CALISTOGA — After two years of construction, the scaffolding wrapped around the Francis House came down late last month showing off the restoration and rebirth of the building that was crumbling from a half century of neglect before the new owners bought it 2015.
“We’re bringing the pretty old real estate back to life,” said Richard Dwyer.
Just before Christmas, the mansard roof was completed, returning the look of the original mansion built in 1886 at the corner of Myrtle and Spring streets by local merchant James H. Francis.
The new owners, Richard and Dina Dwyer, started the renovation in early 2016, first removing the hospital addition where Calistogans were once born. The hospital operated there from about 1918 to 1965 when the state shut it down for failing to meet health standards.
The Dwyers are planning to operate a bed and breakfast with five suites in the completed project, while living in a portion of the house themselves.
There is new sheetrock inside, and “we have heat in the building, which is a miracle,” said Richard Dwyer, who has described himself as a “builder by trade.”
The Dwyers had to wait for the heat to be installed in order to put in the new European white oak hardwood. “With any luck we’ll be putting the floors in there in a week or two. Then we can do the cabinetry,” he said.
The windows are all in and they were able to refurbish and reuse most of the old growth redwood windows, trying to keep as historically close to the original as possible. Workers carefully “peeled off the wood and meticulously redid it.”
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“It’s amazing what was taken out of there” and how much damage was done by weather, fires, and “everybody pillaged it,” stealing things such as door knobs and handles, Richard Dwyer said.
“It’s coming together beautifully,” he said. The construction workers “have such heart” for it.
All but two doors are in, missing one on the back and one on the side. Work is about “85 to 90 percent done” on the main house and next they will work on the landscaping and two other buildings on the property that they hope to have completed in four to six weeks.
“We want to be open by BottleRock,” Dina Dwyer said of the Napa music festival on Memorial Day weekend in May.
Dina Dwyer, an interior designer, is working on interiors now, but they aren’t revealing all the details of what it will look like inside because “we want it to be a little surprise,” she said.
She is posting some photos of a few design pieces on Instagram (@thefrancishouse) and continues to post updates on their website TheFrancisHouse.com, which is being worked on now to integrate booking reservations at what will be a bed and breakfast, and their home.
This is a “labor of love,” Richard Dwyer said. “We’re looking forward to being a part of the community. People have such love for the building.”
And the couple plans on showing it off to the town, but they haven’t quite figured out exactly how and what they will do. Stay tuned, they said.