The farmhouse property at 4036 Browns Valley Road has been part of Browns Valley longer than there’s been a Browns Valley.
In fact, the west Napa house sits on land that was originally known as Rancho Vallejo — owned by the younger brother of General Mariano Vallejo himself.
More than a century after it was built, homeowners Linda and Penland Parks are taking steps to protect that history.
They’ve asked a preservationist to evaluate the farmhouse so it can be added to the city’s Historic Resources Inventory and possibly the California Register for such homes.
According to Linda Parks, as far back as the 1870s there was a cabin and a kitchen at the property.
The Victorian farmhouse that stands today was built around 1884.
Linda Parks, who is the president and CEO of Lixit Corporation of Napa, said she and her husband came to own the six-bedroom home in a “horse trade” between the Parks and the previous owners – a new condo for an old house.
At first, Linda Parks said she wasn’t sure about the deal. Being married to a developer, she was used to living in new homes.
“When my husband told me this was my new digs I just about fainted and died,” she said. The yard was so overgrown, she said. “It was pretty much a mess.”
“I planned to move on ASAP but I grew to love it after a while,” she said.
Over the years, the home has been re-wired and re-plumbed. A new bedroom and bathroom were added. Floors, bathrooms and the kitchen were all redone. It’s now 3,300 square feet.
At one point, the Parks put the house up for sale, but “everyone who looked at it wanted to build multiple homes” at the site. “We just didn’t want to divide it up,” she said. Parks said they applied for the historic designation because “we really felt strongly about preserving it.”
“There are very few homes of this era left,” she said
Besides the Vallejo connection, in the 1850s John E. Brown, the namesake of the Browns Valley area, also owned the parcel and land around it.
At the time, the property also included a water tower, carriage house, barns and pump house.
“At one point, it was the only thing out here,” Parks said
The Parks’ residence “has been beautifully and passionately maintained,” said the historic evaluation report written by preservationist Sarah Van Giesen of Napa Design Partners.
Original key interior elements like panel doors, beadboard wainscoting, trim and original door and window hardware remain.
The property also once included a pecan orchard. A number of pecan trees from that era remain, including one huge specimen in the backyard.
One distinctive feature is the large front porch, said the report. “These porches were originally designed to help cool the interior of the home and provide a shady spot for guests to gather and enjoy the outdoors.”
Two large palm trees in front of the house, original to the home, still provide that shade.
Apparently, the home was built to last. While the house contents were tossed about, the home itself survived the 2014 quake “like a champ,” Parks said. There was no significant structural or exterior damage. “It always had good bones.”
The Parks raised three children in the home. In more recent years, they decided to rent out two rooms as part of the city’s hosted accommodations program, “which we’ve had a lot of fun doing,” she said.
A metal giraffe statue in the front yard matches the name they’ve given their lodging business, The Giraffe Inn at Old Parks Manor.
“We’ve met a lot of interesting people,” and the extra income helps with house upkeep expenses.
While they could have made money by selling the property, “sometimes you have to be on the right side of history,” said Parks.
Parks said the family could find out if the home has been accepted to the Historic Resources Inventory as soon as early October.