stairs anchored into the rock.

The views are stunning in every direction, and as the highest point in this part of the mountain range, it's all downhill from here.

Even on a sunny day, we're bundled up for the wind - puffy purple vest for me, and fur coat for Jasmine!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

history mystery

Historical sites, buildings and records have fascinated me for decades. As a child I roamed the back roads and historical traces remaining in my home town. A colonial era roadway, stone arch bridge, miller's house ruin, mill and mill pond was one of the sites I intermittently visited. To my enduring dismay, this whole group of sites was destroyed in order to build a major cross town freeway in Greensboro, NC. As historic sites across the nation were decimated in the 1950's, 60's and 70's - I acted in my college town to snatch building parts prior to the bulldozers moving in. Most of these relics were sold in about 1984 before yet another cross country move.

My friend Missy will recall the bandsaw cut railings rescued from an eastern NC building - some used for a restoration in Raleigh, NC, and the remainder given to a restoration effort in Little Rock, AR. All of our marriages ended - in the 70's 80's and 2000's.

I found recently a fabulous Library of Congress site. On this site can be found thousands of Dorthea Lange depression era photographs, ans well as many thousands of other documents. This is truly one of the Federal Treasure troves available.

Pose an historical question - and some unexpected results may follow. Check it out! After reading "Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx" by Joseph P. Ellis, I searched for photos of Monticello and found a treasure trove. Likewise, in seaching for "turpentining" I found the Dorothea Lange archive.

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