I’ve been blessed with a wife, children, brothers and sisters, parents, coworkers, and a great boss. I have invested a great deal of quality time during the last month hanging out, cooking, eating, dawdling, dog-walking, and generally having a relaxing holiday season. Regretfully, but with a cheerful spirit, I resolve to update this site at least three times a week.
It was beautiful driving weather today, so I thought I’d check out some fixers along Highway 116 and the Bodega Highway. Northwood Golf Club is a beautiful spot for a little recreation, but I didn’t have time for nine holes, let alone eighteen, so I just stopped to admire the redwood shaded grass for a minute and headed west. I took a quick detour into Monte Rio since I remembered a pretty gate at the Village Inn that would help flesh out my gate postings.
Just as I rememberd, this iron gate was roofed in foliage that was echoed at an interior courtyard gate. This inn is nestled in the redwoods along the banks of the Russian River so it doesn’t really need the addition of a green oasis like an urban location might, but we believe in plenty of nature in west Sonoma County.
If a couple of measly redwoods don’t give you enough plant material in your life, you can stick some plants on your fence and gates…and add some planters for good measure. Actually, all kidding aside, the “doorness” created by the ivy in the gate is an important element to add human scale to the environment, particularly in a redwood forest that reaches so high into the sky. The gate in the first photo is just visible on the lower left of this image and you can get a sense for the sheer size of the redwoods, both height and girth. The Village Inn has done a good job at building a comfortable and cozy environment within the redwoods.
I headed up to Occidental where I needed to get pictures of some of the Italian style family restaurants for an article Wild Jane is writing on the main sonoma.net site. I made sure to get photos of both the Union Hotel and the classic Howard’s Cafe two blocks up the street. The Union Hotel is a whole complex of buildings including a pizzeria, saloon, ballroom, and a residence at the end of the street. I had mentioned a few posts back how gates can be used as inviting features within a longer property divider. This mixed residental and commercial fence is a useful reminder that in a town with busy restaurants and saloons, the good citizens living next door probably want some peace and quiet.
There isn’t a residential break apart from the driveway in this long fence. It’s a fairly elegant “stay out” sign. There is, of course, a pretty gate into the restaurant’s courtyard and a driveway gate for the residence.
Howard’s Cafe is a beautifully converted residence with great original detailing on the lower and upper covered porches and eaves. It’s a lovely spot and one of my favorite breakfast hangouts on Sunday when I can get away. If you get a chance to stop by, have a look at the detailing on the upper porch beam where they echo the post-top detailing in the middle of the span. It’s a nice touch that you absolutely won’t see in production building today. Of course, you’re not there just to look at the architecture. The food really is great.
The builders also created a very intricate detail at the eaves that’s a little busy for my taste, but it’s certainly a great example of what pattern books, the power saw and an abundance of wood made possible. Sort of like desktop publishing in 1986…too many fonts, colors, and styles, but hey, see what I can do.
I’ve bemoaned the loss of stone and brick as building materials due to earthquakes. We end up with a lot of faux walls where a thin stone veneer is glued to wood framing. This Freestone property has always had one of the most beautiful wooden fences in Sonoma County. They are in the process of adding a stone entrance to the property and we can see the solution for an earthquake resistant stone wall.
If you look carefully at the large image you get from clicking on the thumbnail, you’ll see that the stone being used here is real, and almost half a foot thick. You’ll see the reinforcing steel emerging from the earthquake resistant reinforced concrete block wall that becomes the bond that ties the rock and concrete block together. It’s not cheap to build this way, but it’s the only way to get an authentic stone wall that will pass building codes and remain standing when the next big one rumbles by. I tip my hat to the V bar C folks for doing it right, and for keeping that beautiful fence intact.
One other facet of the changing face of Sonoma County emerged when I was taking a picture of the wooden fence. If you look carefully at the upper right corner of the image (click to enlarge), just past the stump-sliced V bar C sign, you’ll see some of the most westerly grapevines in Sonoma County marching down the hillside. Ten years ago this would have been considered outside the range of grape growing climate. Now it’s home to the lovely Pinot Noir.
We don’t have a lot of old bridges left, at least steel truss bridges that remind me of the Erector Sets I grew up with. There’s one in Guerneville, but so many RV’s got dinged up trying to pass each other that they’ve made it into a pedestrian bridge and created a functional, but un-dramatic concrete replacement. This bridge, the Wohler Bridge, not only represents the engineering past for all of us, but it crosses the Russian River between Healdsburg and Forestville at a particularly beautiful stretch.<More>