Moving to Santa Rosa 12 years ago was one of the best choices I could have made. It’s a rough life here among the beauty of Wine Country. My dog has his pick of fine walking paths, trails and vineyards to run through.
I walk my animals at least once if not more a day, especially this breed, who needs the constant stimulation and attention. One thing I DO NOT do is run. I love hiking, climbing, repelling. But a runner of the likes of a husky shepherd, I will never be. I now have a Belgian shephard who loves this spot just as much.
I try to find unique spots, close to home, where the dog can roam, run, smell, trot, and mark his territory to his hearts content without having to worry about being attached to one of us slow humanoids. While driving around, I had noticed this old “Round Barn” on a piece of property.
The barn was still in semi-OK condition and it had a few unkept acres around. Time to explore. Parking across the street in an office complex, I noticed a pathway with several acres of land and a creek running beside it.
Exploring further into the path I noticed patches of concrete and what seemed to be an old overgrown road. So we followed it. Right up to what I thought was one of the most romantic and intriguing structures I had ever explored.
I grew up in the suburbs of the East Bay and as teenagers, without a doubt our favorite places to drink beer and escape adults was in spots like these.
I have fond memories of acting like a silly teenager hanging in the Old vets building in Livermore. Maybe that is why I like scary movies involving abandoned buildings so much.
Thomas Lake Harris started the winery and established his colony in 1889, back when Sonoma County didn’t even understand grapes yet. Go figure that a transplant from New York would move here and plant vines. Looks like he may have started a real trend when you glance at all the wineries in the area now.
It is sad that this historical vineyard has been not only abandoned by the city of Santa Rosa but also by the historical societies here in town. It reminds me of what happened to the original building in Santa Rosa, The Adobe Carillo.
Perhaps the historians are too concentrated on the downtown historic district to notice these out of the way spots. Again, sad.
I visited Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa recently where they have dedicated a portion of the winery and several walls display the history of Thomas Lake Harris and the vineyards.
Paradise Ridge is located in the hills of Santa Rosa in FountainGrove, overlooking some of the Harris property. Here, they appreciate the historical name and have named the local lake after the family as well.
Harris was a outspoken man and moved to the Sonoma County area with his followers to creat the Fountain Grove community in about 1875. About 1850 Harris professed to receive inspirations, and published poems. He was an effective speaker, and his poetry was admired by many. Harris founded in 1861 a commune, or utopian religious community in New York, and opened a bank and a mill.
His community in New York, the Brotherhood of the New Life — decided to settle at the village of Brocton, New York on the shore of Lake Erie. It was in Brocton that Harris established a winemaking industry. Harris said that the wine prepared by himself was filled with the divine breath so that all noxious influences were neutralized. Divine Breathe indeed.
Harris was visiting Europe when he was called back by a fire on the Santa Rosa property which he had moved his community to after persecution in New York. This fire, which destroyed large stocks of his wine, devastated Thomas and after which he remained in New York till 1903. He was succeeded by Nagasawa Kanaye, who led the sect until his death in 1934.
Harris’s community left a mark on the history of Santa Rosa and today that part of town is still called Fountaingrove. Harris’s protege, Kanawe Nagasawa, still has ownership of the property on the hills from what I can gather and Thomas Lake Harris Drive, is named for the community founder. Both a lake and a local park in Fountaingrove were also named in Nagasawa’s honor.