Friendly Ghosts Meet Romantic Couples in Napa Inn by Emma Krasov

Photography by Yuri Krasov

A “French room” in Napa Inn was furnished with a bed of royal height; antique armchairs with silk upholstery; a small tapestry, china and statuettes. On an aged dainty bureau, fit for writing letters by hand, there was a guest book with a Thomas Kinkade cover, filled with notes like “Our best anniversary ever… Happy birthday to me… Thank you for the wonderful getaway, we’ll be back… This is our Christmas gift, and what a great gift it is…”

On the weekend we turned in here The Napa Inn hosted a 50th wedding anniversary couple that planned their celebration dinner on the Wine Train, expectant parents who wisely decided to have “the last romantic retreat before the baby arrives,” and a pair of bicycling girlfriends. All congregated in a parlor around the fireplace, pouring sherry and port from crystal decanters. Next to the wine glasses, there were trays with locally produced artisanal cheese, crackers, and freshly baked cookies. A library of old tomes, a rocking chair, and charming trinkets from a bygone era scattered around the sunlit room were creating an atmosphere of a Victorian retreat. Bouquets of fresh California blooms stood on every windowsill in front of lace curtains and on every surface that was unoccupied by period photo albums. Some friendly ghosts from the old photographs on the wall next to a piano were watching the ever changing carnival of strangers, now inhabiting their formerly family rooms…
The current owners of the Napa Inn, Brooke and Jim Boyer, carefully preserved the mementos of the past while renovating the lavender-walled Queen Ann mansion to its contemporary state of comfort and luxury.

The Johnston’s home, now the main building of Napa Inn, was conceived as a wedding present to Madaline (Minnie) Migliavacca and Harry Johnston in 1899. A gift of remarkable generosity came from the groom’s parents, who finished construction just in time for the newlyweds’ return from their honeymoon. Judging from the spacious parlor, multiple bedrooms, and comfortable staircases, the expectations were high for a large family. However, the young spouses, who went on to live together for 50 years, were childless, and the house, which became a city property after their passing, underwent a series of reincarnations as a public building. Once, it even moved to make space for a city parking lot. Then, in 1977 the170-ton structure was transported four blocks away from its original location, for which move some of the city’s light poles and parking meters were temporarily removed.

The wandering home ended up next to the Buford House, then an apartment building, now also a part of Napa Inn, and on the National Register of Historic Places. The Buford House was built in 1877 by a well-off rancher from Berryessa, Simeon Buford, as a town dwelling for his family.
The farmer spent most of his time in the field with his son, Kirtley, while his wife Angelina and daughter Maud made their residence in the house on Clay Street in Napa, to escape the boredom of the farm life. The arrangement didn’t last long. First, the rancher’s wife died, then his daughter, and then his son. Once again, after the original owner of the house died, his former family home became a city property and was used for various public purposes. At one time, it housed a shelter for young delinquents, supervised by a staff of pedagogues. After it closed, people who bought the house from the city found a letter from one of the boys to another. In it, he wrote that if the “old lady” would transfer his buddy to the first floor, it would be really easy for both of them to escape from the house… At another time, the city police station was located here.

Now, Brooke and Jim keep the Bufords’ memory alive by naming the inn’s guest rooms after the farmer’s family members. On our stay, we settled in the Simeon’s Quarters in Napa Inn, named after the head of the original family, a.k.a. the French room. Today, the Napa Inn enjoys a reputation of one of the most romantic bed and breakfast places in the area. The original woodwork, including hard wood floors, is preserved and restored throughout the property. In luxurious bathrooms, hand-made tiles were colored to Brooke’s request to match the period-appropriate wallpaper.
The rooms are equipped with gas fireplaces, air conditioners and Jacuzzis. Comfortable beds, the highest quality bed linens and midnight-blue plush robes for the guests surely create the overall sensation of being pampered. Massage services can be reserved for the new spa room, wallpapered with photographic images of sunny green groves. Old books, lithographs and period antiques found throughout the property, are supplemented with the original paintings and murals by Brooke, who used to teach art, as well as family photographs of the historic owners.
A tiny garden gazebo at the front of the main building, rose bushes and flower beds, bursting with seasonal colors in-between the two houses, and a little fountain in the backyard add to the charm of this sought after romantic retreat. Besides the wine and cheese in the parlor, always served by the check-in time and through the evening, various organic teas are available 24/7; there is a coffeemaker in every room, and a hearty breakfast is served in two shifts in a formal dining room with white tablecloth, candles, and flower centerpieces. On the morning of our stay, we were offered a choice of some healthy cereal with skim milk or spinach frittata with homemade fries, fresh fruit salad and delectable peach bread pudding with Amaretto sauce. It seemed the healthy choice was unanimously blackballed by the luxuriating guests…

The Napa Inn is within walking distance or a short drive away from the famous wineries, shops, restaurants, and art galleries of its namesake community. Both buildings are beautiful, historic, and lovingly kept by the Boyers. The service is efficient, and always available. The inn is located at 1137 Warren Street, Napa, California. For information, call 800-435-1144, 707-257-1444, or visit: