Guide to Areas of Historic Vallejo
Vallejo Areas with Historic Homes
When I first saw the run-down Colonial Revival that would become our family home, I had a feeling that this house had its own story.
Sure, it needed some love, but I knew my wife and I were ready to give this old home the care it needed. We bought the home, restored it, and along the way we fell in love with Vallejo.
In 1850, Vallejo was founded as California’s first State Capitol, four years before Mare Island became the first US Navy base on the west coast.
Vallejo’s history should be viewed in the context of the Navy, especially areas such as St. Vincents, Bay Terrace, and St. Francis.
The presence of the Navy, Vallejo’s role as a major hub of U.S. grain export, and other events made Vallejo a boom town during the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of the wealthiest people in California built homes here.
How this guide works:
I have included fourteen “Primary Areas,” which are already legal historic districts or may have the potential to become so, based on the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.
This guide also lists “Secondary Areas” which contain homes of historic caliber but may lack sufficient character to be listed as legal historic districts.
While the areas shown in this guide closely resemble neighborhoods of the same names, I’ve made slight changes to reflect the architecture and the history of each area. (For more information about how this was done please see our disclosures.)
Architectural Heritage District
Life in the Architectural Heritage District is like living in a museum–in a good way.
This area in the hills just east of downtown is one of the older parts of town and contains a wide mix of architectural styles.
There are many examples of Victorian Era architecture here, including Italianate, Queen Anne, Shingle, and Colonial Revival. There are also many Craftsman homes of various sizes, as well as later historic styles.
This incredible variety of styles is possible because the area was built up slowly over more than 50 years. In contrast, many historic areas across the United States were built in a relatively short time frame and only have a few historic styles.
Homes in the Architectural Heritage District were typically built from 1885-1925, when some of the wealthiest people in California lived in this area.
Most of the homes by Vallejo’s most famous local architect, William Jones, are located here as well. During both world wars, Vallejo experienced an extreme housing crisis when the worker population at Mare Island exploded.
As a patriotic gesture, many of the larger homes were converted to duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes. This forever changed the character of the area.
The Architectural Heritage district became a legal historic district on March 20th, 1973. Click here for documentation.
The area on our map and in our reports and website mirrors the legal district as closely as possible (check out the map here). As such it does not resemble the boundaries given in secondary sources such as Nextdoor, for example.
St Vincent’s Historic District
One thing I like about St. Vincent’s is topography. It makes me feel like I’m in San Francisco. This area is filled with smaller homes on rolling hills, often with great views.
This area is in the hills just north of downtown. This was a working class neighborhood when it was created.
Many workers from Mare Island built homes here. It contains the same mix of homes as the Architectural Heritage District, but the homes are typically smaller.
This area was mostly built between 1890-1915. St. Vincent’s and the Architectural Heritage contain most of the oldest homes in town. Even though these homes tend to be smaller they are no less architectural.
There are many examples of homes with all the historic features of their respective styles which were originally less than 500 square feet in size.
St. Vincent’s is named for the large and impressive Catholic church located here. There are lovely views of the Napa River and Mare Island from many of the homes in St. Vincent’s.
This area became a legal historic district on November 21st, 2003. For more info on the specifics of the legal district, an impressive history of the area, and info on the individual historic homes in it, please click here.
The area on our map and in our reports & website mirrors this historic district as closely as possible (check out the city’s map here).
The area is named for Washington Park (created in 1936). This was the original location of Vallejo’s second High School, George Washington High School (built in 1911). The same building was later used as a grammar school.
The architecture of Washington Park is similar to that of the Architectural Heritage District and Saint Vincent’s Historic District.
Even though Washington Park was built a little later than the other two, these three areas together can be considered the older part of town.
The same architectural styles of homes are found in all three.
On El Dorado Street near Ohio Street, there are 3 three homes in a row built by architect John Hudson Thomas which are of special interest.
This was also the location of the original pump house for the city’s water system.
The winding, tree-lined streets in this area are extremely charming. It’s a great place for an urban hike, a bike ride, or just to drive around. Until you’ve actually seen it with your own eyes, you won’t believe Vallejo hides something this special.
Most of the homes in Bay Terrace are wood shingle or clapboard Cape Cod Cottages in a Colonial Revival and Dutch Colonial Revival style typical of 1915-1930. There are also some stucco homes with Tudor affectations mixed in.
Like so much of Vallejo, the Bay Terrace also has its roots in the Navy. During World War One (1914-1918) employment at the Navy Shipyard tripled from around 3,000 to around 10,000, creating a housing crisis for civilian workers. Bay Terrace was built to help alleviate that crisis.
Bay Terrace was built by the United States Housing Corporation, under the Department of Labor. The project was supervised by architect George W. Kelham as part of the Mare Island Industrial Housing project planned in 1915 and built from 1918–1924.
Standard plans for the homes were created by the U.S. Housing Corporation. (Click here for an example) These plans were used on or near military bases all around the US. Each development had an architect who created the street plan and could adapt the buildings to suit the location or the available materials. Click here for a report on the construction and adaptation of the Mare Island Project.
George W. Kelham was an important architect in California. In addition to many significant commercial projects, he was chief architect of the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, which sparked the Spanish Revival movement across the southwest. He was also the supervising architect of the University of California.
The 125 residential structures in this area, which provided housing for 227 families, were originally referred to as “Georgetown.” The name was a tribute to the then Commandant of Mare Island, Captain Harry George.
For some reason, the postal authorities strongly objected to this name. (Maybe the Commandant’s dog chased the mailman). The Postal Service won. In 1920, before the completion of the development, the name was changed to Bay Terrace.
An extensive Cal Trans Study from 1984 is an excellent resource for Bay Terrace homeowners (link to study). This document was used to bring many of these homes into the City of Vallejo’s list of historic resources.
Most of the original homes in Vallejo Heights were built low on the south and east side of the hill. The amazing views drew residents to the area, as they do today.
Originally known as Carter Heights, this area was a 186-acre wheat farm owned by a farmer named William Carter.
Around 1898 the Carter Land and Development Company was created by J. W. Hartzell, nicknamed “The Colonel,” who created one of Vallejo’s first subdivisions on this hill.
Around 1900, the lots and streets were complete and the individual properties were placed on the market with the Colonel as the Realtor. There wasn’t much development here until after 1910, probably owing to the limited availability of water.
There is a particular home in Vallejo Heights that was built in 1908, according to the county records. However, a 1901 Sanborne map shows a home at the same location, and if you look underneath the home, you’ll see some very old wood in the framing.
I think there must have been a cabin at that location, which was later built over when the owner divided the lot and sold a piece of the property.
You may be surprised how common this is in general. A century ago, property records were written in pencil and sometimes recorded wrong. A little bit of research can reveal some interesting facts about most properties.
Today, Vallejo Heights has a large variety of homes from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, along with many others that are more recent. As a matter of fact, there is an area on the north side of the hill where Art Deco homes are common!
The views in this neighborhood can be amazing. Many homes have stunning views of Napa, Vallejo, or out to the Bay and Mount Tamalpais.
The north end of Vallejo Heights has a higher concentration of historic and vintage homes. The south side has a few such homes, but they are mixed in with other homes and some apartment buildings.
St. Francis Park
You know that wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant that very few people know about? St. Francis Park is like that. If you don’t know where the entrance is, you could drive right past and never even know it was there.
When I walk through St. Francis Park, I immediately notice a sense of continuity. The whole area feels unified, mostly due to the history of the place.
This area was originally ranch land close to the Mare Island bridge. The 7-acre plot was purchased and developed by the United States Housing Corporation to house and feed 400 Navy workers. It is sometimes referred to as the Navy Dormitory (learn more here).
Plans for the area were created by George Kelham, the same architect who designed Bay Terrace. St. Francis Park was mostly built in 1915.
Originally, there were 10 bunkhouses and a cafeteria. After World War I, the Navy Dormitory was torn down and the complex was redeveloped as a residential area.
However, many elements of the original complex were incorporated into later construction. For example, If you live in St. Francis Park, it’s possible that your home was part of the cafeteria.
Today this area contains about three dozen homes which were mostly built in the 1920s. Spanish Revival is the most common style, but there are others.
This area has small streets and a secluded feel. Many of the families who live here have owned their homes since they were built. The unified style and the feel of the area make it highly distinctive and desirable.
This hill is located a bit in from the waterfront, but it still catches the Bay breezes.
The lookout from this hill was originally called “Vista De Vallejo.” Years later the subdivision was nicknamed “Pill Hill” for the large number of doctors who built homes here.
From 1870 till 1919, this area was mostly ranch land, but was also the site of the Good Templars’ Home for Orphans. There were also two school buildings located here. The Orphanage had a dairy, orchard, and other farming activity.
Amador Street, which runs straight into the center of the Vista, used to be called “Orphan’s Home Road.”
After briefly being a golf course, the area was developed in the 1930s with larger custom homes. The Vista has winding streets, irregularly shaped lots, and many architectural quality homes.
The Vista has a great variety of architectural styles popular in the 1930s and after, including Spanish Revival, Tudor, Mediterranean Revival, Colonial Revival, Art Deco, Mid-century, Cape Cod Revival, Neoclassical, Minimal Traditional, and Ranch.
This area retains the exclusive feeling and glamor of similar areas built in the same time period, including parts of San Francisco, West Los Angeles, South Pasadena, and even Beverly Hills.
I love walking around Amador. Between the tree lined streets and the distinctive 1930s character, this wonderful historic area is super charming. There’s something special about the way the early evening sunlight shines through the large trees.
This lovely area was named for Amador St. The north/south streets in Vallejo are named for California counties, so we could say that this area is really named for Amador County.
Amador is south of the Vista. There are a few Mediterranean Revivals and others but this area is composed almost exclusively of Spanish Revival and Tudor homes. My mother is a big fan of Spanish Revival, and she loves to walk here when she visits.
The homes here are a mix of smaller and larger family homes. The architectural quality of this area is high. The fact the styles are limited almost exclusively to Spanish Revival and Tudor adds to the continuity.
Amador is another area that shows off the best of Vallejo.
One of my favorite things about Vallejo is you can drive around and look for features that you’ve never seen before.
For example, the first time I drove down Louisiana Street in Morningside, I stumbled upon a small mystery.
As you drive east on Louisiana, there’s a gentle curve in the road. It’s a charming view, but the most interesting fact is all the other east-west streets around here run straight and parallel.
There’s no hill or natural reason for this curve in Louisiana, and I haven’t found any historical facts to explain it, either.
Morningside was built almost exclusively in the 1930s. It consists mostly of smaller homes typical of the styles popular at the time. The Morningside Addition subdivision has some very nice Art Deco homes, along with other styles.
One of my favorite things about Morningside is that Vallejo’s finest example of the Streamline style is located here.
Streamline was meant to convey the feeling of fast forward motion. It was focused on mimicking the streamlined industrial design seen in planes, cars, and trains which were finally able to go fast enough that aerodynamics mattered. Nautical elements were also included.
These homes have curved edges, smooth surfaces, and long horizontal lines, often incorporating glass blocks.
Streamline captures the optimism of a time when massive steps forward in technology were occurring. When I look at a home like this I am able to deeply feel the spirit of the age.
South Grant Mahoney Park
This area was a part of the large tracts of ranch land owned by the Hanns family. Hanns Park off Redwood was also a part of their ranch and is named after the family.
Grant Mahoney Park gets its name from the rose garden located at the corner of Illinois and Mariposa streets. Few people in Vallejo know Grant Mahoney’s story.
Grattan Mahoney, Grant for short, was a World War Two hero whose story, like so many others, has been forgotten.
Grant was a local Vallejo kid whose uncle bought him flying lessons before the beginning of World War Two. He loved to fly and he was good at it.
Grant Mahoney joined the Army Air Corps and became an ace pilot. He was a heavily decorated member of the Flying Tigers. He flew more combat missions than any other U.S. aviator during the war, and logged nearly 1000 hours of actual combat.
Grant Mahoney seems to have been an Indiana Jones type of character. Many of his swashbuckling tales are hard to believe, but surely they all contain at least a germ of truth.
South Grant Mahoney Park is a charming area with beautiful tree-lined streets. Traveling south to north, you will find a split-level development built from the late 1930s and early 1940s, an area of 1940s Minimal Traditional and Ranchettes, and an area of Ranch homes built mostly in the 1950s. There are even a few Mid-century homes mixed in as well.
The tree lined-lined streets in this part of town can be particularly stunning in the fall and a great place to hang out for Halloween.
Special Thanks to local historian Brendan Riley for unearthing the lost story of Grant Mahoney.
North Grant Mahoney Park
My favorite thing about North Grant Mahoney Park? It is a smorgasbord of architectural variety.
In fact, the whole place is a mix of several areas that are distinct from each other. Many styles of homes are present. Most of North Grant Mahoney Park was built between the 1930s and 1950s.
Near The Vista you’ll see larger homes, but most of North Grant Mahoney Park is composed of smaller split-level homes trimmed to imitate various architectural styles popular at the time: Tudor, Spanish Revival, Minimal Traditional, and others.
If you love Mid-century architecture, you will love this small pocket of gorgeousness!
This area was developed in the 1960s by the local builders E. Teicheiras and Sons. Emerald Circle is named after Emerald Teicheiras who had passed away by the time his son’s Grant and Alan built this area.
Lewis Ranch Estates is the name of the sub-division and it sits on a small part of what was the actual Lewis Ranch. The old Lewis ranch was about 160 acres encompassing most of what is now the fairgrounds and including some of the areas around it.
Francisco Luis, from Azores Portugal, bought the ranch in the late 1800s. His name was anglicized to Frank Lewis.
The Lewis family ranch house (built in 1900) still stands at 436 Fairgrounds Drive.
Frank Lewis had a son named Franciso who later operated a dairy on the ranch near what is now Admiral Callaghan Way.
Franciscan Drive, which is easily the nicest street in this small area, was named after Frank Lewis’s son Francisco.
I love the location of this area on a southwest facing hill. It gets great sunshine, and amazing views of the bay and Mount Tamalpais. North Vervais is also high enough to benefit from daily cool breezes.
North Vervais is a part of East Vallejo, but to me this area stands out and deserves its own place in the guide.
Like the Vista, this is an area where doctors and lawyers built their homes. Unlike the Vista, the homes here were mostly built in the 1960s. Some people call it “Doctors and Lawyers Hill.”
https://www.vallejohistorichomes.com/architectural-guide-to-historic-vallejo#mid-century-modernThe Cherry Hill Park subdivision which sits in the center of this area was created by the Pearce family who named Elna Drive for Elna Pearce.
The earlier homes built in Cherry Hill Park were custom. After 1969 a contractor named Garibaldi moved into the area and began building tract homes in the same Contemporary style as most of the custom homes already existing in the area.
The homes in North Vervais are often spacious, and many have great views. Most of the Mid-century homes in this area are in the style known as Contemporary, and some even fit the sub-set of this style called the California Modern.
This charming, tree-lined area of smaller homes located in East Vallejo is a very good example of how the FHA guidelines created a historic architectural style, and how many neighborhoods were built to meet these standards.
Following The Great Depression (1929-1933) the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) was created (1934). The intention was to facilitate home loans and improve housing standards.
FHA created guidelines for the types of homes that became easy to finance, and because of this, popular to build. The focus was on smaller, scaled back, traditional homes. Minimal architectural details were encouraged.
The Minimal Traditional architectural style came directly from these lending and building guidelines.
Ranchette, a closely associated style in Vallejo, tends to feature a larger porch under an overhanging roof, and often a large picture window in the front. It can be difficult to tell Ranchette and Minimal Traditional apart.
Because of the FHA guidelines, Historic Vallejo areas which are mostly Minimal Traditional usually occur together with Ranchette. For this reason, I have included Ranchette with Minimal Traditional in my Guide to Vallejo Architecture, even though Ranchette (early Ranch) is technically a part of the Ranch style.
Most of the homes in Steffan Manor retain enough of their identifying characteristics to reflect their original style. The continuity of this 1940s development is a part of what gives it its charm.
This area was created during World War I, in 1915. It was the same year that Mare Island was awarded the contract to build the USS California, the only battleship ever built on the west coast.
Some of the streets were named in honor of people who had helped secure the contract, including; Roney Ave for Vallejo Mayor James Roney, Campbell Ave for local businessman George Campbell, Gleason Ave for Naval shipbuilder Henry Gleason, and Madigan St for former Vallejo Mayor J.J. Madigan.
The Annex is largely composed of homes in styles popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Spanish Revival and Tudor are common. The homes in this area tend to be smaller family homes that are often scaled back in architectural quality.
This neighborhood is composed of several distinct areas. Most of the homes in Central Vallejo were built in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
World War II began in 1939, but the United States did not enter the war until the bombing of Peal Harbor in December of 1941.
There was a massive building boom in many areas of Vallejo from 1938-1941. After Pearl Harbor, most building resources in Vallejo were turned toward the war effort and the Navy shipyard.
This area has many homes which could qualify as contributors to a historic area. However, the area is marbled with apartments, as well as commercial and industrial properties. Many of the homes here have lost their defining features.
This area was ranch land before being developed as residential. Most of the historic and vintage homes in this area are smaller homes from the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, with the older homes on the south side.
Fern Street is one example of a place where the homes have mostly retained their defining characteristics.
East Vallejo has many pockets where architectural homes can be found.
There are many beautiful tree-lined streets hidden away and spread around East Vallejo. Most of the historic homes in this area are from the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.
There are many places in Vallejo that have historic and vintage homes that fall outside of (or sometimes between) the areas noted above. “Other Vallejo” is a catch-all for these areas.
Other Vallejo includes Mare Island (the former Navy base) which is a legal historic district containing many historic landmarks relating to the Navy. There are a few really wonderful examples of residential historic homes. The best and most well known is the Admiral’s Quarters (photo above).
Other Vallejo also includes South Vallejo, which has a fascinating history of its own as the location of the Starr Mill and all the infrastructure built around it. Abraham Dubois Starr’s family home in South Vallejo is the only remaining Vallejo example of the Victorian Era Second Empire Style (photo on right).