Napa Valley College has preserved the historic Bus Shelter West ...

Napa Valley College Bus Shelter West

Napa Vallejo Highway at James Diemer Drive & Magnolia Drive


…The Napa Valley College Bus Shelter West, a historic single-story masonry structure originally constructed for use as a passenger shelter for the San Francisco, Napa & Calistoga Railroad Company’s Napa State Hospital transit stop…the (Napa Valley College) property maintains a lengthy record of land use originally associated with Rancho Tulocay, the Mexican period land grant deeded to Don Cayetano Juarez (c.1840s-c.1872), then the Napa State Asylum for the Insane/Napa State Hospital (c.1872-c.1910), the San Francisco, Napa & Calistoga Railroad Company (c.1910- c.1938), and the Napa Valley College (c.1950s forward).

The Bus Shelter West is a one-story vernacular structure built of local fieldstone in approximately 1910. Located at the intersection of James Diemer Drive and the Napa-Vallejo Highway, and immediately across the highway from the entrance to the grounds of the historic Napa State Hospital, the structure has historically served as a passenger stop for the electric railroad line that once ran along the highway, and later, as an informal bus stop for the Greyhound Bus Company and for the Napa Valley Intercity Neighborhood Express (VINE) bus system.


The subject parcel was originally part of Rancho Tulocay, an 8,865-acre land grant deeded to Cayetano Juarez in 1841. A soldier in the Mexican Army from 1827, Juarez arrived in Alta California in approximately 1830 and under the leadership of General Mariano Vallejo, was assigned an active role in managing the land and associated native population in the Napa/Sonoma County region.

By 1841, for his decade of service to the Mexican government, Don Juarez was granted Rancho Tulocay by Secretary and Governor pro tem Manuel Jimeno. With his family, Juarez resided on the Rancho lands from approximately 1840 (before the grant deed was finalized by the Mexican Government) until his death in 1883, whereupon he was buried in the Tulocay Cemetary, the original lands of which he donated for use as a cemetery in 1853.

Napa State Asylum for the Insane

The impetus for the site selection, design and construction of the Napa State Asylum for the Insane originated from a need to build additional State Hospitals in order to alleviate the crowded conditions of California’s early asylums, including the closest Bay Area asylum in Stockton, CA.

An 1869-1870 act of the California State Legislature authorized appointment of a commissioner to visit existing asylums throughout the United States and Europe in order to gain perspective on the design and operation of such hospitals, and provide a model for the new asylums proposed for California. The appointed commissioner, Dr. E.T. Wilkins, visited asylums throughout North America and Europe; the notes from his observations were provided to a select group of architectural firms to prepare a design for the building and grounds, including the San Francisco based firm of Wright and Sanders, which was ultimately awarded the project. Dr. Wilkins also served on an asylum site selection committee created in the early 1870s by California Governor Newton Booth. The committee, comprised of Wilkins, Judge C.H. Swift and Dr. G.A. Shurtleff, issued a report which recommended a hospital location immediately south/southeast of the small City of Napa.

In approximately 1872, eleven years before his death, Don Juarez sold 192 acres of his Rancho Tulocay land to the State of California for the purpose of constructing a new State hospital that could accommodate the overcrowded facilities at the Stockton Asylum. The acreage, as shown here in Figure 1, was delineated on maps of Napa County as the ‘Insane Asylum Tract’.

Construction of the hospital began in 1873 and by 1875 the Napa State Asylum for the Insane was receiving patients.2 The 500-600 bed Gothic Revival style hospital building was the focal point of the facility and the surrounding grounds, which were laid out in a spatial pattern similar to that traditionally employed on early American military bases and other government owned facilities. As the asylum expanded, hospital support buildings were constructed along both sides of present-day Magnolia Drive including the Manor House (c.1898), the Post Office (c.1913), and several resident dorms and homes (c.1913-1931).3 Additional utilitarian structures were constructed at the rear of the imposing Gothic style hospital building including the Electric Shop (c.1884), the Hot House (c.1915), and restaurant (1923).

In 1924 the Napa State Asylum for the Insane was officially renamed the Napa State Hospital. By that time, the facility had expanded greatly to become a self-sufficient community replete with infirmaries, housing, dairy and duck farms, orchards, and agricultural fields.4 Most important, by approximately 1910, the Napa State Hospital  was provided a dedicated electric railway passenger stop by the San Francisco, Napa, and Calistoga Railway Company.

 Historic View of Napa State Hospital

Napa Valley Railroad Routes & the San Francisco, Napa & Calistoga Railway

Railroad transportation in the Napa Valley dates to 1868 when the California Pacific Railroad first established a passenger and freight line from Vallejo to Suisun via Napa Junction. In 1871 the California Pacific was acquired by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. In 1885 the Southern Pacific Railroad Company began to acquire the lines of the Central Pacific, and by 1898 all railroad tracks in the Napa Valley were consolidated under the auspices of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.6

With tracks sited adjacent to the Napa River, the Southern Pacific Railroad maintained the only Napa Valley route until 1902 when the Vallejo, Benicia and Napa Valley Railroad was formed as a competitor to the Southern Pacific’s Napa Valley line. In 1905 the Vallejo, Benicia and Napa Valley Railroad began a fifteen-mile electric rail service between Vallejo and Napa Station. In 1906 the San Francisco, Vallejo and Napa Valley Railroad incorporated in order to bring electric rail service to the Napa Valley.7 The line was extended in 1908 when an eighteen-mile section spanning from Napa to St. Helena was constructed. By 1910 the Vallejo, Benicia and Napa Valley Railroad was acquired by the San Francisco, Vallejo and Napa Valley Railroad Company, and in 1911 the railroad company became known as the San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway Company. In 1912 the company built an extension of the existing lines installed in 1905 and 1908 for the twelve-mile route between St. Helena and Calistoga.8

By approximately 1910-1912 a stone structure was built for use as an electric railway passenger stop for the Napa State Asylum for the Insane. The structure (shown here in Figure 4) is believed to have been constructed from local fieldstone, as was the arched entrance gate to the Napa State Hospital (shown here in Figure 5), as well as the low stone wall fronting the hospital property along the highway, remnants of which are extant today.


 Historic photograph of the bus shelter west c 1930s

In 1925 as a response to a loss of regular patronage resultant from increased automobile ownership, the San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway diversified their holdings by organizing the Napa Valley Bus Company in an effort to provide transit service that was competitive with automobiles with regard to schedule, hours of operation, and the amount of time spent in-route.9 The electric railway cars remained in service until approximately 1938, when they were presumably outmoded by the bus system. The tracks were removed in 1939.10 Oral interviews with staff members of the Napa County Historical Society disclose that the masonry passenger stop was utilized as a bus stop in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s by the local Napa bus system as well as the Greyhound Bus Company system. However, no historical documentation, such as bus schedules route maps, has been identified to substantiate this information.

Napa Valley College

The Napa Valley College is one of approximately 106 colleges in the California Community College system. The college was originally established as the Napa Junior College in 1942 as part of the Napa Union High School District. The current college campus opened in 1965 on property historically utilized as agricultural fields by the Napa State Hospital. The historic masonry passenger stop is believed to have been utilized as a bus stop for both the Napa State Hospital and the Napa Valley College from the 1960s into the present. Today the structure is known as the Bus Shelter West, and is demarcated as a bus stop on campus maps.



Napa Valley College Bus Shelter West

Napa Vallejo Highway at James Diemer Drive & Magnolia Drive