Wednesday, February 13, 2019

SearchResearch Challenge (2/13/19): What's the story... of these ruined buildings?

Last week I was visiting Napa Valley... 

... and since it was a beautiful spring day, I went out for a bit of drone flying.  

I drove around for a bit, knowing full well that there are lots of rural roads that are dead ends, going part way up into the hills and then abruptly stopping.   I figured that I could pause for a few minutes of flying and get some nice aerial shots of the valley.  

Napa Valley in the spring.  Vineyards on the left and right, pasture in the middle.  

I was a bit surprised when the dead end road turned out to have two large stone gate posts.  That looked interesting, but I didn't think much of it until I started to fly my drone up the small canyon and discovered a fairly large cluster of buildings that had been long abandoned and fallen into ruin.  That was a surprise.  I was in a very rural part of Napa--what was this doing here?  

round building lost in Napa

As you can see from the image of the round building just above and the video below (link to the YouTube video), there are quite a set of buildings up this remote Napa canyon.  They're just past the stone gates--out of sight from the road, and out of mind of the good people of Napa.  

As you watch the video you see what looks like a long, rectangular building that seems a little like a castle, complete with crenelation.  Near to that is a rather large circular building that seems like it was once several stories tall.  

This spontaneous drone flight posed a mystery for me:  What's going on here?  

What's the story with these buildings? 

In particular, what's the story of that large, round building?  

The drone didn't have any EXIF metadata, so there's no map data here to share.  

However, I found that if you work just with what you see, you too can figure out the backstory here.  

What / Why / How did these buildings come to be here?  

The story I found is fascinating and deserves to be better known.  But when I ask around, I find that almost nobody in Napa or in the rest of California knows anything about this.  

Can you uncover the story here?  

Let us know what you find out... and as importantly, HOW you found it out!  

Search on!  


  1. Napa valley ruins – image search. I found a picture that looked like your ruins and that led me to search all “Napa soda springs” and discovered the Napa Soda Springs Resort. Here are some of the websites:

    These are the ruins of the Napa Soda Springs Resort built by Colonel J.P. Jackson.

    The circular building was the Rotunda:

    On April 2l, l877, the resort presented a ball to introduce the Rotunda, a 75-foot high circular building topped by a glass cupola. There were two stories of outside rooms and a large interior drawing and reading room, lighted from the dome shaped roof by a sixteen-foot chandelier. Pugh’s Quartette Quadrille Band performed, and a “first class” supper was served to 75 couples. In l88l, the resort opened to overnight guests.

    On September 26, 1900 Colonel Jackson suddenly died, leaving the property to his wife. That century, the Soda Springs Resort began a slow decline. The First World War and Prohibition led to the closing of its doors to guests.

    This took me about 30 minutes.

    1. With Judith's findings. I'll try to find the name by my own way. Tried searching by image on both Google and Bing with the selection tool. Didn't find anything. Then tried searching ruins in Napa Valley on Google Maps also with not luck. Then found Judith's answer and taking a break searched more with her findings

      [Napa soda spring] in both All and Images
      Image and History

      Searched by image the shown image.

      Wikipedia: Napa Soda Springs (formerly, Jacksons Napa Soda Springs) Coordinates: 38°23′27″N 122°16′46″W

      With [Jacksons Napa Soda Springs history]
      Napa County Historical Society Photos
      Dr. Russell photo in 2019 Vs 1967 Not sure is the same building (as I saw the photos in different color in this laptop. Apparently so many trees are gone Photograph of aerial view of The Rotunda ruins at Napa Soda Springs. Photograph taken in 1967. Napa Soda Springs was opened in 1881 by Colonel J.P. Jackson. The resort was popular with San Francisco elite. Several fires occurred and caused severe damage to the resort.
      Soda Springs Chronology Also link provided in Judith's link to Winemerchant
      Soda Springs Ruins

      Jacksons Napa Soda Springs. An event telling the History Noise in the background doesn't allow me to understand everything. Hope you find something interesting listening as is your primary language

    2. Some time ago, we had a Challenge about Crimea, Russia

      Wednesday search challenge (3/5/14): Questions about Crimea Can you believe this was almost 5 years ago!

      And this morning, read this article in Spanish. New information for me. Google Maps is not an easy task
      ¿Crimea es de Rusia o de Ucrania? Cómo "resolvió" Google Maps este y otros conflictos geopolíticos How Google Maps "solved" territory conflicts?

    3. Hi Dr. Russell and everyone. I mentioned an ancient Bible translation. Asked Buap and shared this. Hope you enjoy with text (in Spanish) and photos La Biblioteca Histórica José María Lafragua resguarda uno de los ejemplares de la primera traducción integral de la biblia al español

      Biblioteca_Lafragua; Wikipedia

  2. My first search was [napa valley castle], which lead me to a page of tourism and review sites for an operational vineyard with a very much in-tact castle. Didn't expect that! Then I tried [napa valley ruins] which brought back results on an old cement plant, which did have a round building, but clearly not the one in your pictures. Then I tried [napa valley castle ruins] and found a Pinterest photo from Soda Springs, and that looked like the right round building. Scrolling down the results page I got to which had some other pictures that confirmed I'd found the right place, and that it was a resort built on springs and it's had a colourful history and rather a lot of fires. Then I searched [soda springs napa valley] and found a few more pages about the resort- (this one says the rotunda was supposedly originally designed as a stable)

    It reminds me of the Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath except unlike the Hydro, Soda Springs actually had springs.

  3. Replies
    1. Hi Remmij - Just curious - how did you find the first pillars link?

    2. Dan, to the best of my faulty recollection —
      had seen the location IDed by others and clicked on maps off the general search page for [Soda Canyon Castle Ruins]
      as I recall, clicked on the pinpoint in Maps – also flew Pegman to the end of Soda Springs Rd. in street view, looked at the area
      in satellite view and then saw Atlas and went there:
      the search page
      pillars are in the photos - left column

      btw - dji mavic? does your "flying brother" drone also? any night flights?
      end of Soda Springs Rd.

      pillars - from street view, end of where it went on Soda Canyon Rd.… a more advanced drone sighting - or not - almost Area 51-like…
      from 2016…over Napa? black testing that never happened… okeydokey then
      "The first public presentation of Stream C VTOL will be at the international defence exhibition IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi from 17th to 25th of February."

      inside the rotunda?

    3. fwiw - at first I thought this might be it… no shortage of interesting things around Napa
      Castello di Amorosa
      how's your drone flying at night?

    4. Nice findings, Remmij. I tried Search Lesson of Dr. Russell and found good link in KML: Searching: ["Napa Soda Springs"] gives us the only result that if clicked downloads as is KML

      Then searched [ open KML online]

      Then searched ["Napa soda springs" "Richard Ehrenberger"] and [napa soda springs rotunda]

      Many influential people went on to visit the Soda Springs, including the 23rd president. Benjamin Harrison in 1894 Also shows how the Rotunda was.

      Another books searching in Books [ napa soda springs rotunda]

      The Rotunda was completed c. 1880. Originally built as stables * what the C means?

      Also in another book (The Napa River
      Por Nancy McEnery, Napa County Historical Society) mentions that the springs tasted of lemons

      The Rotunda had 50 guest rooms. Also guests were: Maximilian and Carlotta of Mexico * Note: This looks like Fake News, because, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Maria; 6 July 1832 – 19 June 1867. The grand opening was in 1881!

    5. …lost between the pillars & the Rotunda/Tower… I slogged on, drone-less and surrounded by poison oak and melted 'non-crystalline, amorphous transparent solids' - why had Waldo sent me here?
      Soda & hoops
      Ex-President Benjamin Harrison
      has some old postcard images of the rotunda & tower - in better days…
      "Those who lived in the Napa Valley, the Water Going Out Place People (later called Guapo by the Spanish for their good looks, which was pronounced Wappo by American settlers) were frequent visitors to all of the mineral springs in the valley which they knew so intimately. "
      also kinda reminded me of French Lick & Al Capone… we do love our spas & springs… kinda like the Euros do
      Atrium kinda Rotunda-like
      atrium view
      also abandoned - Zzyzx
      more Zzyzx

      meanwhile, in Mongolia for the 14th
      via a Dragon - "red sprites, blue jets, pixies and elves"
      Uranus, worth a look… doesn't require yoga
      Anomalies comics
      the newer Columbus

      fwiw - comparative SERPS for the same subject:
      some Wappo info

    6. used [napa valley castle ruins soda springs]
      image SERP with good results
      includes melted glass…
      led to these, among others…
      KXTV/KOVR Tower
      'The inspiration for the morphing effect on the twins was jellyfish.'
      1958 photo
      meanwhile, on the drone question —
      [what type of drone does Dan M. Russell fly]
      already ordered…
      "Flying UAVs can be a lonely life filled with uncertainty, hesitations and a bunch of trial and error.I know when I got started it felt like I was “on an island” when it came to learning how to take my piloting skills to the next level.And since I didn’t have any guidance, it took me a long time to connect with the best experts and tools in the market.Even after finally finding and attending a training course, it was sort of a “wham, bam, thank you mam” experience. "
      student debt is a growth industry…
      DU… the other one(s)
      ""Just listened to your podcast - I am now a true believer in the powers of everything Drone U and may worship you from this day forward." – Russell" another one?
      a drone blog
      a couple other drones -
      creator, there's a whole series
      the art of the d
      12 hour audio
      like them better flying…
      although the drone here is curiously satisfying…

    7. Quick answers: I fly a Mavic Air. It's small and super portable, perfect for my purposes. My brother does fly drones as well. (Naturally, he has a nicer one than me!) And yes, the drone shot in Edinburgh is hysterical. Thanks for sharing. (Oddly, I'll be in Edinburgh in a couple of weeks and will walk down Prince Street as well.)

  4. 15 minutes of Googling. Found the Napa County Historical Society. It's the Rotunda ruins at Napa Soda Springs.

  5. I did a Google search for ' "napa valley" abandoned castle canyon ' and the top result was, which seemed like it might be what I was looking for. To try to visually confirm that I had the right location, I searched for "napa soda springs." The Image search results weren't that helpful, but the first general search result was There's a clickable map on that page, which allowed me to to a satellite view and, ultimately, a street view where I could see the stone gate posts and confirm that they matched the ones in your video. Both sites I found identified the Rotunda as "a 75 foot high circular building topped by a glass cupola."

  6. 1. Google query: "Napa valley abandoned castle" produced a number of results: The Castello di Amorosa was a non-starter as a few clicks revealed that it is still an active tourist attraction. The Napa State Hospital("insane assylym") looked like a more likely opportunity, but looking at a few historical images made clear that it was much larger than the footprint seen in the drone video, and the unique round structure was nowhere to be seen.
    2. Examining Google Images results for the same query didn't show anything. A link to a page documenting the 13 coolest abandoned places in CA was a fun diversion, but nothing in Napa.
    3. Staying on Google Images, I changed the query to "Napa valley abandoned ruins" in order to capture a broader set of results. The first few rows of results where mostly graffiti-clad structures and the drone video didn't appear to show any graffiti. Scrolling down to the 5th row of results showed a ground-level photograph of a circular building that was similar to the drone video. [Search note: We are really good at processing and filtering visual results as they are presented in Google Images or other image-based results. Mentally processing 30 separate results very quickly is much easier with images than text based results - especially in this case as we're looking for something that we only have imagery of.]
    4. The promising image was titled "Soda Springs in Napa valley..."
    5. Google maps search for "Soda Springs" went to a ski resort a little far from Napa.
    6. Centering the map on the Napa area, typing "Soda Springs", and then allowing Google to autocomplete for something local to the Napa area came up with 'Soda Springs road'. Its a short road, so switching to satellite view and enabling 3D view led to quick visual confirmation of the ruins.
    7. Google Search: "Napa Valley Soda Springs ruins" - 3rd result was for a page made by the Napa valley historical society: most images don't have much description, but some had historical detail:
    ---"...Napa Soda Springs was opened in 1881 by Colonel J.P. Jackson. The resort was popular with San Francisco elite. Several fires occured and caused severe damage to the resort."

  7. I googled 'castle ruins napa valley' and the results showed a picture of a round building which was identified as part of the Soda Springs.


  8. [Napa County Historical Society] Seems logical to start here. Ran thru pix of abandoned buildings ruins and found at Accession 1982.1.22a just the thing: Collection of Napa Soda Springs. Collection of 3 pix includes Tower House and Bottling Works, general view, and a side view of The Rotunda which clinches the search for me. Another hit there is 1982.57.10 pix of Rounda with this: Napa Soda Springs was opened in 1881 by Colonel J.P. Jackson. The resort was popular with San Francisco elite. Several fires occurred and caused severe damage to the resort.

    1982.57.23 clearly shows Main Gate at Napa Soda Springs where your flyover starts.

    Nice colored shot of the Rotunda interior:

    The whole location and layout shown at,-122.278497,19

    What an interesting part of the world you live in. jon tU

    1. BTW - that image is really great! How did you find that site? What else have you used it for?

  9. And the exterior of The Rotunda

  10. A lengthy writeup with lots of pix:

  11. Thirsty now? For Sale 1 genuine NSS wood crate with 19 genuine NSS bottles (empty) $600

  12. Well, I started googling “castle ruins in Napa Valley” but the amount of results about Amorosa Castle overflew any other possible finding.. so I went for “battlement ruins in Napa valley” and since I didn’t find any specific result that was standing out (I just gave a quick look at the first page of Google results), I switched to the “images” tab. The 7th pic in the list of results was just showing something similiar to the ruins in your drone video as for the color of the stone and the shape of the battlement. It was just a small hook because not much else came out of the link related to that pic but I learned it was about “Napa Valley Spring Resort”. So, with these four words I thought I could easily google for the story of this spot but... what I got was all about springs and resorts in Napa Valley area! So I tried with fine tuning my search by adding the word “ruins” and... here we go! All the links listed were about our mysterious spot.

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