AKA: State of California, Department of Public Health, Department Of Veterans Affairs, Veterans' Home Of California, Yountville, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - hospitals

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1883

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260 California Drive
Yountville, CA 94599

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Building History

As veterans of the Mexican-American and Civil Wars advanced to old age by the late nineteenth century, new requirements for housing them also became more urgent. The Society of Mexican War Veterans began advocating for a facility to house its constituents by 1869-1870, although there were not enough of these men to attract tangible support. It was only when the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), representing the huge numbers of participants to the Civil War on the Union side, took up the issue in 1877 that any meaningful progress began. In 1877, the State of California provided a site in San Francisco to house wounded veterans, but the organization found it unacceptable. They wanted a more verdant, rural setting to stimulate health and well-being. In 1880, the GAR's Lincoln Post in San Francisco began considering the question in earnest, and came to the conclusion that a better location outside the crowded, urban confines of San Francisco needed to be found. A GAR commitee raised about $60,000 for a new veterans' home between 1881 and 1883, and assembled a group of 27 possible sites for its construction. GAR posts in eight Western states assisted in the fund-raising, which would serve veterans belonging to GAR chapters in both CA and NV.

The group selected the A.G. Clark Ranch near Yountville, a 910-acre spread that at one time was part of Salvador Vallejo's Rancho de Napa, a 21,650-acre tract in north Napa County along the Napa River granted by the Mexican government in 1838. Vallejo's land was located south of George Calvert Yount's 11,814.52- acre land grant received just two years before. Yount (1794-1865) was the first permanent Anglo-American resident to receive a land grant from the Mexican authorities in charge of Alta California and the earliest culitvator of wine grapes in what would become Napa County. Jose Manuel Salvador Vallejo (1813-1876), brother and aide to General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1807-1890), gradually sold off pieces of his rancho to other Anglo-American settlers, like Clark.

By 1883, a state-chartered, non-profit entity, the Veterans' Home Association in San Francisco, erected its administration building for its Yountville veterans' home, but didn't open the building for financial reasons until 1884. The Veterans' Home Association in San Francisco envisioned the facility to be a self-sufficient convalescent home and farm, raising its own food and making many of its own supplies. It grew quickly. Fifty-five buildings and structures occupied the property by 1896, including those serving cattle, chickens, hogs. Between 1883 and 1896, the private institution received both state and federal funding. During the Depression that stymied economic growth during the period between 1893 and 1897, the federal government exerted greater control over veterans' facilities by denying support to privately-administered homes. The Yountville facility required federal and state monies to operate, and this disruption in funding prompted the Veterans' Home Association in San Francisco to sell the Yountville institution to the State of California for $20 in 1896. Even after this sale, however, the Veterans Home Association of San Francisco, still led by Civil War vets, continued to operate the renamed "Veterans' Home of California" for a number of years before the state governmental bureaucreacy took it on. (See The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.org, "Veterans' Home of California, Yountville, California," accessed 11/14/2018. This entry was based on a news release written by Steve Janosco of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Sacramento, CA.)

After the last Civil War veterans let go of the board running the Yountville home by about 1926, a retired US Army officer, Nelson Miles Holderman (1885-1953), took over fund-raising and administration for the State of CA. Holderman served with distinction in World War I, earning enough medals (including the Congressional Medal of Honor) to become one of the most decorated veterans of that conflict. Holderman proved to be a charismatic and successfulCommandant, expanding facilities and maintaining high morale during his 27-year tenure. He obtained money to update the home's power plant, erected new dormitories and dedicated a 500-bed hospital (named for him) in 1932. He died in 1953, at which time, admininstration of the institution passed to a more highly bureaucratized State of California Department of Public Health.

Building Notes

Veterans housed at the Yountville facility had to be evacuated for a week in 10/2017 due to Napa County wildfires that endangered it. (See Howard Yune, Napa Valley Register.com, "Evacuated Veterans Home residents start returning to Yountville," published 10/18/2017, accessed 11/14/2018.)

PCAD id: 13527