History Calistoga Events Activities Napa Valley * Hotels Lodging Calistoga

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.

Today, Calistoga retains its charm of yesteryear with a walkable downtown much as it was when spa visitors arrived by train. In 2001, Calistoga was selected by the National Trust for Historic
Preservation as one of twelve Distinctive Destinations.