Four dozen Napa residents of all ages on Saturday took a tour on some of Napa’s oldest streets, stopping by mansions and old captain houses near the Napa River — all in an effort know their town better and uncover some of its mysteries.
Saturday’s two-hour walking tour featured stops at a dozen historic buildings along the riverfront dating from Napa’s early days. It was sponsored by the Napa County Landmarks, a nonprofit organization that protects historical buildings.
The volunteer docent, Scott Sedgley, a retired Napa Fire captain and history buff, led the group from the 1901 Goodman Library, where the Napa County Landmarks and the Napa County Historical Society are based, to the Napa River walk, where dozens of paddle-wheel steamers transporting hides and other goods once docked.
“Let’s go back 150 years,” said Sedgley as he faced the Napa River near the 1884 Albert Hatt Building, home to the Napa River Inn, “The river here is an integral part of our valley and the town of Napa. It all started here. This is where the railroad came in the 1860s,” Sedgley said near Angele, a restaurant off Main Street facing the river, as he showed the area where trains once crossed the river.
“See the one, long piling?” he said, pointing to an old piling visible across the river. “It’s been the nemesis of many a small boat,” he said.
After briefly pausing by a “working man’s house” on Brown Street, a building purchased by Napa County Landmarks years ago that is now a family residence, Sedgley stopped by two historic captain houses nearby, the Captain Wulff and the Captain Pinkham houses. Both were built around the 1880s and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation meant to protect them from destruction.
The tour then headed by the Goodman Mansion on nearby Oak Street, a Second Empire-style house built in 1882 for businessman George Goodman, which Sedgley noted was damaged by a fire in the early 1990s.
Other stops including nearby mansions, including Churchill Manor, a mansion built in 1889 for Edward S. Churchill, a teller for George Goodman who later became a banker, and the Cedar Gables Inn and Tavern on Coombs Street, now a bed-and-breakfast.
Proprietors Ken and Susie Pope invited the group through the first floor of the building, which was built in 1892 as a wedding gift from Edward S. Churchill to his son, Edward Wilder Churchill, and his bride, Alice Ames.
The residents on the tour said they came to learn more about Napa and the local architecture.
“You really get to know the city,” said Barbara Coyle, a retired teacher who moved to Napa from Fremont two years ago and has taken other historic walks in Napa.
Glen and Christine Bettencourt said they came in part because they love old architecture and because they wanted to have a look at the old oak altar they bought in San Rafael in the early 1990s and owned for a few years before selling it. The altar is now at the Cedar Gables Inn and Tavern.
Other participants in Saturday’s tour included longtime resident Jessie Quigley, and 14-year-old Nathan Reynoso, who came with his father, John Reynoso.
“I like the architecture,” said Nathan in front of Cedar Gables, a building designed in the Shakespearean style, with nook and crannies, by architect Ernest Coxhead.
“I love old houses,” John Reynoso said.