History of the Mount View Hotel
The hum of hot air balloon burners overhead, small-town tranquility, rejuvenating spa culture and the nostalgia of the 1920s — the Mount View Hotel immerses you in Napa Valley life within a historic setting alongside modern comfort and amenities.
Calistoga founder, Samuel Brannan, was the leader of a settlement expedition that landed in San Francisco in 1846. Publisher of the city’s first English newspaper, The California Star, he became California’s first millionaire following the 1849 Gold Rush. Fascinated by Calistoga’s natural hot springs, Brannan purchased 2,000 acres to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga in New York, which actually lead to the town’s name — his tipsy malapropism that he would make this “the Calistoga of Sarafornia,” and the name stuck.
The European Hotel
After a fire, in 1908, Louis Banchero reconstructed his hotel calling it The European Hotel. Due to his poor health, Louis leased the hotel to Charles Ratto. He continued to run the hotel until 1912 when he sold the lease to a man named Sam Belli of Colma who placed Johnny B. Ghisolfo in charge of managing the hotel. Around 1915, for $5,000, Johnny bought the lease and the property outright and in 1919, he moved the wooden structure of the European Hotel to the back of the property to build the Mount View.
Johnny Ghisolfo: Mr. Calistoga
Johnny Ghisolfo was from the “old country,” Italy, and he had the business sense to build the Mount View Hotel. The history of the Mount View is closely tied to both his personal history and to the history of Calistoga, which he greatly influenced after spending several terms as mayor and city council member. He was called “Mr. Calistoga” by local citizens. In Johnny’s era, the Mount View Hotel was not only a place for travelers but also a gathering place for prominent locals.
Rebuilt in the Mission Revival style, 1919
In 1919, Johnny Ghisolfo built the Mount View Hotel. The new concrete structure with 8-inch thick walls was designed in the Mission Revival Style. Because Johnny was well liked in Calistoga, he had financial help when he began construction from merchants and friends, among them a Mr. T Light. With a handshake $16,000 loan from Mr. Light he was able to complete the hotel. When Mr. Light died his heirs were unaware of the financial arrangements. Mr. Ghisolfo and Mr. Light wrote nothing down; but being an honest man, Johnny Ghisolfo went to the bank and borrowed the money to pay his final debt to his friend.
Two Wings Added in 1938
In 1938 the hotel added two new wings. One extends farther back into the patio area, which today adds charm to the pool and patio arrangement. However, it was not planned that way-money simply ran out before one side was finished! Ghisolfo ran the hotel until July 1964, when he retired and turned things over to his son, Johnny Ghisolfo, Jr. and his daughter, Mrs. Olga Fender, who continued their involvement for five more years.
The National Register of Historic Places
It was the Mission Revival style and Art Deco influence that won recognition for the Mount View in the 1981 National Register. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
Art-Deco Living Masterpiece
Carol and Tom Wenaas purchased the hotel in 1979. Designers Jerry Roy and Paul Pilgrim transformed the original mission revival structure which had suffered the neglect of the depression and two world wars into a charming Art Deco-influenced boutique hotel. The Mount View is a living masterpiece of Art Deco of the 1920s and 30s.
Today, a Family Owned Hotel
The Mount View Hotel is a special place with a long and colorful history spanning over 100 years. The hotel has been voted ‘Best Boutique Hotel’ in Napa Valley and is the premier boutique hotel set in the middle of downtown Calistoga on the city’s main street. Featured just off the lobby is the Hall of History that displays a pictorial history and timeline of the hotel. Today, visitors can still sit in the lobby and imagine the grand times of the past.
It is our pleasure to share with you our Calistoga hotel, spa, and restaurants on your next trip to Napa Valley. We invite you to experience the beauty, the wine, the style, the food and the natural hot springs of Calistoga and Napa Valley.
– Michael, Stephanie and Indie Blue Woods