navarro by the sea center

History of Captain Fletcher's Inn and Navarro
Part 7

© by Hillary Adams, 2003

Beacon Ownership (1973-90)

R.D. Beacon opened the restaurant and bar of what was then called “Navarro by the Sea Inn” sporadically for business, running it until the late 1970's, when difficulties involving bartenders apparently caused him to close the building permanently. Beacon had previously demolished the central of the three cottages on the east side of the building. The Inn was abandoned and put up for sale.

navarro by the sea inn, 1980s
Navarro-by-Sea Inn
Jan Duncan Vaughn photograph 1980's

Wingo Ownership (1990-96)

In 1990, the buildings were purchased by Robert Dean Wingo of West Hollywood, California. (Official Records, Bk. 1855, pp. 525-532. Assessor parcel numbers 1-26-070-02,03,04). Wingo took out a mortgage of $143,000 on the property on August 23, 1990. An artistic director who came to Mendocino while filming the popular television program, “Murder She Wrote,” Wingo wanted to turn the old hotel into a bed-and-breakfast. Difficulties over the septic system apparently prevented him from pursuing that intention. The Inn remained closed and continued to deteriorate. It was purchased from Wingo's estate on August 22, 1996 by the California Department of Parks and Recreation for approximately $300,000.

save americas treasures certificate

California Department of Parks and Recreation Ownership (1996-present)

In 1998, the property became a project of the “Save America's Treasures” program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was nominated by the North Greenwood Community Assn., Hillary Adams, President. The designation made it possible to apply for grants to help save the historic building, which had survived two fires, the great earthquake of 1906 and several floods.

A temporary metal roof was placed on the building in 2000, with the help of a grant from The North Greenwood Community Assn. A matching grant of $3,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation helped to obtain an initial architectural report by Avila and Tom of Oakland. With photographs supplied by The Charles Fletcher Society, largely from the collection of Robert Lee of Ukiah, the Parks Department erected a temporary display board next to the Inn in 2001. An Historic Structures Report was completed for the California Department of Parks and Recreation in February of 2003.The complettion of the Report paves the way for stabilization and rehabilitation of the historic inn, built by Capt. Charles Fletcher ca. 1865.

When the building is rehabilitated, it is the intention of The Navarro-by-the-Sea Center for Riparian and Estuarine Research to occupy a portion of the Inn as a scientific Research Center, to restore part of the interior as nearly as possible to the way it looked in Charles Fletcher's day, and to offer public displays of both the history and ecology of the area.


(1) The original notes from Elsie Schaeffer Nystrom Fletcher are in the possession of her niece, Kathleen Thurston Boyer. The Charles Fletcher Society possesses a copy.

(2) Interview Tape No. 80-5-64X, Mendocino County Museum, Willits, California. The interview was later partiallly published in Bruce Levene et al. Mendocino County Remembered, Vol. 1(A-L), The Mendocino County Historical Society, Mendocino County, California 1976, pp. 137-141 ("Elsie Farnsworth": hereafter: Levene)

(3) Levene, ibid., p. 140.

(4) Carey and Co. of San Francisco, Historic Structure Report, Navarro Inn, Navarro River Redwoods State Park , Mendocino County California, February 11, 2003, for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, pp. 19, 27 (hereafter: Carey Report).

(5) Levene, op cit., p. 137

(6) Carey Report, p. 27. The piece of wallpaper was found between an abandoned stringer and the outside wall under the present stair. The paper has vignettes of both the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge was built in 1883. Carey and Co assign a date of ca. 1890 for the wallpaper, late in the Fletcher ownership. An historic photograph taken prior to April 1921, when the Fletcher home burned, shows no staircase on the exterior. The outside stair may have been damaged in the earthquake of 1906 and flood of 1907, in which case an interior stair would have become necessary. A small interior toilet under the stair is dated by Carey and Co to ca. 1910-1920, a period when the Inn was in little demand. It is more likely that the important changes the Carey Report groups with the downstairs toilet (including a new, roofed front porch, and a wall in the kitchen) were done after 1923 when the Fletcher's sold the Inn to the Gilmores.

(7) Levene, Op. cit., p. 137.

(8) Levene, ibid.., p. 140. It is unclear who the “owners” were at that time. The timber land may have been purchased by the new Wendling Redwood Shingle Co. (1901-1905) which became a sawmill in 1903. See Mills of Mendocino County, Mendocino County Historical Society (Ukiah, California: 1996), pp. 35, 36 (Wendling) and 49-50 (Tichenor/Byxbee Navarro Mill).

(9) Levene, ibid., p. 138 and 141.

(10) The Albion Lumber Co. purchased Wendling's Navarro Lumber Co. on Sept.1, 1920, The latter's land, reaching as far as Christine, covered part of what had once belonged to Tichenor and Byxbee's Navarro Mill (Mills of Mendocino County, Mendocino County Historical Society, 1996, p. 32). For Elsie's version of the “stealing” of the Navarro name see Levene, ibid., pp. 140-141.

(11) Carey Report, Op. cit., pp 18 and 40

(12) Levene, ibid., p. 138.

(13) personal conversation, 1999.

(14) Carey Report, pp. 18, 24, 40.

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