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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Flanagan Ranch

Just east of Cuttings Wharf Road on Highway 12 is The Flanagan Ranch located in the Carneros Region of the Napa Valley. Patrick Flanagan, an Irish immigrant and my great-great-grandfather, purchased the property in 1873 from the immediate neighbor, Judge Stanly. Patrick was apparently the primary owner as it indicates on the deed. His wife, Catherine “Kate” (O’Brien) Flanagan, also owned the property with him. Of course that makes sense since she was his spouse. There is other evidence to indicate that Patrick’s brother, Michael, was also “in on” the ranch. After Patrick’s death, Kate wrote to Michael in Ireland requesting that he come back since after all it was his ranch too. I will write more about Michael as his story fascinates me. That will happen in a later post. What I know of the ranch is some information handed down over the years and articles written about the property.

While Patrick and Kate purchased the ranch in 1873, they didn’t always live out there. They lived in town at 606 Seminary St., Napa, CA. The house on Seminary Street is on a corner lot along the back side of Fuller Park. It is within walking distance of downtown Napa. This home has been well maintained. It has a barrel shaped front porch. As you can imagine, it has been there for well over 100 years. When I look this house up online, I find a year built of 1915. I’m not sure that’s correct. Maybe the house was redone that year. I’ll have to spend some time researching that property.

Patrick and Kate had a home built out on the ranch but apparently it was not completed until 1898. Kate moved out there that year which was about two years after Patrick passed away. From what I understand, a few of her sons operated the ranch and lived out there in another small dwelling on the property. It’s sad to think that Patrick did not get to fully see the fruits of his labor. His children did but sometimes things were tough. That’s what Kate would say in letters to Michael in Ireland.

Tax records from 1886 indicate that 20 acres of vineyard produced 6 tons of grapes. In 1892, the yield was 50 tons of grapes. The property produced a claret wine back then. According to Richard J. Flanagan, my grandfather, the ranch grew Zinfandel, Carbernet Sauvignon, Black Burgundy, Mondeuse, and Carignane grapes. The wine was made by crushing grapes together and fermenting them in redwood tanks. The property now has Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

Kate lived in the home from around 1898 until she passed away in 1928. At that point, the property was divided among the living children of Patrick and Kate. I think this was kind of a shame because it does represent the beginning of the end. Some of the children sold their land to other local and adjacent landowners. My great-grandfather, Jack Flanagan, and his family moved out to the ranch in 1928 to live in the house and take over the operation. Jack, his wife, Minnie, and their children (Ellen, Kay, John, Robert, and Richard) all lived out on the ranch. My grandfather was Richard and he enjoyed living there. While his favorite pastimes were baseball and hunting, he also enjoyed farming.

When Jack passed away in 1936, the farm was passed to his brother, Richard A. Flanagan. From then forward, Richard A. Flanagan’s family handled the farm with maybe a little help from some of the other Flanagan’s. There were a few of Patrick and Kate’s adult children who lived there until they passed away.

So how long did the Flanagan’s own this property? Based on what I know, it would appear that it was in the Flanagan family for about 80-90 years. In the 1960s, the property was apparently not sustainable and was sold to the Moon’s. The Moon’s sold it to a chef from San Francisco who then sold it to ZD Winery around 1997.

Napa County Landmarks indicates that the house on The Flanagan Ranch was built in 1897. ZD Winery maintains and harvests the vineyard. The house is another story. In 2001, the house made the news as one of the endangered historical sites in Napa County. ZD was selling the house for $1 to anyone who was a Flanagan descendant. The catch would be the cost associated with moving the house and then restoring it. The house would need to be moved to another location within Napa. I told my mom that if she would win the lottery, she could do it. At the time, the estimated cost to restore the home was $850,000.

As you can imagine, ZD did not and has not had any takers. The house, growing more and more dilapidated by the day, still sits on the property amid the vineyard surrounded by large trees. The last time I stopped by the property was October 2008. I may not have the nerve to stop by again. We’ll see. I can always change my mind. Now, if I ever win the lottery………

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