Happy 169th birthday, California! On Sept. 9, 1850 California gained admission to the U.S. to become America’s 31st state.
From those earliest of days as a fledgling state, and onward, many Californians have endeavored to preserve and protect this state’s cultural and historical resources.
This effort became the foundation and mission of two statewide and allied organizations, the Native Daughters and Native Sons of the Golden West. This mission is also embraced and carried out by their many local chapters, or parlors, including those in Napa County.
While the statewide Native Sons organization was founded in 1875, the two local parlors were both established about a decade later. The St. Helena branch officially became Parlor #53 on Feb. 14, 1885. The Napa affiliate became Parlor #62 shortly thereafter.
In 1915, both the Native Sons and Daughters of the Napa Valley parlors, along with their fellow members from throughout the state, participated in an unforgettable California Admissions Day event.
Droves of the organizations’ membership gathered in San Francisco for “one of the greatest celebrations ever held in California,” the Register reported. The “California Day” extravaganza was a collaboration between the Native Sons and the Bureau of Special Events of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
This global fair, hosted by San Francisco in 1915, was a 24-hour event with parades, speeches, reviews and music during the day. The Register added, at night “firework displays, pageantry and other forms of entertainment will be in order.”
The Napa County contingent was well represented as both spectators and participants. The local membership had chartered steamships to carry them from Napa’s wharves to San Francisco and back home again. The article reported the local and San Francisco wharves were “thronged with the very enthusiastic Natives from Napa valley.”
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Both local parlors also had their own reasons to be jubilant in 1915. The St. Helena parlor had begun the construction of their Spring Street hall. Local architect William H. Corlett successfully met their design challenge of blending two distinctly different buildings into one hall.
The extant building is comprised of an early 1900s pavilion and Corlett’s 1915 building. As Parlor #53 was moving forward with their plans for the St. Helena hall, the Napa Native Sons and Daughters were enjoying their new “home” locate on the southwest corner of First and Coombs Streets.
However, this downtown Napa building required a considerable amount of patience from its future occupants. The reason, its construction took much longer than originally thought. It began five years earlier in 1909 when the Napa parlor’s intention to build a meeting hall was publicly announced in the local newspapers.
The Napa Weekly Journal reported the Articles of Incorporation of the “Native Sons Hall Association of Napa” have been officially filed with the Napa County Clerk by the association’s attorney, Nathan L. Coombs.
It added, ”The association is organized for the purpose of building the purposed new hall on the Muller lot on First and Coombs streets, recently purchased by the Natives.” The Journal also reported the new corporation had established stock shares as a means to fund the project. Those stocks were available for public purchase.
A few years passed before any significant new information was announced regarding the hall. A Journal headline said, “Bids For Building.” The article reported the corporation had accepted numerous bids submitted by local and regional construction companies. It added those bids were “exclusive of the steel,...a second round of bids will be for the steel work...” The Napa hall was one of the first steel frame building in Napa County. The architect for the Parlor #53 hall was Luther Mark Turton.
The Napa Native Sons and Daughters held an open house for the public to inspect their grand new hall on Feb. 19, 1914. According to the Journal, over 1,000 people toured the building and observed its dedication. It added, “The members showed their guests through the new Native Sons building, and they were all enthusiast in their praise of it.”
Note: The Napa Native Sons Hall, 937 Coombs St., will be the location for a five-week evening course, Sept. 23—Oct. 21, I will be teaching in collaboration with Napa County Landmarks. This course, “Legacies of Long Ago Napans: Gifts from the Past,” will focus on the history and architectural heritage of a representative cross-section of historic Napa County properties and sites. For more details or to enroll, visit napacountylandmarks.org or call 707-255-1836.