A Warehouse of History and Memories
A Historical Sketch of the Hatt/Napa Mill
Researched and written by Rebecca A. Yerger
The Hatt/Napa Mill Buildings are the last vestiges of the once thriving Main Street industrial and commercial center of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Napa City. This historical significance has garnered the complex local landmark status and National Register of Historical Places listings. Within their walls, the Hatt/Napa Mill Buildings have been a warehouse for more than just commodities – they store the histories of the lives and times of owners, workers and community.
This area of Napa began its era of commerce prior to the 1847 founding of the town. In 1844, just to the south of the Hatt/Napa Mill complex and where Division Street meets the river, the “Embarcadero de Nappa” was established with the landing schooner “Sacramento.” In later years, a wharf was built at that same site. It was once a scene of constant activity. As years passed, additional wharves lined the riverfront along Main Street. Another mode of transportation, which traveled through the Hatt/Napa Mill area, was the railroad. Unfortunately, the bridge collapsed about a year later. In 1849, the little bridge gave way when a wagon overfilled with wheat attempted to cross the river. Fortunately, the driver knew how to swim but he did lose his horses, wagon and his entire wheat harvest of 1849. At approximately the same location as the rickety crossing, another bridge was built in 1864-65 for the Napa Valley Railroad Company. The steam locomotive and its cars made their maiden crossing of that bridge in July 1865. Traveling from the town of Suscol through Napa and eventually onto Calistoga, the original Napa Valley Railroad tracks were laid just west of the Hatt/Napa Mill buildings. The depot was near Third and Main streets, the 1999 County Courthouse site.
With the convenience of both the river and rail transportation nearby, the area between Division and Third streets became Napa’s industrial neighborhood. Two large capacity wineries were built in this area. Uncle Sam’s Wine Cellar, circa 1872, was just north of Hatt/Napa Mill on Main Street between Third and Fourth streets. G. (Giacomo) Migliavacca Winery, Circa 1874, was located to the west of Hatt/Napa Mill. Today, the Napa-County Library occupies that parcel. Both of these wineries produced large quantities of wine, 500,000 gallons per year. They also made vinegar, sherry and brandy. A great percentage of their products were shipped to San Francisco and Oakland for regional and national distribution. Uncle Sam’s was later sold to Charles Carpy.
As Napa grew, it also added more modern conveniences, such as gaslights in 1867. The Napa Gas Company was located on Fifth and Brown streets. Other businesses, such as bakeries, grocery stores, liveries and many others filled in the area. Over time, the composition of the Napa/Hatt Mill neighborhood gave way to more contemporary businesses, garages and auto dealers.
However, returning in 19th century Napa and the year 1879, another noteworthy addition to this area was the first warehouse built by Captain Albert Hatt. Located on Fourth, Main and Brown Streets, he stored and sold coal and produce. Hatt gradually outgrew that warehouse. And by 1884, he constructed the first of the Hatt Buildings at Main and Fifth streets.
The Hatt Family
Captain Albert Edward Hatt was born on May 3, 1840, in Prussia. In later years, when Hatt was in his 40’s and 50’s, he was described as being 5’8″ tall with fair complexion, brown hair and gray eyes. And at the age of 23, on January 4, 1864, Hatt became a naturalized U.S. Citizen.
Around 1854, 14-year-old Hatt followed his family tradition of a seafaring life. Hatt sailed many of the seven seas before landing in San Francisco in February 1859. He continued his life afloat aboard steamships and sailing vessels plying the waters of the Sacramento River and the Northern California coast until 1865. About that time, Hatt met an Irish woman named Alma Horgen. Some sources say she lived in Napa. Then on November 23, 1865, Alma and Albert were married and settled in Napa.
For a brief time in 1865, Hatt operated a mercantile shop on Napa’s Main Street. But he soon returned to traversing the local waterways. As a steamship captain, Hatt successfully supported his growing family. There would eventually be six children: Anne, Albert Jr., William, Ella, Amelia and Josephine. During this period, Hatt had a family residence built. According to the May 2, 1874 issue of the Napa County Reporter, the house was located in the vicinity of the Oak Mound School, a college prep school for boys. This would place the Hatt home on either the 200 or 300 block of Randolph Street. The two-story house cost $2,500.
After 11 years, 1878, Hatt stepped off his boat and back into commerce. “Capt. A. Hatt,” stated the November 1, 1878, Napa County Reporter, “keeps a coal and coke depot opposite the Banner warehouse on Brown Street. He also keeps an assortment of vegetables. Mr. Louis Spreckles is the gentlemanly and obliging agent. We commend these gentlemen to the trade of Napa.” Hatt also had a steamship in connection with the business. He named it after one of his daughters. The “Amelia” was considered a luxury vessel and was described as “commodious.”
To accommodate the growth of his business, Hatt leased a portion of a lot owned by a Mrs. Buffer in October 1879. On this parcel — bounded by Fourth, Main and Brown Streets — Hatt constructed two buildings. One was a single-story sales room for produce. The second structure was a local coal shed. A month later, Hatt received the contract to supply the coal for the Napa County Courthouse. The bid price tag was $10.80 per ton.
Hatt also had wharves alongside the Napa River. In 1880, a fast moving and ferocious storm pounded Napa County. The late April downpour severely flooded Napa. And as a result of the torrent and raging waters, Hatt’s wharves were destroyed. This incident spurred Hatt to become active in various flood control campaigns.
Undaunted by threats of flooding and its financial devastation, Hatt began making plans to further expansion of his business. In preparation for these plans, Hatt purchased a large riverfront lot in January 1882 from William H. Coombs. Bounded by Fifth and Main streets, Hatt paid $1.00 for the riverfront property. By November 1884, Hatt was conducting business from his new brick warehouse known as the Hatt Building. The continual expansion of the facility and his business will be the subject of an upcoming chapter.
In addition to his business activities, Hatt participated in the local social, civic and political arenas. Hatt served as both trial and Grand Jury juror on a regular basis. In 1886, Hatt ran for mayor of Napa. According to the January 15, 1886, Napa Register, Hatt was talked into lending his name to the race in order to give the residents a choice. His opponent was J.T. Lamdin, the favored candidate. However, neither one of these men won the election.
Hatt also contributed to the community by assisting with the arrangements for social events. In 1895, Hatt was part of the July 4th celebration committee. A few years later, Hatt assisted with the plans and preparations for the Turnverein’s (a German Social Club) Christmas Party. Hatt also added to the local quality of life by creating spaces for recreational and social organizations within his Main and Fifth Streets complex. However, the most important part of Hatt’s life was his family.
The knack for business and the desire to be socially active permeated the entire Hatt Family. Alma, Hatt’s wife, was a woman ahead of her time. In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, Alma had a career. On July 10, 1885, Alma opened her “Oyster House and Restaurant.” It was located on the first floor of the Opera House. “Meals $.25,” reported the Napa Register, “served all hours of the day and night. Lunches put up for order for excursions and other parties. Wines served to order.” On one occasion, September 26, 1885, the Oyster House was the setting for a wedding reception for Richard and M.L. (Turnstall) Doidge. Following the wedding ceremony, in which Alma Hatt was a bridesmaid, Mrs. Hatt hosted the wedding brunch.
Although busy with her restaurant, Alma was actively involved with the Women’s Improvement Club as well as the 1800’s version of the PTA. However, her first priority was her family. From the local newspaper accounts, the Hatt children were excellent students and active within the community. Their names consistently appeared on the honor rolls of local schools. They also accepted the responsibility of service club officers. For instances, Ella Hatt was secretary of the YSI Society while her brother Albert, Jr. was sergeant of the local National Guard Corp.
Unfortunately, two of the Hatt children died suddenly while in their youth. For over three months, the Hatts were unaware of their loss of 20-year-old son William Frederick Hatt. On July 22, 1887, he left San Francisco aboard the “Iroquois” bound for New York.
Then, as the vessel rounded Cape Horn on September 28, William fell from the main topsail to the deck below. He died instantly. The January 6, 1888, Napa Register stated, “He was buried at sea with the flag at half-mask, an honor which is usually given only to officers.” The Hatts received this tragic news shortly after Christmas 1887. Then about a year later, the Hatts lost another family member. Josephine, the youngest of Alma and Albert’s children, died of diphtheria on Sunday, November 25, 1888. She was described by the Napa County Reporter as “an amiable and bright little girl whose winning ways had endeared her to many friends besides her loving father, mother, brother and sisters who will mourn her untimely death.”
Although the 1880s appeared to be ending on a sad note, that decade also brought joy to the Hatt family. In 1889 Albert, Jr. married Miss Margaret Riley of San Francisco. There is some difference of opinion within historical sources as to where the young couple met. However, regardless of that minor disagreement, all the sources concurred that Albert, Jr. and Margaret were a perfect match, deeply in love and devoted to one another.
The following year, 1890, the Hatt family gathered together for another joyous occasion. On November 23, Albert Sr. and Alma celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. “Captain and Mrs. A. Hatt,” reported the November 28, 1890, Napa Register, “celebrated their silver wedding anniversary on Saturday last. In the evening, they were pleasantly surprised by a number of friends quietly dropping in on them.”
The 1890s also brought other special events for the Hatt family. Both Amelia and Ella were married in 1895. Amelia married O.H. Schlott of Mare Island, Vallejo, on February 10 at the Hatt home. Schlott became a pharmacist with the Navy based in San Francisco. On August 18th, Ella married Albert A. Gardiner, Jr. of Napa. He was a well-liked local businessman. A year later July 29, 1896, Anne exchanged vows with Robert Brownlee of Napa. He was highly respected as Napa County’s under-sheriff. Prior to her marriage and after, Anne was a local businesswoman. In 1892, she opened a millinery shop on Main Street in Napa. Eventually, in 1897, Anne moved her shop to the Harris Building, once located on Second Street. Captain Hatt remodeled the building for his eldest daughter Anne.
As he and his sisters married and began their respective families, Albert, Jr. also focused on his career. He joined Company ‘H’ of the National Guard. He competed in shooting contests and usually placed at least in third place. Albert Jr. took his entrance exams for the Guard in August of 1896. He passed with an 84% test result. He eventually was promoted to second lieutenant of Company ‘H’ and Battery ‘B’. When the men went to San Francisco on maneuvers, Albert. Jr. was assigned the responsibility of reporting the company’s activities and condition to the local newspapers.
As the Hatt family joyously welcomed its newest members, the sorrow of loss visited their family once again. In late August 1896, Amelia Hatt Schlott lost her four-month-old son Raymond. He died at Alma and Albert’s home on Randolph Street in Napa. The cause of his death was not listed in the notice.
Then on January 16, 1898, Alma Hatt died in her sleep. She had succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 60 years. Her death ended the 33 years of love and support Albert, Sr. had depended upon. “During that time,” stated the January 18, 1898, Napa Daily Journal, “her many noble traits of character have endeared her to a great many friends, and will make her loss severely felt to a large number outside the family circle now so badly bereaved.” Her funeral was held at the Hatt family place of worship, Saint John’s Catholic Church on Napa’s Main Street.
About a week later, Captain Hatt came down with the same illness, which he did recover from. Now about 58 years old and a deeply grieving widower, he retired and took time to mourn Alma’s death. In April, he set sail for the Sandwich Islands. His round-trip to Hawaii took about two months. “Captain Hatt arrived home on the steamer ‘Zinfandel,'” reported the June 5, 1898, Napa Daily Journal, “after a two months absence in the Hawaiian Islands. The voyage had the desired effect upon his health and he came with a good stock of interesting stories about the islands and his trip. He sailed on the ship ‘J.D. Bryant’ and was 17 days on the voyage down and 18 days in returning. When entering the harbor of Honolulu, the captain of the ‘Bryant’ being sick, Captain Hatt had an opportunity of trying his hand at his old vocation of skipper.”
While his father was cruising the Pacific, Albert, Jr. began a new career as the manager of the new Hatt Corporation and its Main Street warehouse. About a year later, tragedy struck again. Within a week of each other, toddler Clement and 3-year-old Doris, two of Albert, Jr.’s children died in mid-November 1899 of pneumonia. Fortunately, Albert Jr.’s 4-year-old son Cyril recovered from his bout with the disease.
The new century at first appeared to be a time holding promise and happiness for the Albert, Jr. family. Sadly though that promise was unfulfilled when Margaret developed a serious medical condition in late 1905. Around October of that year she underwent surgery to remove a tumor at St. Winifred Hospital in San Francisco. Margaret seemed to be on the mend by early 1906. Then while visiting her step-mother, Mrs. John Riley, in San Francisco on March 21 Margaret became critically ill and had to be rushed to St. Winifred’s. For about a week, the doctors attempted numerous medical procedures, including another surgery, to save her. But it was all for naught as Margaret died on Thursday, March 29, 1906 at 8:30 p.m. According to her obituary in the Napa Weekly Journal dated April 6, 1906, Margaret was survived by more than one child. They were: Madie, Muriel, Bert, William and of course Cyril. Margaret was buried within the Hatt family plot at Tulocay Cemetery. Also according to the obituary, Margaret was 40 years and 2 months old at the time of her death.
Now a widower with five young children to care for, Albert Jr. did his best to continue living his life, provide for his family and live up to his father’s expectations. Sadly, however, issues of failing health continued to plague Albert Hatt Jr. Faced with declining health and business troubles, Albert, Jr. took his own life. On April 1, 1912, at the age of 46, he committed suicide by hanging himself from the beam within the family’s warehouse. He too was buried within the Hatt family plot at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa. As for his orphaned children, they were taken in and cared for by his sisters. And from all indications, they went on to live normal lives.
With Albert Jr.’s death his father, Captain Albert Hatt, Sr., was faced with some difficult decisions regarding the fate of the Hatt Corporation and its holdings as well as his own personal affairs. The captain, now older and either unable or unwilling to return to work, decided to sell the business, circa 1912. He also moved in with his daughter Amelia Schlott. He lived out his life in San Francisco at the Schlott home. Captain Albert Edward Hatt, Sr. died on September 25, 1913, at approximately the age of 73 years. Eulogized as a true “Napa Pioneer,” Hatt was buried within the family plot at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa. With his passing, one era of the Hatt/Napa Mill business ended as the new one began with the Keig family.
Many of the Keig family members are still alive and living in the Napa area. With this in mind, some of the personal data has been omitted to protect their right to privacy.
The Keigs ancestral roots stem from the Isle of Man as do their cousins, the Corletts — another prominent Napa Family. “The Keigs were enterprising individuals,” stated Wilma Keig. “They were true entrepreneurs wanting opportunity and challenge. That’s why the Keigs came here.”
As previously mentioned, the Keig family purchased the Hatt/Napa Mill in 1912. Originally, the business operated as partnership between Robert Edward, Daniel and Eleanor Keig. Eventually, Robert Edward bought out his siblings’ shares in the business.
On the home front, Robert Edward Keig was married to Violet Hobson Keig. They lived on Franklin Street in Napa where their two children were born. Their first child was Robert George and Valerie was their second born. Robert Edward would go on to be a father two more times. But unfortunately, Violet died of tuberculosis in 1927 at the age of 29 years.
For a time, Robert Edward Keig managed to juggle the demands of a working single parent. Fortunately, for Keig, some of Violet’s family came to his aid. One in particular was Violet’s cousin, Violette, who was of great comfort and assistance to Keig. And with the passage of time, Keig and Violette grew closer. Eventually, they married. From this union, the Robert Edward Keig family grew to an even half-dozen. The youngest children were Joanne and then Daniel.
All of the Keig children attended local schools while their father conducted business at his Napa Milling and Warehouse Company. As his children grew, they all helped out and eventually worked at the mill. Robert George Keig temporarily left the family business to join the armed forces during World War II.
When Robert George returned from the service, his father turned the management of the mill over to his son. At first, Robert George had some of the usual trepidation about his ability to run the mill and warehouse. As for Robert Edward Keig, he turned his full attentions towards his first love, farming. He spent many of his final years with Violette at their Oakville area dairy, which he named “ROVA JODA.” This name was a blend of his children’s names- RObert, VAlerie, JOanne, and DAniel.
Of his four children, Robert George and Valerie were the most involved with the family business, although they were all equal owners. In addition to the four siblings, the entire Robert George Keig Family — his wife Wilma and their four children — were equally as active in and important to the business.
As time passed and the younger generation chose to pursue other avenues, Robert George and Wilma Keig began considering the sale of the mill business. The final decision-maker was Robert George Keig’s declining health. The business, not the building, was sold. In 1975, Robert George Keig passed away from cancer.
Wilma and three of her adult children still live in Napa. Joanne and Daniel are the only two surviving siblings of Robert George Keig. Both of them live elsewhere in California. Valerie passed away in the early 1980’s at about the same time the Hatt/Napa Mill was sold to start its newest purpose.
The Hatt/Napa Mill Buildings
The Hatt Era
The first signs of Captain Albert Hatt’s plans to build a new warehouse were on January 20, 1882. On that date, the Napa County Reporter documented the sale of one block of property at Main and Fifth Streets. Hatt purchased the property from William H. Coombs for $1.00. Then on August 20, 1884, the Napa County Reporter printed another article titled “A Fine Warehouse. Captain A. Hatt of this city believes in building up a town by erecting within its corporated limits good substantial buildings, and is faithfully following that opinion by erection at the foot of Main Street a large brick warehouse.”
According to the article, the building dimensions were to be 60×100 feet and one-story high. The newspaper also noted, “And what is rare, it will have handsome asphlatum floor.” The structure was still under construction at the time the article was printed. A crew of six men built the warehouse. The brick for the building was made on-site with materials from the Napa River. The estimated construction costs were $8,000 to $10,000. However, the final cost was approximately $6,000.00. In conclusion, the Napa County Reporter stated, “When completed, this building will be one of the finest and most imposing of its kind in the Napa City.”
When finished, the Hatt Building included a second story. Within the area was a skating rink. A year later, 1885, the Captain improved the rink with a new floor of tongue-and groove, White Rock maple planking shipped from Chicago. Additional improvements to the rink included another 50 pairs of new nickel-plated clamp skates to the 165 pairs already available at the rink. The Hatt skating rink was the scene of frequent social events enjoyed by Napans.
For example, the February 13, 1885, Napa Register covered an entertaining evening at the Hatt rink. “The obstacle race at Cleveland’s (the skating rink manager) rink last Saturday evening was attended by a large gathering and the entertainment which the race afforded was rich, rare and racy. The skaters were required to crawl through barrels, climb over ropes and scantlings and walk between the rounds of ladders laid flat upon the floor. The audience roared itself hoarse with laughter at the hasty and ludicrous gyrations of the racers.” In later years, circa 1913, the rink was used as a basketball court and gym by the Napa Lookout Athletic Club which boasted 250 members.
Captain Hatt made regular changes to his warehouse to accommodate business needs and his vision. “Napa is a good town,” stated Hatt on March 18, 1887, to the Napa Register, “and I would be willing to spend my last cent in it.” At that time, Hatt was adding another two-story building to his warehouse. The first floor was to be an U.S. Government bonded warehouse with iron shutter at the doors and windows. For additional fire protection, corrugated iron covered the roof. The second floor was eventually named Hatt Hall. It was intended to be a meeting place for secret societies. Numerous organizations used the hall including the Unity Lodge, No. 3, Royal Argosy. On January 4, 1889, this women’s society installed its new officers during a ceremony at Hatt Hall. In later years, the hall served as the armory, probably due to Albert Hall Jr.’s association with the National Guard
Hatt Hall had a dining room, a library and an anteroom. When completed, the hall was finished with walnut wainscot and molding, thick carpeting and fine furnishings. Around 1901, the wainscoting was replaced with a pressed-tin wall covering. The state-of-the-art ventilation and heating system of the 1887 building was located in the basement. This system promised even and constant comfort. The final cost for the 1887 addition was $12,000. By the end of 1887, the new warehouse was an official U.S. Government bonded facility.
However, the designation and all of its accompanying red tape created occasional problems and some frustration for Hatt. For instance, in January 1988, one of the warehouse workers locked up and left the keys in the building. Due to its official status, Hatt could not knock the lock off until he had been granted permission to do so from Sacramento.
To further protect his investment, Hatt built a bulkhead — a stone retaining wall — between his warehouses and the river. It “is very substantial,” stated the April 26, 1889, Napa Register, “and it will add much to the value of the premises.” By 1894, this stone wall was extended to encompass the entire complex along its river frontage. Again in 1889, the Hatt property and business was assessed by Napa County to be worth $14,960.00. By the end of that year, Hatt built a 32×70-foot addition to the 1887 bonded warehouse to accommodate the increasing demand for storage space for wines and spirits. Other alterations to the complex included a corrugated building to house the machinery, which crushed and cleaned grains. The awning was extended and street gutters were installed around the property. All of these changes took place in 1890. Then, in 1893, Hatt added another section to his warehouses. When completed, all of the various additions created a complex, which extended to the western bank of the Napa River.
Some of the changes Hatt made to the business were not structural. In 1895, Hatt purchased the neighboring James & Company lumberyard. His partner in this venture was Henry Stoeckle until 1896. The following year, Hatt’s propensity for expansion overflowed onto the lumberyard. In June 1897, he enlarged its warehouse.
To increase the efficiency of his business, Hatt had a wharf constructed at the end of Main Street in April 1897. Then in September, a derrick was installed on that wharf. “A schooner-load of feed was received by A. Hatt Monday (October 4),” reported the Napa Daily Journal. “The derrick recently erected was used for the first time in unloading the vessel, and the captain says that it ‘works like a charm.'”
With the arrival of 1898 came a major change within Captain Hatt’s business. After his wife’s death in January, Hatt incorporated the business. “The A. Hatt Warehouse and Lumber Company,” stated the March 4, 1898, Napa Daily Journal, “has incorporated with a capital stock of $200,000 divided into 2,000 shares.” The director and stockholders were Captain Hatt, Albert Hatt, Jr., Anne Hatt Brownlee, Ella Hatt Gardiner and Amelia Hatt Schlott. “The corporation,” continued the Journal, “will carry on the warehouse, lumber, shipping and commission business heretofore conducted by Captain Hatt.” The daily operation of the business became the responsibility of Albert Hatt, Jr.
A month later, April 2, 1898, the A. Hatt Company purchased a new schooner, the “Lila & Mattie.” It remained in service until it was wrecked and lost along the Oregon Coast in March 1900. The Hatt fleet of steamships included the circa 1878 “Amelia”, “Yacht Fearless” (a sailing ship), “Napa City” and “St. Helena.” The latter two vessels became the issue of a 1904 lawsuit. The dispute was over ownership of the two steamers. Horace G. Bell, L.M. Norton and G.M. Munk claimed that they were equal partners with A. Hatt. During the trial, Albert, Jr. admitted the other men were financial backers, but he was emphatic that A. Hatt was the sole proprietor. At the suggestion of Albert, Jr., the court ordered the two steamships, the “Napa City” and “St. Helena,” to be sold at auction.
The A. Hatt Company business continued to supply coal and other commodities to Napa County agencies, businesses and residents for several more years. Then, following Albert, Jr.’s suicide, Captain Hatt sold the business to the Keig family.
The Hatt/Napa Mill Buildings
The Keig Era
The Hatt/Napa Mill transformed more subtly under the ownership of the Keigs. Originally, the business was purchased by the entire Keig family. Eventually, Robert Edward Keig bought out his siblings’ share in the business.
As for structural changes, around 1930, the building adjoining the south wall of the 1887 building was constructed to accommodate an expanding milling operation. And a smaller wood frame structure called the “hay barn” was built circa 1940. This little building was located along the riverfront just south of the 1930s addition. The “hay barn” eventually burned down due to spontaneous combustion around 1959 and was replaced with the current building in 1960.
As transportation preferences shifted from river vessels to motorized vehicles, the wharves and docks fell into disrepair. Most gave way to either the elements or the dismantler. Within the Napa Mill, the Keigs conducted a number of allied businesses. “Uncle Dan (Keig) and Aunt Eleanor (Keig) ran an egg candling business in the back portion of the mill,” recalled Wilma Keig. “It was fascinating to watch, although I had no idea what they were looking for.” Daniel Keig, Robert’s brother, managed the egg business while their sister Eleanor kept the books. The Keig egg business closed not long after the end of World War II. “Most of the local poultry farms,” stated Wilma, “closed up around then (circa 1946).”
Within the warehouse, the Keigs stored and sold hay, grains, seeds, coal and feeds and, as Wilma said, “basically anything you needed to run a farm.” Over the years, Robert E. Keig perfected the blends for his various feeds. “One of the greatest challenges,” stated Wilma, “was developing feed and mash for the Seventh-Day Adventists because you couldn’t use any meat products (in the blends).” Once satisfied with the processed feed, Robert E. documented that formula in a book. This volume was the Napa Mill bible and had to be followed to the letter.
In the earlier days, prior to 1940, all the feed ingredients were in sacks and had to be mixed by hand. Then, in 1940’s, the Keigs added the silos to the mill. Installed by J.H. Vienop, a local contractor-builder, the silos had four separate chambers to store different grains. This system added greater convenience by having bulk quantities of grains available for mixing feed. “You would dump the ingredients into the pit,” explained a third Robert, Robert George’s son, “then the contents were drawn up into the 1 to 1-1/2 ton mixer. It was so much easier than by hand. The finished feed would be emptied into sacks. Before the sewing machines, two men worked the filling line — one to fill and the other to sew the sack. It was an interesting and noisy place. I can still hear the belts slapping and the works churning. And, it was messy work with ingredients such as molasses.”
At about the same time as the silo installation, another business change took place at the Napa Mill. When Robert E’s son returned home after completing his World War II tour of duty, Robert George was handed the mill business by his father. Technically, Robert E. remained the business owner while Robert George managed the company until Robert E’s death. During Robert George Keig’s management, he and his wife Wilma often went to the mill at night to take inventory. “The place was so full,” Wilma continued, “you could literally climb to the ceiling using the sacks as steps. It was wonderful.”
As the Robert Keig children grew older and chose to pursue their dreams, Robert George and Wilma began to consider retirement. Also, the agricultural focus of Napa County was rapidly changing from farming and ranching to viticulture. Robert George also had personal concerns, his health was failing. So, in 1973, the Keigs sold the business to Garry Van Brocklin. However, the Keigs maintained ownership of the mill.
Over the next decade or so, the fate of the complex was in question. For a time, a proposed flood control project tentatively slated the complex for demolition. After being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, numerous adaptive reuse plans were considered but fell through. Then in the 1980’s, Napa Mill Development Company, a general partnership, acquired the Napa Mill and in turn sold the Napa Mill to Napa Mill Development Company (NMDC) owned by Harry and Linda Price. NMDC and Mrs. Sandra Callahan formed the Napa Mill LLC, to develop the Napa Mill Project. After more than a decade of cutting through the red tape, the Napa Mill is on the threshold of a new beginning as the “Napa River Inn and the “Hatt Market.”
Napa Mill/Napa River Inn
The New Millenium
On June 9, 2000 at 4:00pm the Napa River Inn, welcomed the first guests of the hotel, Mr. & Mrs. Gary Bennett of Napa. The Embarcadero Building located on Brown Street, which replaced one of the old warehouses across from the Napa Library on Brown Street and on the riverfront of Captain Hatt’s steamship dock. Containing 26 rooms designed with an elegant yacht in mind, featuring a cheery theme of yellow in the wall coverings and furnishings with cherry wood wainscoting, coffered paneling and brass bathroom fixtures.
The outside architectural design of the Embarcadero Building by MCA Architecture Planning Interiors, Stephen Cuddy, and Architect was created to mimic the false front exterior façade of the A. Hatt Building of 1884 and the original warehouse buildings of corrugated metal on the riverfront side.
Also, the grand and elegant lobby of the Napa River Inn located on the first floor (the Napa Mill Feed Store and office till 1973) in the original A. Hatt Building opened on June 9, 2000. In the main building behind the lobby the executive offices, laundry, housekeeping and employee area were opened and in operation.
Other honored guests the first night included Mr. & Mrs. William Yeomans of Oneida, New York the first guests to make reservation on the Internet and Mr. & Mrs. Douglas R. Schlott of Longview, Washington were the first walk-in guests. Mr. & Mrs. Schlott a distant relative to Amelia Schlott?
On August 29, 2000 the hotel continued its drive for completion by opening the 8 historic designed rooms on the second floor of the A. Hatt Building including 7 deluxe rooms dominated by the original tongue and groove White Rock maple floor of the skating rink, the Captain Albert Hatt Suite and the Keig Boardroom. Historic guestrooms include such features fireplaces, canopy beds, slipper tubs with brass fixtures and 6-9″ moldings copied from original moldings in the building. Corridor art display photographs of turn of the century Napa City residents and structures.
On October 6, 2000 the grandeur of the A. Hatt Building came back to life with the opening of the Hatt Hall featuring the original pressed-tin elegantly restored and hand painted gold, rebuilt rounded windows with iron fire shutters, original exposed reinforced brick walls and original building redwood wainscoting replacing the walnut wainscoting of the Hatt Hall. Behind the Hatt Hall a modern catering kitchen was installed and room to store banquet and meeting room equipment.
The most modern features were added to accommodate the experienced traveler including 36 simultaneous Internet lines in the Hatt Hall, Internet and voice mail lines for each guestroom, cable television with pay-per-view movies, CD players in all the rooms, refrigerators, and all added amenities without jeopardizing the historical integrity of the building structure and design.
After numerous delays concerning toxics and flood control issues the last hotel building with 32 guestrooms was completed almost exactly one year after the first phase of the hotel was opened on June 6, 2001. Built in the more traditional hotel style the River Bend Plaza Building located at the site of a previous warehouse along the riverfront across from the Rough Ridder Building was designed with 3 stories in a rectangular shape. The interiors depict a rustic California motif with medium color oak wood trim moldings and furniture and corara marble from floor to ceiling in the bathrooms. Colors focus on a more feminine style rather than the more masculine yacht motif of the Embarcadero Building with deep rose and pale yellow wall coverings and fabrics. Artwork chosen are views of turn of the century California landscapes.
Designs for all interiors of the hotel were created by the noted San Rafael designer Sandra Blake whose works include several Kimpton Hotels, such as the Monaco, The Prescott and the Serrano hotels in San Francisco.
The New Millenium
In the summer of 1999 the first phase of the Hatt Market or the retail entities of the Napa Mill was opened. Sonia Akey proprietress of the Greenhaus Spa opened for business in the small building on the corner of Brown Streets and 5th Street moving in after the Economic Development Corporation and the “old police station last used in 1959”.
Shortly prior to the opening of the Napa River Inn Geezer’s Grill and Bar opened for business in April 2000. Relocated from their original location at 829 Main Street. Geezer’s location is the rear of the original feed store and was designed in a casual California beer brewing establishment with an outdoor courtyard exposing the original brickwork and overhead steel trusts of the original feed warehouse.
Shortly after the Napa River Inn opened Laurie Wilkins opened her Open Window Gifts and Flowers at the Northwest corner of the original A. Hatt Building in what was the old mill feed store office on July 4, 2000. Displaying a variety of Napa Valley gifts and specialty logo items from the Napa River Inn, fresh flower arrangements and gift baskets are sold. The gift shop was sold and the hotel took over the space for its own gift shop and The Parlor meeting room.
In August of the 2000 Sweetie Pies Bakery began serving to the public at its location next to the lobby of the Napa River Inn in the location of the building where the original feed bagging machine installed by the Keigs was housed. As the bagging machine is still displayed it adds a perfect décor to the bakery’s dining area. Sweetie Pies also is a supplier of many hotels and caterers in the Napa Valley for wholesale cakes, pies, deserts and breakfast items.
Along with the completion of the River Bend Plaza Building the outdoor public plaza was completed located along the river between the River Bend Plaza hotel building and The Napa General Store. The plaza is designed with various planters and seating areas utilizing the original bricks from the old warehouses torn down and the cobblestone streets from the property. The original augers or Archimedes Screws from the silos were converted to lampposts encircling the plaza.
The Napa General Store opened June 27th 2002. Jill & Jim Brandt, owners of restaurants in San Francisco, have a planned opening date of July 1 for the Napa General Store at the Napa Mill. Their concept is best summed up by their tagline “where the wine & river meet.” The 4,530 square foot space being completed by the Brandts will include “gourmet-to-go” as well as onsite dining both inside and on the riverside terrace. The Napa General Store will feature offerings from the brick pizza oven and wood-fired rotisserie, a Bonavita coffee/espresso bar, a 28-foot wine bar, delicatessen, as well as gourmet packaged foods and specialty merchandise. Creative picnic baskets to-order and gourmet-to-go fare ready to pick-up will be available for the busy home entertainer, and Napa General Store will offer regular tastings of featured seasonal products. In addition, the Napa General Store can cater private events inside the market or on the Riverbend Plaza. . This market was the sight of the old “Hay Barn”.
Greg moved his popular Celadon restaurant to the Napa Mill in July 2002. Chef Cole has been cooking in the wine country for nearly twenty years. A 1983 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, he came to Napa Valley to work in the kitchen of Domaine Chandon with Chef Philippe Jeanty. He went on to positions as chef at Pasta Prego and Piatti-Sonoma.
In September of 1996 Chef Cole and his wife, Elizabeth Fairbairn, opened Celadon restaurant in downtown Napa, specializing in “global comfort food.” Celadon has been widely acclaimed both locally and nationally. Celadon received a three star rating in The San Francisco Examiner and four stars in The Santa Rosa Press Democrat. In 1998 Chef Cole was selected as one of the twenty-four “hottest young chefs” in America by The Wine Spectator magazine. USA TODAY chose Celadon as one of the ‘ten great places to dine at the bar’ in the December 8, 2000 edition. Celadon received the Zagat Survey “Award of Distinction” for 2001 and has been a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” recipient for the innovative and eclectic wine list.
One of the legendary Bay Area restaurant families is opening Angèle, an elegant “French farmhouse” restaurant at the Napa Mill. Claude Rouas, first known for his original L’Etoile in the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco, with daughters Bettina and Claudia will open their new venture in mid-August. Rouas is a principal, the vice-president and a founder of the internationally acclaimed Auberge du Soleil resort as well as the Ristorante Piatti group. Mr. Rouas trained at Maxim’s and the Hotel Meurice in Paris and is a member of the Restaurant Hall of Fame. Daughter Bettina has been responsible for the front-of-the-house in some of the most famous dining establishments in the Napa Valley, including The French Laundry, Bistro Jeanty, and most recently, as general manager of the popular Bistro Don Giovanni. In addition to her role at the new restaurant, Claudia Rouas will continue as Vice President-Retail Operations for Niebaum-Coppola Estate.