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Sunday, February 25, 1996

Floods and fire made many idle roomers

Kristin Delaplane

Rio Vista hotel, most of town swamped in 1862

Second in a series
In 1857, the town of Rio Vista was founded, with J.M. Sidwell as one of the original settlers. It was in that year that Sidwell built a hotel.
The fate of that hotel was to be complete destruction, along with the rest of the area’s structures, when the flood of 1862 hit with such force it drowned out the entire town.

By 1863, the new Rio Vista was being established in its present-day location, and Sidwell rebuilt a hotel in the new town.

Maine Prairie’s hotels also suffered in the flood of 1862. Before the flood, four hotels were listed at this busy port: The King Hotel, which was built in 1860; Cache Slough House; Fort Pinckney; and Fort Sumpter. Rooms were listed at a dollar a night.

The town re-established itself on higher ground and by 1863 the new King’s Hotel had been erected and was in full operation with the following advertisement in the Solano Republican: “The Proprietor takes this method of informing the public that he is still keeping a Public House at his old stand and owing to past liberal patronage is better enabled to accommodate guests than heretofore.”

Many hotels located near a livery stable or operated their own. This was so people traveling by horse could be accommodated and because many travelers would come to town and hire a rig.

In the case of the King Hotel, owners operated their own stable as the advertisement so noted: “A good stable is attached to the hotel and good buggies for hire. The Rio Vista Stage leaves the Hotel at 1 o’clock connecting with Sacramento and San Francisco steamers. George King, Proprietor.”

After the King Hotel, Mrs. Luis, on whose land the new Maine Prairie was located, opened her hotel, the Maine Prairie Hotel. She was acting as proprietor in 1877.

In the early 1900s, the town was pretty much abandoned, and the Maine Prairie Hotel was left to the whim of nature. Eventually, it was dismantled and today a barn in the area is said to have been constructed with lumber from Mrs. Lewis’ hotel.

In the 1860s, the White Sulphur Springs resort was being established in the hills overlooking Vallejo. It was predominately a spa, featuring curative waters with eight bath houses.

In time, the “Springs” became quite an elegant and noted resort. It was a destination for state politicians and the social elite of Vallejo.

When summer came around, many Vallejans took off for the Springs’ campgrounds via the hotel’s four-horse stage. Wagons loaded with fresh vegetables, fruits and meats traveled to the Springs throughout the season to keep up the campers’ supplies.

The Springs was also the setting for many Sunday School picnics and the annual Fourth of July parade and swimming party.

Boasting a two-story hotel, large dining room, recreation hall, bandstand, outdoor dance floor and stables, it was first owned by Gen. Vallejo. When it was turned over to his son-in-law, Frisbie, it was refurbished “with a taste which it would be next to impossible to excel.”

He had the grounds landscaped in a most lavish manner, embowered with roses and vines. Cottages, a bar, billiard room and a barber shop were added to the premises.

The Solano Hotel & Livery Stable, with F.P. Weinmann as proprietor, was rated as a first-class hotel in Benicia and was recognized as a gathering place for visitors and locals alike. The stage office for all parts of the state was also located on the premises.

Benicia’s Willard’s Hotel was the first hotel passengers saw on their way in from steamship landing, being at the corner of 1st and A streets.

Proprietor Joshua Willard advertised that he had the building entirely renovated and furnished and that his beds were guaranteed not to be equaled by any other hotel in all of Solano County.

There was also a restaurant attached to this hotel as well as a bar. A coach was available to convey passengers from the landing free of charge, and a city coach conveyed passengers to any part of the city for 50 cents.

The Union Hotel in Fairfield was operated by J.G. Allison and seems to have been frequently referred to as Allison’s Hotel.

It was advertised to offer good rooms and beds and was perhaps generally patronized by those who had business at the nearby county courthouse.

The hotel’s restaurant was touted to be kept constantly supplied with the best the market affords and the bar to provide the best kinds of liquors. The Union Hotel was also the site of many local festivities.

In 1863, a correspondent for the Hartford Times came out to Solano County to do a story on Wolfskill and other subjects. He was reported to have stayed at a country hotel near Wolfskill’s where he was charged $5 for lodging, which included breakfast and feed for the horse.

We may almost certainly assume that the hotel the correspondent referred to in his account was Silvey’s Hotel, operated by Silveyville’s founder, E.S. Silvey.

Tom Roberts operated a restaurant and boardinghouse probably in Suisun or Benicia. He advertised that meals could be had at all hours.

Rarely did people or stages travel at night. Therefore, hotels were a necessity and enjoyed good patronage.

In Suisun City, the stages for Benicia, Napa and Sacramento arrived and departed regularly.

The Eagle Hotel was located in Suisun City and was up for lease in 1863. The Pacific House, leased in the 1860s by William Halsey, was located on Reeve’s Block in Suisun City. It was already a well-known hotel when Halsey took over, and he intended to keep it in every respect a first-class house.

Restaurants were referred to as “The Table” and almost all the ads read that The Table would be constantly supplied with the best food the market could provide.

Cigars were almost always mentioned as being available in the bar along both with the choicest varieties available. Unfortunately, in 1868, the famed Pacific House burned to a crisp.