As the end of the decade approaches this holiday season, I am happy to report the 2010’s end with a great discovery for us. We now know who the architect was that designed our building! It is the highly respected Napan, Robert (Bob) Keenan. When we purchased Villa Murialdo in 2016, we learned it was built in 1993 but we had very little other detail about the building’s origins. Having a background in design and construction I was curious about the architecture from the moment we first saw it and drawn to some of the buildings unusual features. Most notably, the large curved brick structure visually connecting the four units in two separate buildings. Inside this free standing edifice is a two story stucco silo of empty space with the only pragmatic feature being the home to the building’s mailboxes. Often architectural elements such as this are jettisoned in the effort to save money during construction. Not this one. Thankfully it survived the “cutting room floor” and today significantly contributes to it’s unique Mid Century Modern and Italian influences.
“Bob often included a curved wall to soften ‘the mass’ of a structure,” said Robert Keenan’s wife, Lois, “to make it more graceful. He designed a dance studio in the round for a famous ballerina living in Angwin. When she questioned it, Bob replied that we walk/dance/move in curves/in circles, not in squares. She later let him know she loved the environment he’d created!,” Lois has visited with us now several times since we gave her a tour this summer of the property. One of our guests who comes each year, as it turned out, knew someone who knew Lois and we were thrilled to finally discover a great deal more about the architect who designed our Villa Murialdo.
“After the building was completed, Bob lived in the “owner’s” Unit A where he lived before we were married,” Lois said. “We met in 1977 when I was looking for an architect to design my house. I drove around Napa, and every structure I found uniquely graceful and stylish had been designed by Robert Keenan,” added Lois. They were married in 1998 in a home Bob designed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sadly Lois told us that Bob had passed away but not before leaving an extraordinary legacy of architectural gems throughout Napa Valley. A student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lois stated, Bob, was of the Modernist school. Although rooted in classic architecture Bob’s buildings reflect the vision of an innovator and the touch of timelessness.
His life work includes wineries, restaurants and a host of other commercial structures, even car washes and like Villa Murialdo, both multifamily and single family residences. All with a distinctive design flair. “Bob frequently said he designed commercial buildings,” said Lois, “to support his love of residential.” Curiously, as we discovered Bob was the architect of our building, we began to notice his name credited to other projects. When the residence 51 Syar was listed for sale this past summer, unusually Bob’s name was cited as the designer in the property description. Naturally we couldn’t resist taking a tour. We discovered then that 81 Syar sold in 2016 was also designed by Bob, as was 273 Stonecrest sold in 2018. Each time the listings mentioned his name. Toyon Farms, an 80 acre vineyard and equestrian ranch designed by Bob was for sale this year listed at $18M. He was the original designer for Hotel Yountville, Don Giovanni restaurant and had a hand in the design for the Persian influence Darioush off the Silverado Trail. Signorello Winery was also a Robert Keenan design. Lois took us on a downtown Napa tour and pointed out other properties Bob designed including the very Modernist Windemere Real Estate offices on 3rd and Main. His influence appears throughout the Valley in countless projects.
We are very thankful to Lois for bringing Bob’s work out of the shadows for us and are very proud to have discovered our building was designed by one of Napa Valley’s best.
It was a little early to have dinner at one of our favorite spots, Oenotri’s, so we crossed 1st St. to Tarla for a 5 o’clock Mediterranean meal instead. The air was a crisp but chilly 50 degrees and as we were about to enter, a small caravan of horse drawn hayrides, bells clanging, revelers bundled, turned the corner onto 1st, trotting past the newly opened, free of construction barricades, Archer Hotel, putting an exclamation on the holiday spirit in downtown Napa. Once inside we shared small plates, house-made Dolmas, Greek Salad, Turkish meatballs (delectable) and a grilled octopus salad (tasty but not as good as Don Giovanni’s) topped off with a Tarla IPA.
What’s not to like about this town. Earlier we enjoyed lunch in the courtyard at Celadon entering under the canopy of jasmine covered arbors and lights, the inspiration for our own arbor we installed this fall at Villa Murialdo along with new ornamental iron railings. Our family lunch by a blazing fireplace included meeting a new, 9 month old cousin, who gnawed on french bread for an hour with a huge smile on his face. Afterward we walked back to Villa Murialdo, stopping by and savoring the extraordinary mosaic by Napa resident Alan Shepp “Ars Longa Vita Brevis” (Life is Brief but Art Endures) along the River Walk.
2017 is our first full year as owners of Villa Murialdo, and we feel truly blessed to have this magical place. We want to thank our Property Manager (and former owner) Keith for his continued high level of service to our guests. We also want to thank our housekeeping staff, who take pride in making our guest’s stay clean and comfortable and the many folks who help us service the grounds and property. A special toast goes to the First Responders, who gratefully fought and won the firefight that touched so much of our lives this past October.
And we especially want to thank our guests for staying at Villa Murialdo and supporting this wonderful Napa community.
TO EVERYONE, A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Scott and Rebecca
Villa Murialdo in Downtown Napa
My new favorite place for cappuccino is Ritual Coffee Roasters at the Oxbow in Napa.
I am writing you from Napa to let you know that we are safe and sound at Villa Murialdo. The air quality today and yesterday has vastly improved. It was blue skies and 80 degrees both days with only a faint smell of smoke in the air. I did not witness many folks even wearing the fashion-wise N95 masks the past two days. As you know the restaurants, wine bars and sidewalks would ordinarily be full of people. Walking around town the streets were strangely deserted as caravans of Cal Fire trucks rolled past and first responders on their breaks mingled in town with locals. Signs are posted in merchant windows expressing thanks for the great work these folks are doing. I stopped five young firefighters myself to do the same. For the first time in a week there was the feeling that things had turned the corner. Winemakers are working hard to collect the last of the grapes for harvest and soon I am told many wineries and tasting rooms will re-open. There is in fact a welcome rain in the forecast for this coming Thursday to uplift the sprits.
Still there is much concern for the lives lost and homes and businesses destroyed. The Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa in particular have been hit very hard. We have family and friends greatly affected by this tragedy. Silverado was also hit very hard. Our hearts go out to everyone displaced or injured and all those who have missing or lost loved ones. The tremendous outpouring of public support has been remarkable. Life goes on and the resilient people of both Sonoma and Napa Valleys will find ways to pick up the pieces. Fortunately the fires in Napa Valley never reached downtown areas of Napa, St. Helena, Yountville, Angwin or Calistoga nor the majority of 500 wineries and I am happy to report the fire lines are holding in the areas to the east and west of us. Containment on the Atlas Peak Fire, the Tubbs Fire and the Nun’s fire are now reaching the 50%’s.
September and October harvest is normally the most popular time of year to visit but the Valley is beautiful all year round. The crush of grapes will soon scent the air replacing the acrid smoke as the vineyard canopies turn reddish brown and fermentation turns the harvest to wine. Many have asked how to help and I would ask you to consider making plans to visit again. We would love to have you. If you have a reservation with us in the coming days and weeks stay in touch with us. We are posting daily on Facebook. The situation is steadily improving. Local officials are expecting this week to bring a “new normal” to Napa. Thanks for all your support.
In our most recent adventure in Napa we visited the Hess Collection.
What a surprise and wonderful experience the exhibits were inspirational I loved the artist statements and descriptions of the work. If you are a fan of modern art I highly recommend even if you hate art I recommend for the scenery on the drive up there.
As google maps described the directions on our iPhone “your destination is on your left”, but not really, we drove for a while longer up the narrow canyon road, beautiful California ferns and bay trees. redwoods, and small farms and vineyards. Finally on the left the Hess sign, lovely old buildings and sculpture garden. There is also wine tasting but we already had an appointment at Fontanella’s, (I highly recommend a tasting by appointment only.) We will have to go back to Hess for a tasting another time.
There are three stories of art. The highlights for me were Andy Goldsworthy. Also I liked very much the paintings of Per Kirkeby. There are Robert Motherwell and Francis Bacon and Franz Gertsch.
I also loved the Leopold Maler “modified typewriter”.
SILO'S, Napa's Premiere and truly intimate Music Room located in the heart of Downtown Napa at the Historic Napa Mill, adjacent to the Napa River Inn. On weeknights our Doors open @ 6pm for Music starting @ 7pm. And on Friday and Saturdays the doors open at 7pm with music starting at 8pm. Check the calendar for show dates and times.
Tucked behind our historic building like a Classy Chicago Speakeasy. Silo's features our own Small Crafted Draft Beers, a full Liquor License and some of the finest Napa Valley Wines. Live music Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It's not unusual to find Grammy Award Winners sitting in for a set with Local Legends like Skyler Jett, Brian Culbertson, and Mike Greensill and Wesla Whitfield who live right here in the Valley. While you may not know exactly who will be playing when you get here, due to the incredible artists that are attracted to the opportunity to drop in and play at "Napa's Premiere Music Room," you always know you're going to hear the very best "live" Blues, Jazz, Rock, Reggae, Smooth Jazz and Motown music from the area.
Silo's is available for corporate events and private parties. Call (707) 251-5833 for more details.
May 7, 2016 - September 27, 2016
Recurring weekly on Tuesday, Saturday
Location: 195 Gasser Drive, Napa Farmers Market, CA
Time: 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM
The Napa Farmers’ Market is a California Certified Farmers’ Market committed to supporting local farmers and providing a place for the community to learn about and purchase farm-fresh, sustainably grown produce, specialty foods and artisan goods direct from the source.
Educating the consumer, preserving the environment and providing a place for nonprofits to promote their causes are key objectives of the Napa Farmers’ Market.
June 24, City Nights Concerts in Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheater Renee Wilson, Dylan Black Project and Maddy Hudson. Picnic basket, Rose from Arnot Roberts. 6:30, looking forward to pleasant evening.
Napa river is a tidal river along the promenade it rises and falls with the tides from San Pablo Bay. Sometimes while walking along the river promenade the Napa river looks like it has very little water and lots of mud but its just low tide.
At high tide the river looks deep and wide and
ready for a kayak trip.
Making its way from Mt. St. Helena to the San Pablo Bay a journey of 50 miles. The river snakes through farm and vineyard. In the old days of wild California
the Napa river had a canopy of Cottonwood and
Willow trees. The endangered Chinook Salmon and Steelhead spawn in the Napa river and its many tributaries.
If you have driven on highway 37 the estuary you drive through is the Napa River meeting the San Pablo Bay.