Just beyond the south Napa County line in a small church is the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the western United States.
“The collection is worth over a million dollars … and nobody knows about it,” Barbara Davis, volunteer docent at St. Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island in Vallejo, where the collection is housed. “I look at it as an art gallery.”
St. Peter’s Chapel opened in 1901 and its first Tiffany window was installed in 1905, Davis said. Between 1905 and 1930, the chapel purchased 29 windows, 25 of which were selected from the Tiffany catalog. Sixteen are signed, she said.
Whether or not the Tiffany Studios of New York designer, Louis Comfort Tiffany, signed them or not depended on when they were ordered, Davis said. He went through some periods when he signed everything and others when he didn’t, she said.
While giving a tour on Saturday, Davis pointed out the differences between the Tiffany windows and the non-Tiffany windows.
Although the non-Tiffany windows look pretty, they don’t compare to the level of detail that the opalescent Tiffany glass has, Davis said. The Tiffany windows are made from colored glass, but the other windows are painted glass. Details on the Tiffany windows are separated by a black border where the pieces of glass were soldered together. The other windows, she said, are flat.
Tiffany used many layers of the glass to make the desired effect, she said, so the glass isn’t visible from the outside. Just looking at the church, she said, no one would know how “spectacular” the windows really are.
The benefit to seeing the windows at the church is that visitors can get “up close” and really see the detail, Davis said. Anywhere else, she said, and the glass would be high up on display.
The church also serves as a naval museum, Davis said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of history here,” she said. Davis said that the thing that gets her about the church is thinking about “how many girls came from how many places in the U.S. to marry sailors here without having any idea whether they would come back or not” during World War II.
The Mare Island Navy Yard, which was in operation for more than 140 years, reached its peak productivity during WWII when there were 41,000 workers there, including 9,000 women. About 10,000 people worked on Mare Island in 1988 when it was the second largest Navy Yard in the U.S. Downsizing began the following year.
The last regularly scheduled service at St. Peter’s was Christmas Eve 1995, just months before Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed in April 1996, but Davis said, the church is available for tours and rentals.
Davis said that as long as someone calls a day or two in advance, the volunteers can accommodate tours any day except for Sundays. Tours cost $5 per person.
A group of model railroad enthusiasts has gained itself a little more time in its battle with Napa Valley Expo over its longtime lease at the fairgrounds.
A court motion by the Expo to evict the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society from its building at the First Street facility was dismissed from Napa County Superior Court late last month, and the fair then re-filed its case. Fair board president John Dunbar confirmed the development at the agency’s Tuesday meeting, as did Daniel Jonas, president of the model train group.
Dismissal of the Expo’s “unlawful detainer” filing – by which fair directors sought to enforce the end of the train group’s lease on Dec. 31 – resets the clock for the nonprofit. The rail society again got 30 days, plus mailing time, to vacate its exhibition space at the fairground.
Previously, Expo directors gave the model railroad group slightly more than a month’s notice ahead of the lease’s original end date.
The Napa case is one of two pitting the state-owned Expo, formally known as the 25th District Agricultural Association, against the model railroad society, which has exhibited its trains at the fairground for 47 years. Fair board members voted in July not to renew the group’s lease, citing future plans to reuse the site as well as the below-market rent of $180 a month.
The rail society sued the Expo in Alameda County Superior Court on Dec. 29, two days before the lease’s expiration, to stop the eviction. In response, fairground leaders went to Napa court Jan. 3 to seek an eviction order, but the rail group filed its own motion in Napa seeking to dismiss the local case and put the decision in the hands of the Alameda court. The court will rule on the train society’s contention that removing its rail building would illegally launch the Expo’s planned renovation of the grounds without a state-required environmental study.
In mid-January, directors of the state-owned Expo opened the miniature rail exhibit – which spans 4,600 square feet over two Quonset huts joined at right angles – to visits by a Cal Fire inspector and an independent structural engineer.
Earlier, Dunbar said findings from those inspections would help determine whether the railroad building must be condemned or overhauled, but only the engineer’s report has been completed, according to the Expo’s chief executive, Joe Anderson.
Members of the model rail group have made no moves to dismantle their elaborate layout of rails, trains, dioramas and switching equipment despite the Expo’s moves to close their headquarters. The society has continued to invite spectators to open houses showcasing their handiwork with the latest event scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Editor's Note: This story has been modified from its original form to make clear that Measure T tax money will not go directly to bike and foot paths. Instead, the measure requires cities to devote a certain amount of money from other sources to such paths as a condition for receiving the road-related tax revenue.
A new stream of sales tax money for road repairs may also serve as the leverage for Napa to add to its web of bicycle and pedestrian paths as well.
New stretches of the Napa Valley Vine Trail and other pathways are among the bike-and-foot projects that may indirectly benefit from Measure T, the Napa County sales tax that takes effect July 1 and will help cities pay for road and street maintenance.
A spending strategy presented last week to the city’s Bicycle and Trails Advisory Commission would give funding priority to a variety of projects in the next four years – including a gap along Soscol Avenue in the Vine Trail, which is eventually planned to extend 47 miles from Calistoga to Vallejo.
Measure T would not directly channel cash to non-road projects, but requires cities to match 6.67 percent of their annual tax revenue shares with their own funds to use toward pathways that are fully separated from roads – including freestanding routes such as the Vine Trail, rather than bike lanes striped onto road shoulders.
Napa is expected to reserve $2.4 million in sales tax toward pedestrian corridors through 2022, city Transportation Planner Lorien Clark wrote in a memorandum to the bicycle commission.
The largest share of matching funds, $750,000, would arrive for the 2019-20 fiscal year and would be directed toward the Vine Trail project, which currently would run for 12 unbroken miles from Kennedy Park north to Yountville but currently has a 3/5-mile missing link west of Soscol Avenue from Vallejo Street south to Third Street. Cyclists currently must use striped shoulders on Soscol, a four-lane route kept continually crowded with cars by an abundance of chain stores and auto showrooms.
First-year Measure T funding also may include $258,000 of the $425,000 estimate for a pedestrian bridge at the Main Street Exchange, as well as $161,000 toward a $742,000 undercrossing below Highway 29.
The Public Works department also pointed to three other projects that could receive sales tax funding through 2022:
- A reconstruction of the Napa River trail loop at Trancas Crossing Park
- An extension of the Stanly Lane trail
- A new trail along Salvador Creek, from Byway East to Jefferson Street.