Our little neighborhood called El Verano in Sonoma County was established in 1888 when a new train depot was built two miles west of the town of Sonoma. El Verano is said to mean “the summer” and the history of our area is one of small, modest houses and summer resorts offering home-cooked meals, swimming, dancing and entertainment. The proximity of natural hot springs in Agua Caliente and Boyes Springs, and their healing waters, offered other ways to relax-and were promoted by the railroad companies as highly desirable destinations.
After we bought our cottage my sister-in-law, Pinky, came to visit and immediately recognized the area. “Wasn’t Verdier’s Resort right down the street?” she asked. “I’m sure it was – we used to go there for the day to swim and sometimes even spent the night.”
The streets still looked similar enough to stir her memory – even though the resort is long gone.
A little bit of research confirmed that Verdier’s was indeed one of the local resorts and we only had to walk two short blocks down Oak Street to where it met Linden Street to explore a bit.
We peered through an old fence into the yard and saw a large, empty swimming pool. “That’s it!” Pinky said. “I remember the elevated pool.”
Verdier’s has been replaced by individual homes, the pool is long gone, and only one foot bridge out of five remains over the small water culvert.
Our cottage is just down the road from the summer resort that used to be Verdier’s and we are on Oak Street nestled between Railroad Avenue and the old swimming hole at Riverside Drive. Our street is wider than the others around us and one of our neighbors says that when the train stopped at the El Verano depot, the freight cars were loaded and unloaded by wagons that made their way up and down our street, which is why it was built a bit roomier. Neighborhood kids who didn’t have a day pass for a pool at one of the local resorts frolicked in the creek at the end of our block and resort guests likely enjoyed goods that were transported up and down our street. Old photos show rows of bikes at the resorts, vintage wood and canvas sling chairs, and the “wagonettes” that the resorts sent to pick up travelers from the train station. It’s easy to imagine the bustling and delightful summer activities of both locals and the resort guests.
I love that we live in El Verano much in the way it was originally intended. Simple homes with ample gardens and fruit trees in an area that was a perfect location to build summer retreats for people from neighboring cities to be close to nature and to relax and rejuvenate. Days that were simpler, slower and remain forever etched in people’s memories. Some things don’t change (or not that much!) – and that can be a very good thing.