Monday, 15 July 2024

Group forms to move Ely Stage Stop museum forward

Members of the newly formed committee that will assist with fundraising and projects walk around the Ely Stage Stop during an informal tour on Friday, October 23, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



KELSEYVILLE – A committee of community members has formed to help support the museum that will be centered around the historic Ely Stage Stop.

The group, led by project coordinator Greg Dills, will lead fundraising efforts and coordinate with officials to get to the next phase of the project, including erecting historic barns and other educational features at the Ely Stage Stop Country Museum's five-acre location.

The new committee includes Dills, Wilda Shock, Marilyn Holdenried, Broc Zoller, Keith Petterson, Jim Bengard and Syd Stokes.

Shock and Holdenried said the group started as an extension of the pear pavilion committee for the Kelseyville Pear Festival. Dills said he also put out a call for assistance, and the members responded.

Most of the committee members gathered for an informal tour on Friday, along with retired county Public Works director, Gerald Shaul, and Ted Kirby, an architect and draftsman who has volunteered his time to work with Eric Seely, the county's deputy redevelopment director, on plans for the building, including its current layout.

The original structure was built around 1856, and is believed to be one of the oldest – if not the oldest – stick-built structure in the county. Originally, it housed a stage stop and hotel, said Seely, who has worked on the project for several years in a variety of capacities.

Later in its life it was a post office and general store, he said.

The building originally sat a few miles away, at 7909 Highway 29, a short distance from the highway's intersection with Highway 281, which becomes Soda Bay Road.

In 1999, the Lake County Historical Society requested surplus county property for a museum site. About that time, the late Bob Roumiguiere, a winegrape grower and community leader interested in preserving the building, contacted Andy Beckstoffer, a winery and vineyard owner with extensive landholdings in Lake County, about donating the structure.




The committee gathers in the upstairs of the Ely Stage Stop building on Friday, October 23, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Beckstoffer not only donated the building to the county, but gave a five-acre parcel on Soda Bay Road for the museum location, which was finalized in a June 2005 agreement, according to a time line provided by Seely, who at that time worked for Beckstoffer. It was six months after the agreement was signed that Seely joined the county.

A series of public meetings were held around that time to discuss a museum master plan; there also were improvements to the five-acre property to be made, including fence construction and grading.

In April of 2007, the county signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lake County Historical Society, which is tasked with raising funds for the museum as well as seeking the donations of equipment and barns.

The group also assumes the responsibility for running the museum and maintaining the property, according to the terms of the agreement.

In turn, the county took responsibility for, among other things, maintaining major features of the building after remodeling is completed, assisting in seeking grants and moving the building.

In July of 2007, during a daylong operation, the building was moved over land to its current location, at 9921 Highway 281, as Lake County News has reported.

Over this past summer, a 10-foot wide wraparound porch was completed at a cost of around $30,000, said Seely.

The Kettenhoffen Family Foundation donated $100,000 to the museum effort, said Dills. Of that amount, $50,000 was to be set aside for future development.

That left $50,000 available for current projects. Shock said an additional $4,600 was raised at September's Wine Auction to benefit the museum.

Much of the building has changed over the years. Dills and Seely said that the floors and ceilings remain the same, and the original square nails can still be seen – Zoller pointed out some out as the committee explored the upstairs on Friday. But mostly it's the thought of the house that survives, as committee members noted during the informal tour.

As was common in the 1800s, the original building didn't have a bathroom or a kitchen; cooking usually was done outside of the main home.

Walking into it today, one is greeted on the first floor by a large room that moves into two smaller rooms that were used as pantry space, Seely said.

Up a narrow flight of stairs is the second floor, where there are three bedrooms, with small closets and high ceilings.

Seely said it's believed that the house is built from local materials – wood that was cut and milled close by, including pine, Douglas fir and cedar.

He said the wood probably came from a nearby ridge owned by Beckstoffer to the south of the building's current location. Seely, who was raised in Lake County and has extensive knowledge of the land, said a walk on that nearby ridge can lead to discoveries of the stumps of trees that were cut down with axes.




The stage stop's new location has a great view of nearby Mt. Konocti. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



The building came with two of its original windows, said Seely. All of the windows now installed in the building – which are boarded over for protection during renovations – are replicas of the originals.

In February of 2008 the building was set on its new foundation on a little hilltop with a breathtaking view of Mountain Konocti.

September of 2008 saw the walls rebuilt, with new siding and the replicated windows installed. A well was drilled last December.

The vision for the Ely Stage Stop Country Museum includes the restored stage stop, the downstairs of which will feature displays and museum information, with the upstairs serving as the administrative offices for the Lake County Historical Society, Seely said.

Over the grounds the vision includes an amphitheater and, possibly, a reconstruction of an Indian village; the group currently is approaching tribes to determine interest in participating in that project.

There also will be five barns to house historical farming implements and equipment. Dills said they already have two and a half barns that have been donated that currently are disassembled and in storage.

There also are plans for a working blacksmith's shop. Dills said he has the necessary equipment for the shop, including a recently donated forge.

Dills hopes to get one of the barns erected over the winter; he said most should have been up by now. But the project has been slowed by a variety of factors, including the voluminous regulations governing today's buildings.

While the barns – many dating back to the 1800s – withstood weather and even the 1906 earthquake, which was felt in the county, once they're moved they have to be re-erected under current standards.

Dills said that includes having to have them engineered, which means some of the handhewn beams from the 1800s that helped hold up the barns can't be used for that purpose any longer. However, the beams will be part of displays, he added.

Dills hopes to get one of the barns built over the coming winter.

Building the first barn will help fulfill one of the required milestones with Beckstoffer, said Dills.

“We're a little behind,” Dills said, noting that they had expected to have all five of the barns up by now.

However, the last few years have been filled with plenty to do, from disassembling donated barns to moving farming equipment from the fairgrounds and putting it into storage offered by local residents.

He said the Lake County Sheriff's Office has committed inmate crews to assist with projects around the grounds once the group is ready to move forward.

Dills said they're always looking for volunteers and for donations.

Anyone interested in donating time or money should contact Lake County Historical Society President

Randy Ridgel at 707-279-4062 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Visit the group's Web site at .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .



County Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely (left) discusses plans for the museum property with group members including Jim Bengard and Broc Zoller on Friday, October 23, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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