Napa is the county seat of Napa County, California. It is the principal city of the Napa county Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses Napa county. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 72,585. The area was settled in the 1830s. It was incorporated as a city in 1872.

The name Napa was probably derived from the name given to a southern Nappan village whose people shared the area with elk, deer, grizzlies and panthers for many centuries, according to Napa historian Kami Santiago. At the time of the first recorded exploration into Napa Valley in 1823, the majority of the inhabitants consisted of Native American Indians. Padre José Altimira, founder of Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, led the expedition. Spanish and then later Mexican control remained until the Bear Flag Revolt, and American farmers began arriving in the 1830s.

When California was granted statehood in 1849, Napa Valley was in the Territory of California, District of Sonoma. In 1850 when counties were first organized, Napa became one of the original counties of California. In 1851, the first courthouse was erected. By 1870, the Native American demographics changed significantly, probably due to the belief by Americans in Manifest Destiny.

The City of Napa was founded by Nathan Coombs in 1847 [4]. The townsite was surveyed by James M. Hudspeth on property Coombs had received from Nicolas Higuera, original holder of the Rancho Entre Napa Mexican land grant. The first business establishment in the town was a saloon built by Harrison Pierce, a former miller at the Bale Grist Mill. Napa’s first general store was opened a year later in 1848 by Joseph P. Thompson. By 1850 the Dolphin became the first steamship to navigate the Napa River in order to open another path of commerce.

Nathan Coombs and many other important city founders and builders are buried nearby in Tulocay Cemetery. Near the entrance is the tomb of Mary (Mammy) Pleasant who is considered the Mother of Civil Rights in California.

In the mid 1850s, Napa’s Main Street rivaled that of many larger cities, with as many as 100 saddle horses tied to the fences on an average afternoon. Hotels were crowded, cash slugs and California coinage were plentiful. Saloons and gambling emporiums were numerous. The Lyceum movement established a facility and reading room and an agricultural society was started. Two newspapers began publication in the 1850s. The Napa Valley Register made its debut in 1853 and Alexander J. Cox published the Napa County Reporter for the first time on July 4, 1856. The Napa Valley Opera House became popular after its debut on February 13, 1880 with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore but, it later languished and was closed for many years until a popular movement re-established and rebuilt the building. Today, it currently hosts many popular entertainers.

The California Gold Rush of the late 1850s expanded Napa City. After the first severe winter in the gold fields, miners sought refuge in the young city from snow, cold, floods and disease. A tent city was erected along Main Street. There was plenty of work in the valley for disillusioned miners. Many cattle ranches were maintained, and the lumber industry had mushroomed. Sawmills in the valley were in operation cutting up timber that was hauled by team to Napa City, then shipped out on the river to Benicia and San Francisco.

In 1858 the great silver rush began in Napa Valley, and miners eagerly flocked to the eastern hills. In the 1860s, mining carried on, in a large scale, with quicksilver mines operating in many areas of Napa County. The most noted mine was the Silverado Mine, near the summit of Mt. St. Helena. The mine was immortalized by Robert Louis Stevenson in his classic The Silverado Squatters.

In 1869 F. A. Sawyer established Sawyer Tanning Company in Napa and was joined in the business by his father B. F. Sawyer a year later. It went on to become the largest tannery west of the Mississippi River.

Napa was incorporated in 1872 and reincorporated again in 1874 as the City of Napa.

The Napa State Asylum for the Insane located just south of Napa received its first patients in 1876.

Napa had become the primary business and economic center for the Napa Valley by the dawn of the 20th century. As agricultural and wine interests developed north of the city limits much of the light industry, banking, commercial and retail activity in the county evolved within the city of Napa and in earlier times along the Napa River through the historic downtown. Napa Glove Factory was established in 1903 and was the largest plant of its kind west of Chicago. In 1915 Edwin Pridham and Peter L. Jensen invented the moving-coil loudspeaker in their Napa workshop while working on an improvement for the telephone receiver. Pridham and Jensen went on to found the Magnavox Company in 1917. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Napa was known for having the largest red-light district for a California city of its size. In 1905, Napa had over twenty brothels primarily concentrated on and around Clinton Street. [5]

On December 31, 2005, the Napa River overflowed and flooded the entire downtown area and thousands of acres all over Napa County. More than 4,000 residents were evacuated and 1,000 homes were flooded or destroyed.[6] The 2005 flood was the 23rd most serious flood of the Napa River on record since 1865.

Even today the bulk of the county population lives in the City of Napa. The active economic development program has continued to support the wine and agricultural activities of the Valley to this day.  READ MORE

Visiting the City of Napa is an essential part of any trip to America’s premier winegrowing region. The City of Napa offers a growing list of Zagat-rated restaurants, more than 20 wine bars and tasting rooms, top quality lodging, theaters and galleries, and diverse shopping opportunities. TripAdvisor travelers voted Napa a top World destination. The For Visitors section of this website offers a bounty of information, history, links…  READ MORE

Napa Valley is one of the premier travel destinations in the world. Breathtaking views abound at every turn – mustard in the late winter, picturesque rolling hills planted with vineyards year-round and wineries of every stature dot the landscape. Whether you are wine tasting, dining at renowned restaurants like the French Laundry, pampering yourself with a mud bath in Calistoga, or just enjoying your stay at quaint bed & breakfasts, hotels or resorts … Napa Valley is your spot of heaven on earth.

The Legendary Napa Valley – (This is a great site with lots of information) The Napa Valley is a name derived from the language of the area’s native Wappo Indians, and has come to mean “land of plenty.” “Napa” has meant a place of natural abundance for centuries—our rivers full of fish, our forests, rolling hills, wildlife, climate, and fertile land for planting crops all combine to make The Napa Valley a place of singular beauty and productivity.

The first written description of the land dates to 1823 and was penned by Padre Jose Altimura who estimated that several thousand Wappo Indians inhabited the area. Word quickly spread about the abundance and temperate climate of The Napa Valley and by the late 1840s the area was teeming with quicksilver mines and lumber mills.

The region’s popularity grew when steamships began traveling from San Francisco to the city of Napa via the Napa River a trip they could make in about three hours. Soon afterwards, the railroad line became available from the ferry terminal at Vallejo on the shores of San Pablo Bay to the city of Calistoga, creating new access to the healing waters of Calistoga’s famed hot springs.

The Napa Valley has weathered some tough times in its relatively short history. The Valley’s once-famed Silverado Mine was exhausted in 1875 after just three years of operation. In 1893 an outbreak of phylloxera, a serious grapevine disease, crippled many of the valley’s 140 wineries.

Prohibition, enacted in 1920, dealt the final blow to the early wine industry. Only a handful of wineries survived the thirteen years of Prohibition by selling sacramental wines and by selling grapes to home winemakers. Today, however, with vision and perseverance, the industry has greatly surpassed its earlier “golden age,” and now boasts nearly 400 wineries producing some of the world’s finest wines.

The Napa Valley continues to be a thriving agricultural area, a characteristic not typical of communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is thanks to a group of concerned citizens who in 1968 had the foresight to create the first Agricultural Preserve in the State, indeed in the entire nation. A  land zoning ordinance voted on by a majority of the county’s citizens established agriculture and open space as the “best use” for the land within Napa County. The “Ag Preserve,” as it is called by locals, has been a model for other areas to follow.

In combination with the Napa County Land Trust, more than 438,000 acres within Napa County have been designated as agricultural preserve or watershed protection lands.  2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Ag Preserve.

The Napa Valley offers new discoveries with each return visit. Enjoy the unique character of each town that dots this 30-mile long Valley, and take time to explore and cherish this “land of plenty.”



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