Historic inns open in Napa Valley

Two small, historic hotels have been brought back to their original splendor in the upper region of Napa Valley.

The Ink House, a four-bedroom luxury inn in St. Helena, opened in January after an extensive renovation, and the historic Francis House in Calistoga, after standing empty for more than 50 years, is slated to open in late May as a boutique hotel.

The Ink House was built in 1885 by Napa Valley pioneer Theron Ink as a single-family home, later to become a bed and breakfast, on the last remaining parcel of the historic 50-acre Helios Ranch.

It was purchased in 2013 by the Castellucci family, of Castellucci real estate and wines, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The renovation was designed by architect Howard Backen of Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects. The interiors were designed by Sarahliz Lawson Design, based in San Francisco.

The 2-story, 6,000-square-foot house has a 360-degree-view observatory and a bocce ball court.

Rates begin at $1,200 per night, and each guest is assigned a personal 24-hour concierge for the length of the stay.

Other amenities include feather bedding, pre-arrival luggage shipping, packing and unpacking services, and round-trip airport transfer from Napa Private Jet Center.

A fully stocked kitchen is prestocked to guests’ liking, and the house Bentley is available for transportation.

Of the four rooms, the Elvis Room is named for Elvis Presley, who stayed at the inn during the filming of “Wild in the Country” in 1960. The walls are embellished with “Wild In the Country” movie posters as well as black-and-white photographs of Elvis and his cast, with houndstooth pillows on the California king-sized blue suede bed.


Initially a family home for prominent local merchant, James H. Francis, Calistoga’s Francis House was built in 1886 and is being converted into a five-room luxury inn.

From 1919–1946 the building was converted into the Calistoga Hospital. Changes in ownership, natural disasters and the passing of time contributed to the fading of the property. It was closed down by the state of California in 1965 and has remained vacant ever since.

In the 1970s it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The renovation has been no small feat, said Richard Dwyer, who along with his wife Dina purchased the property in 2016 for about $650,000.

“It’s amazing it has survived earthquakes and fires,” Dwyer said, however, a large portion of the roof had collapsed into the attic and a portion of the second floor had fallen into the first floor.

The building also had to be seismically retrofit, and design elements needed to comply with historical preservation stipulations.

The Dwyers preserved the historic interior stone walls and oak plank flooring.

“Every little detail is important,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer is a San Francisco-based developer who has built and remodeled luxury homes in Hillsborough and Palo Alto. He is also a licensed real estate broker and general contractor. Dina is an interior designer who does both residential and commercial projects in San Francisco and New York.

The project has attracted a lot of inquiries from potential guests, Dwyer said, and rates will range from $650–$850 per night.

Guest rooms on the second and third floors will have California-sized king beds, organic bed linens, period writing desks, custom brass luggage racks and flat screen TVs.

Guest bathrooms will be accented with Carrara marble, heated toilets and floors, and custom brass bathroom fixtures.

The Carrara marble fireplace mantle in the salon that the Dwyers purchased is from the set of the 1960s TV series “Peyton Place.”

“It’s more than 100 years old, hand-carved in France, and blends with the era,” Dwyer said.

On the ground level is a reception area, kitchen and dining room that opens to the pool and the pool house beyond, which has an infrared sauna and salt room.

The kitchen is equipped with Gaggenau appliances.

The property will be landscaped with olive trees, espaliered fruit trees and gravel pathways, and two French limestone fountains.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.

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