Running through the heart of Sonoma County’s unincorporated communities of Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, and Agua Caliente, California Highway 12 is now a major thoroughfare between Oakland/San Francisco and Santa Rosa. Yet as recently as the 1950s, it was a narrow road for tourists enjoying the resorts. And it was a main street for locals. The resorts started to made these towns more populated and prosperous than the City of Sonoma next door. However, the prosperity reversed over the latter half of the twentieth century as wine tourism grew and Sonoma’s role in California history was revived.
The collage below incorporates photographs from 2009-2010 with those from the 1930s and the 1950s. On the left side we travel back to an era when Kramer’s Inn had wooden benches in front and a Greyhound sign overhead. The “TATTOO” sign peeks out from 2010. On the far right is the original Mary’s Pizza Shack, which became a decent-sized pizza chain of some nineteen restaurants by 2017.
A few miles further up the road in Agua Caliente the traces and memories of the uncelebrated history of “The Springs,” can be seen. The faces and buildings of the forbearers of a fourth-generation resident, gleaned from a series of Facebook posts, are combined with his words: “The Driveway of the Valley Of The Moon Saloon, 1930…. That building to the left is still there, but now an apt. The Thugs are still there too… My Great-Grandfather is in the middle ‘Cheif [sic] Bootlegger’ and a couple of Runners.” They are superimposed onto photographs from 2009. The sad state of historic preservation in the area is alluded to by the inclusion, fading in and out, of a page of a historic resource report from 2005, which states that no significant structures remain.
Michael Acker has lived in the Sonoma Valley for the past 20 years. A local artist and historian, Acker is past president of the Sonoma Valley Grange, and an activist in the Springs Community Alliance. He holds the MFA in sculpture from San Francisco State University, and is the author of the recent Images of America book, The Springs: Resort Towns of Sonoma Valley (Arcadia, 2017).
Copyright: © 2017 Michael Acker. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/