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            New signs will put spotlight on Napa's historic Calistoga Avenue
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            New signs will put spotlight on Napa's historic Calistoga Avenue

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            Historic Calistoga Avenue Sign

            One of the bronze plaques adorning the sidewalk in the historic district of Calistoga Avenue

            Though today’s Napa is known worldwide for its Cabernet, rolling hills filled with vineyards and, now, the caves used by a former presidential candidate for a campaign fundraiser, its history began long before wine became its economic backbone.

            “People have no idea that this whole valley was developed prior to evidence of how powerful the wine industry was going to be,” said Sarah Van Giesen, the vice chairperson of Napa’s Cultural Heritage Commission.

            Van Giesen said she believes it’s critical that the importance of the “cities and towns that helped the valley grow” be recognized, which is why she’s helped spearhead a nine-year-and-counting effort to increase the number of historic districts in Napa and physical markers to commemorate the distinct character of each.

            Calistoga Avenue sprang up more than a century ago when the installation of an electric streetcar line made building houses away from downtown more attractive. 五福彩票App下载s from the early 1900s line the street, making it one of the spots in Napa where the city’s nearly two-century history can still be felt and the only locally designated historic district.

            It’s also the first to receive new signage that will pay homage to its unique past and provide visitors and residents alike with context and way-finding to navigate the neighborhood.

            On Saturday, March 14, at 10 a.m. Mayor Jill Techel will unveil one of nine new pole signs in the area, each adorned with a brick-colored electric streetcar icon. The signs have been up for about a month, but have been covered with plastic.

            “Because of the importance of this program and continuing this program, we thought it would be better to give it credit and honor where it’s due with a ceremony and a little celebration,” she said. “People have seen them up but there’s been no mention publicly that they’re and why they’re there.”

            Designed by Amy Linn, the creative director and owner of Linn Design Studio, this icon’s inspiration comes from the district’s origins. The streetcar was key in the Calistoga Avenue build-up, and the image notes that importance.

            “I developed icons that were inspired by the people who lived in the area when that district was developed,” Linn said, referring to the seven total areas that the Heritage Commission hopes the city will ultimately designate as historic districts and approve the installation of similar signage.

            Another example is Linn’s creation of an anchor icon for Napa Abajo/Fuller Park, a federally designated historic area that’s not yet recognized locally, because of the ship captains who built mansions along the river in the late 1800s. She also chose a pick ax for St. Johns to memorialize the Chinese and Italian laborers who lived in the area, she said.

            Saturday’s unveiling comes after nearly seven years of discussion about how to attract more visitors to downtown Napa’s historic attractions. The Cultural Heritage Commission approved the plan in January 2017 and City Council followed suit a few months later, endorsing the package of decorative markers to be installed throughout the city and approving Calistoga Avenue as the first site.

            In addition to the nine pole signs and bronze sidewalk plaques denoting the historic streets, that approval package included the creation of a monumental centerpiece that would include a street map, historical descriptions and possibly a bar code for visitors to scan with their phones for more detailed information.

            However, the location of the latter remains unknown and has yet to be permitted. Both Van Giesen and Linn emphasized the importance of this element in the overall design plan, both from an aesthetic and from an informational point of view.

            “I just want to say how important it is we get this built. People are going to be walking around and seeing signs with an electric car but there’s no electric car anywhere,” Linn said.

            Next steps for the project include gaining approval for the rest of the proposed historic districts, Linn said.

            “People seek travel experiences where the destinations, buildings and surroundings have retained their historic character …. It’s part of their learning and their becoming more excited about the area,” Van Giesen said. She believes making a push for this kind of tourism could bring in a lot of money to the region, too.

            Linn also said she believes this benefits locals too, not just tourists. “People are surprised that we have these districts, and people want to know what the history is, where the districts are. The people that live here really benefit from it as well,” she said.

            You may reach Carly Graf at cgraf@napanews.com; 713-817-4692; or via Twitter @carlykgraf.


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            City of Napa reporter

            Carly Graf covers Napa city government and community issues. She received her master’s degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. She most recently worked for a news outlet in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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