St. Helena Bike Tour

Donate to Napa County Historical Society and get Napa Valley’s history in the palm of your hand. Your donation helps us expand and create more historical tours for you to enjoy.




Tourist Information: St. Helena Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center – 657 Main Street

Public Restrooms: St. Helena Public Library – 1492 Library Lane; Jacob Meily Park – Pope Street

Brief History of St. Helena

St. Helena, founded in 1876, was originally part of Dr. Edward Turner Bale’s Rancho Carne Humana. Bale died (possibly of stomach cancer) in 1849, leaving his wife, Maria Ygnacia Soberanes, a member of the prominent Vallejo family, and children struggling. Bale had built a grist and lumber mill before his death, and Maria quickly upgraded it and turned it into a profitable business. Henry Still and Charles Walters purchased 126 acres from Maria and gave away most of it to anyone who would come to the area to open a business. By 1868, the railroad had been extended to St. Helena, and with easier transportation came more residents and a thriving community.

Inglenook

1991 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford
Built 1881
Ghost Winery
No appointment required: website

Finnish immigrant and sea captain Gustave Niebaum earned his fortune in fur trading with his Alaska Commercial Company. William C. Watson, Yount’s son-in-law, established the Inglenook vineyard in 1871. In 1879, Niebaum purchased the property and hired Hamden McIntyre, an old friend and former colleague in the Alaska Commercial Company, to design his gravity flow winery building. McIntyre would design several other wineries in the county before eventually moving back to Vermont and settling down as a renowned bridge engineer. The winery was built in 1881, and a year later Inglenook crushed its first vintage.

During Prohibition the estate was idle, but the day after its repeal Carl Bundschu and John Daniel Jr. resumed production. For the next few decades, the winery flourished, but by the 1960s sales had slumped and the building was in need of repairs. In 1975 filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola bought the property, and by 1978 had his first harvest. By 1995 the Coppolas had bought back all the original parcels, by 1997 the grand chateau was renovated and reopened, and in 2011 they were finally able to buy back the Inglenook trademark.

Meily/Signorelli Barn and Leuthold Winery

Pope Street and Chiles Avenue, St. Helena
Historic SiteFormer Site

This historic barn was built in 1880 to house the wines produced by General Jacob Meily’s winery. Meily was a Swiss immigrant who, along with his Prussian wife Margaret, settled in St. Helena in 1883. Guiseppe and Carolina Signorelli bought Meily’s land and vineyards in 1918, and the barn remained in the family until 1987. Today the barn is owned by the City of St. Helena and used as storage. It was further damaged in a car accident in 2012.

Across the street was the Leuthold Winery. No trace of it remains today, but in 1884 it was produced 12,000 gallons of wine.

St. Helena Historic Commercial District

Main Street between Spring and Adams Streets
Historic Site
National Register district

A portion of downtown St. Helena was designated a National Register Historic District in 1998. It contains 35 historic buildings mostly along Main Street but also extending onto Railroad Avenue and Money Way. These buildings are well-preserved examples of local architecture.

Beringer Vineyards

2000 Main Street, St. Helena
Historic Winery
No appointment required: website
National Register building, State Historical Landmark #814

German immigrant Jacob Beringer came to California in 1869 to work for Charles Krug. With the help of his brother Frederick, the Beringers bought 215 acres of land in 1875 that they named Los Hermanos. A year later they had their first harvest and crush, producing 40,000 gallons of wine. Chinese laborers dug 1,000 feet of tunnels under the stone winery in the late 1870s. The Beringer property has several historical buildings on it besides the winery building. The Hudson House was relocated to its present site in order to make room for the Rhine House in 1883. Two years later the brothers planted the famous elm trees along Main Street.

During Prohibition, Beringer produced sacramental wine, but afterward it became the first Napa County winery to open to the public. The winery was placed on the California State Historical Landmarks list in 1967, and the Rhine House added to the National Register in 1972.

Charles Krug

2800 Main Street, St. Helena
Historic Winery
National Register building – No appointment required: website

In 1858, John Patchett, Napa County’s first commercial winemaker, hired 20-year-old Prussian immigrant Charles Krug as his winemaker. Krug used a cider press to produce 200 gallons of wine. The cider press originally belonged to Agoston Haraszthy in Sonoma, the “father” of the California wine industry. Krug left Patchett shortly thereafter, married Carolina Bale, and founded his winery in 1861. James Moffitt took over the business after Krug’s death in 1892, and in 1943 Cesare Mondavi, an Italian immigrant, bought the vineyards. The Mondavis have become one of the leading winemaking families in the county.

Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park

2800 Main Street, St. Helena
State ParkHistoric Site
National Register site, entrance fee: website

The Bale Grist Mill was built by Dr. Bale in 1846, but it was his widow, Maria, who really got the business going. Faarmers from all over the Upvalley area brought their grain crops to the mill. It fell into disuse and disrepair by the early 1900s, but with the hard work of many volunteers, the mill was refurbished. It continues to operate today, and organic polenta, cornmeal, spelt, buckwheat, rye, and whole-wheat flour are ground in front of a live audience on its original set of French Buhr millstones.

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

2800 Main Street, St. Helena
State ParkHistoric Site
National Register site, entrance fee: website

Bothe is a quiet campground with 10 miles of hiking trails spread over 1,900 acres. On the grounds is an old pioneer cemetery.