Northern California: from Wine Country to Manchester with a bit of Angela Lansbury

It’s been a few months, and in those months I’ve relocated back from Northwest London to the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of my time in California has been rather uneventful as it has been taken up by things like looking for a place to live and buying household essentials, though there was a recent trip up to Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

The first stop was the Sonoma wine country town of Healdsburg for lunch. I took at look at the new H2 Hotel, designed by David Baker + Partners Architects of San Francisco (my former employer):

H2 Hotel, Healdsburg CA

Several doors down you’ll find the Healdsburg Hotel, and eariler David Baker project:

H2 Hotel, Healdsburg CA

Heading north we checked out the Quivira Winery, a biodynamic wine producer that is a big proponent of raising chickens and using solar power. The wine in the tasting room was excellent.

Quivira Winery, Sonoma

The town of Mendocino sits on a wind-blown peninsula. It’s beautifully preserved wooden houses are out of another era (thanks to the entire town being a historic preservation district). Our hotel was out of another era too: 1985-1987, the years “Murder, She Wrote” aired. The show was occasionally shot on location in Mendocino, which stood in for the town of Cabot Cove, Maine. Our hotel, while not authentically old, was occasionally used for filming. Their sign even reflects the fictional location:

The Hill House Inn

For anyone who might be willing to question the hotel’s role in the production of the television program, I refer you to the wall of fame in the lobby:

The Hill House Inn

The Blair House, the home where Jessica Fletcher lived on the show, is now a bed and breakfast with a suite named after Angela Lansbury. If you’re interested in buying this house, it is currently on the market for $1.65 million.

The thing I liked most about Mendocino (aside from the ocean) is the design of many of the old homes. While it is known for its Victorians, the “tower” style houses are far more interesting. They have a variety of different sizes and forms, but most have similar general proportions:

Mendocino Tower House

Another design feature of the town is its rustic yet carefully considered style. I love this fence:

Fantastic Rustic Fence in Mendocino

From Mendocino it was up the coast to Manchester. Manchester? Yes, just like the one in England I didn’t manage to visit while I was living there. The California version of Manchester is noticeably smaller and more rural. There is also a large state park that is full of deer:

Deer at Manchester Beach

Across the road from these deer is an incredibly high-security facility known as the Point Arena Cable Station. This is the landing point for the fiber optic cables that cross the Pacific to Japan. There are a number of other cable stations up and down the coast with cable to a number of countries and Hawaii. This one ended up in Manchester because it is the closest place in the US to Japan. I was a bit nervous standing in the trees snapping this photo:

Manchester Cable Crossing

What else was there to see in Manchester Beach State Park? The spectacularly empty (of people) beach, of course:

Manchester Beach State Park

Then it was on the Point Arena, home of this lighthouse:

Point Arena Lighthouse

Join me in my next installment as I share tales of Sea Ranch and Guerneville.

By Mark

Mark is an architect in San Francisco.