Nestled among the oak-studded mountains at the northern end of the Napa Valley, Calistoga has the charm of a small town and the sophistication of a European spa.
Famous for its natural hot springs, resorts, and healing mud baths, Calistoga has drawn residents and visitors to the Napa Valley for over a hundred years. Surrounded by vineyards and world-famous wineries, Calistoga is the perfect place to relax, enjoy the fine wines and sample the outstanding regional cuisine.
Stroll down the tree-lined streets of the downtown area, window shop in a local boutique, relax in a warm, volcanic mud bath, or dine in a small bistro or outdoors under the stars.
The History of Calistoga in a Nutshell
The Napa Valley was once the home of a significant population of indigenous people, those in the Calistoga area being called the Wappo during the Spanish colonial era of the late 1700's. In the Spanish era, the Napa Valley was controlled by the Mission San Francisco de Solano located in the now-City of Sonoma. Following Mexican Independence, mission properties were secularized and disposed of by the Mexican government with much of the Napa Valley being partitioned into ranchos in the 1830's and 1840's. The first American settlers began arriving in the 1840's, with several taking up lands in the Calistoga area. Samuel Brannan was the leader of a settlement expedition on the ship Brooklyn landing in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in 1846. He published San Francisco's first English language newspaper, the California Star.
Following the discovery of gold in Sacramento, Brannan pursued many business ventures which made him California's first millionaire and became a leader in San Francisco's Committee of Vigilance. Fascinated by Calistoga's natural hot springs, Brannan purchased more than 2,000 acres with the intent to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga in New York. His Hot Springs Resort surrounding Mt Lincoln with the Spa/Hotel located at what is now Indian Springs Resort, opened to California's rich and famous in 1862. Between the Springs Grounds and the County Road (Foothill Blvd) commercial and residential areas were laid out beginning in the 1860's. In 1868 the Railroad was completed to Calistoga which became not only a destination, but the transportation hub for the upper valley and a gateway to Lake and Sonoma Counties. A large scale diorama of this early Calistoga can be seen in the Sharpsteen Museum. Calistoga incorporated as a town in 1885, and as a “City of the Sixth Class” in 1888. Calistoga's economy was based on mining (silver and mercury) agriculture (grapes, prunes and walnuts) and tourism (Robert Louis Stevenson spent his honeymoon here, spending part of the time living in the abandoned bunkhouse of the Silverado mine, the reminiscences of which became The Silverado Squatters .) The population remained near 2,000 until after World War II. Current population (Census 2000) is 5,190.
Calistoga Churches, Religious Organizations and Schedule of Services
First Baptist Church 1310 Berry Street, 707-942-5271
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church 901 Washington Street
Highlands Christian Fellowship 1327 Berry Street, 707-942-5050
San Simeon Russian Orthodox Church , 1421 Washington Street
St. Luke's Episcopal , 1504 Myrtle Street, 707-942-6007
Non-Denominational , meeting at 1307 Washington Street
Jehovah's Witnesses of Calistoga Silverado Trail, 707-942-
Community Presbyterian 1407 3rd Street, 707-942-6724
Calistoga Seventh Day Adventist 2102 Grant St. 707-942-4877
Holy Assumption Orthodox Monastery 1519 Washington Street
Community ProfilePrint E-mail
¹ Bay Area Census 2000
More than 500 years ago, members of the Wappo tribe discovered a natural volcanic hot springs in a valley near the base of Mount St. Helena. The first American settlers began to arrive in the area in the 1840's and news of a hot springs with “healing powers” spread quickly to nearby communities.
Samuel Brannan first visited the upper Napa Valley in 1872, drawn by tales of a hot springs with “healing powers”. After he visited the region, Brannan decided to build a hot springs resort to rival Saratoga Springs, New York, which catered to wealthy visitors from all over the world. Brannan purchased more than 2,000 acres and sold off plots of land to finance his dream – Calistoga, Hot Springs of the West.
After Brannan opened his Hot Springs Hotel in 1862, wealthy San Franciscans journeyed to Calistoga during the summer months to relax and enjoy the natural volcanic hot springs. To simplify the long, overland journey, Brannan and a group of businessmen built a railroad that streamlined travel to the upper Napa Valley. The Napa Valley Wine Train recreates this historic journey in lavishly restored 1915-1917 Pullman dining and lounge cars on its daily round-trip service from Napa to St. Helena.
In 1880 Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Vandegriff-Osbourne spent their honeymoon in Silverado, an abandoned mining camp on Mount St. Helena. In the opening chapter of The Silverado Squatters , Stevenson describes his first impression of the City of Calistoga. “It is difficult for a European to imagine Calistoga, the whole place is so new, and of such an accidental pattern; the very name, I hear, was invented at a supper-party by the man who found the springs.”
In 1920 Giuseppe Musante, a soda fountain and candy store owner, was drilling for a cold-water well at the Railway Exchange in Calistoga when he struck a hot springs geyser. In 1924 Musante set up a bottling line and began selling Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water. In the 1970's, Elwood Springer bought the small bottling plant and Calistoga Mineral Water became a popular national brand. Today, the Calistoga Beverage Company, bottles its famous Calistoga® Brand Mineral Water from the same natural source.
Visitors still arrive in Calistoga from all over the world to enjoy the fine dining and local wineries, relax in the natural hot springs and volcanic mud baths, bicycle among the vineyards, and hike among the wild, pristine beauty of the Mayacamas Mountains.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Calistoga and the upper Napa Valley, visit the Sharpsteen Museum , located at 1311 Washington Street.