Over the past several years, or so, downtown Napa has changed considerably, especially Main and First streets. About a century earlier between 1900 and 1908, the same could be said regarding Napa’s central business district. During that first decade of the 20th century, vast improvements had been made since Napa’s founding in 1847.
According to the local newspapers, in 1900 most of downtown Napa’s streets had been paved with macadam, crushed rock. Now the residents of Napa no longer had to endure clouds of dust or flying mud when wagons and horses traversed the streets.
Photographs dating from 1900-1908 also show other alterations and improvements. The wooden walks had been replaced with concrete curbs and sidewalks. At regular intervals poles were visible. They had been installed to carry the telephone, telegraph and electrical power-lines. At night the streets were illuminated with electric street lamps.
Lining these “modern” streets were a wide array of businesses. The core of Napa’s commerce was on Main Street, between Third and Pearl streets. Within this three block area one could find whatever was needed.
Just like now, some establishments came and went before you had a chance to set foot in the door. While other became institutions. Their names are still synonymous with honest and friendly service.
If you were requiring a stable for your horse or a harness and carriage, then Welti’s or Brandlin’s would be the place to go. Brandlin’s Railroad Livery Stable was located on the northeast corner of Main and Third streets. It shared the building with the office and headquarters for Napa Soda Springs.
This Silverado Trail area resort was located off of Soda Canyon Road. At that site, they bottled their natural mineral spring water. However, their distribution office was located in downtown Napa.
Returning to the downtown Napa livery businesses, the Charles and Edward Welti Harness and Carriage Repository was just two doors north of Brandlin’s stable. In between these two businesses was the Elk Cyclery.
Bicycles were a favored mode of transportation. They allowed you to get around quickly and park with ease. Another advantage of the bicycle, it did not require food, fuel or special services like horses or cars.
Within a few short years, the Welti Repository and Elk Cyclery gave way to the newest mode of transportation, automobiles. Photos from 1908 show the Pioneer Garage had moved into their former Main Street locations. The garage was owned by G.H. Mower.
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He was the agent for the Winton, Oldsmobile, Thomas and Buick automobile lines. Mower also sold bicycles and automobile sundries, such as duster coats, gloves, caps and goggles.
With the advent of the automobile came a new problem we still face today, parking. In an attempt to help remedy this situation, the city implemented a parking ordinance, circa 1908. It restricted downtown Napa parking to one hour.
While the gents were either looking for parking or at the newfangled machines in local showrooms, the ladies might have crossed Main Street, to the west, to Mrs. Compton’s Millinery. One could never have to many hats in 1908!
As for the children who were well behaved, they received a special treat. A visit next door to E.F. Bryant’s Confectionery shop was in order.
With everyone content, it was time to take care of some household business. To purchase groceries, you could shop at numerous stores: Horstmeyer’s, Hottel’s, Andrews and Lamdin’s grocery stores. Another fine choice was Semorile’s on First Street. This building is currently occupied by Bounty Hunter.
On a another day, you could return to Main Street for financial services. The Bank of Napa was on the northwest corner of Second and Main. The James H. Goodman Bank was across the street.
Just north of Goodman’s was Schwarz Hardware. It was packed full of hardware, tools, agricultural and hunting implements. As an added convenience for his customers, Schwarz had a curbside gas pump for those who needed a quick fill-up.
North of the Bank of Napa was the Haas book and stationery store. However, if you needed new footwear the place to go was next door, Keig’s Shoes. This establishment remained in business until the late 1960s.
Continuing north on Main Street, you would find a wide array of businesses, including Lovejoy’s Drugstore, Napa Business College, Napa Hotel, Treadway Furniture, Golden State Creamery, The Great American Tea Importer, Napa City Bakery and many more.
Based on the above cited historical documents, early 1900s downtown Napa was filled with financially successful, local and community-oriented commerce.