Historic and Picturesque
Off the Beat and Track
Visit Jack London State Park and Enjoy Glen Ellen
Nestled very close to Jack London State Park is the Benzinger Family Winery. The winery prides itself on using green and sustainable practices. They further believe that wine quality is strengthened by the elimination of artificial ingredients.
The grounds of the winery are very attractive. Tram tours give tourists a feel for the vineyards and go over the sustainable practices used by the winery. The grounds also have a reflection pool and some picnic areas. I was very impressed by reviewing the literature on how the Benzinger Wines were produced and the practices they use in growing grapes.
There is a pasture as you approach the winery with Scottish Highland Cattle.
The winery holds tours and wine tasting daily at 11:15am, 12:45pm & 2:15pm. Cost of the tour is
$40.00 per guest.
Driving into Glen Ellen, before the turn off to Jack London State Park, I came upon an elegant old hotel. It was quite clear that the Chauvet Hotel had been recently remodeled based on the care and attention to detail of the exterior.
Below a cornice the Chauvet proudly boasts that it was constructed in 1906. According to the chauvetcondominum.com web site the Chauvet was built by Joshua and his son Henry. Chauvet was born in France and immigrated to the U.S. and Glen Ellen in 1856. He bought 500 acres from General Vallejo and proceeded to built a wonderful winery. The Chauvet was the nicest of six hotels in the town of Glen Ellen. However after a downturn in the economy the hotel became in disrepair and was used over the years for a dance hall and later tavern.
The present owners purchased the hotel in 1996. They began work on a long term redvelopment of the property. Today the property houses six luxurious vacation condominiums. I could not get inside but from talking to one local resident each of the condos has been very tastefully furnished and are popular during summer months.
“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Just a half mile down a forested trail and later paved path from the House of Happy Walls lies the remains of Wolf House. As I first came upon it around a bend the grand scale of the house seemed set almost perfectly among the many trees surrounding it. The house must have been huge given the indication from its remains. There is a strange silence here one that comes both from the distance to the small town of Glen Ellen and the thought of The house was part of an unfilled dream of Jack London. That unfilled dream of not being able to enjoy it more consider how much time went into building it.
There is a great web site that goes into great depth about the various homes and cottages of Jack London (http://www.jacklondons.net/house.html). The site indicates that Wolf House was built from huge redwood trees, boulders, blue slate, concrete and cement. It was four stories tall and built on a floating slab to protect it from earth quakes and had a spanish tile roof. There were nine fireplaces alone. Jack's study alone was 19' x 40' and housed his very large library as well as his place of work. While some thought of it as being a castle, Jack and Charmain considered it just a home where they could entertain their many guests that came to visit them.
It was a state of the art house and contained its own," hot water, laundry, heating, electric lighting, vacuum and refrigerating plants, a milk room, storeroom, root cellar, and wine cellar."
No one thought that the house could burn but in August of 1916 the house fully burned and though they wished to rebuild it, that wish would go unfilled by the time he died four years later.
Jack London lived only forty years and his grave is on a knoll along with his wife's about a quarter mile from Wolf House. It is a very special place and the Park Service has get the foot path in close to its natural condition as a honor to him, his family and his legacy.
5131 Warm Springs Rd., Glen Ellen, California, 95442, United States
Good for: Couples
13670 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, California, United States
Good for: Families
13540 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, CA, 95442
Good for: Business
11775 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, California, 95442, United States
Good for: Solo
13740 Arnold Dr, Po Box 300, Glen Ellen, CA, 95442
Good for: Families
5131 Warm Springs Rd., , Glen Ellen, California 95
13540 Arnold Drive, , Glen Ellen, California 95442
Driving to Jack London State Park I came upon a large campus like facility to both the west and east of the road. It spread out buildings with a wide range of ages from fairly recent to most likely a hundred years older and more. There are a just few signs calling out that this is the Sonoma Developmental Center but nothing really describing what goes on here.
So after returning home I searched the net and found a highly informative article written by the Glen Ellen Historical Society. According to the article (http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/warmotha/psychclasses/423f00/historical.html) the center was formerly called the California Home for the Care of Feeble Minded Children and the Sonoma State Hospital.
The center was originally located both in San Jose and Vallejo, California. However as the center grew in size they needed more space. In 1889 the California Legislature appropriated money for the purchase of at least 500 acres. A search committee found an ideal 1,670 acre ranch just south of Glen Ellen.
Construction of the first building began in 1889 and two years later the first residents moved to the facility. In 1908 construction on the grand main building was commenced. This building was to hold the administrative offices of the center and later a professional education center.
The building was occupied until 1970. It was later placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the center continues to fulfill its mission to children. There are many buildings spread out over several acres. The grounds are kept up very well and it has the feel of a college campus. The hospital contains 586 beds. The center is the third largest employer in Sonoma County.
The Sonoma Development Center is worth a stop. I took a walk up the steps of the old Main Building and up and down a few of the streets.
Walking Arnold Road, the main street in Glen Ellen, I suddenly came upon what appeared to be a group of puppets staring at me from a second floor window behind an interesting metal gate. At further scrutiny I determined that this was the house of an interesting iron worker. The house clearly indicates that this is a private residence but go ahead and stare if you wish. So stare I did and the images in the photos show the imagination and creativity of the designer of these very cool metal works.
Cyclops can be found on the east side of Arnold Road, past the creek bridge going north.
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