The midsummer weeks of late July and early August, 1905 could have been the happiest time for Mattie and Wyatt Oates in the house, with every room filled with their near and dear. The 28 year-old Anna May Bell, virtually a daughter to the family, continued her summer visit. But both papers mentioned with excitement the imminent visit by Wyatt’s distinguished older brother, former congressman and governor, General W. C. Oates.

Anna May had not one, but two more big parties before the end of summer, the last with nearly 300 (!) guests. The first was organized by the same-age Zana Taylor, who lived about four blocks down the street at her family’s “city” home. Gaye LeBaron tells the story of the Taylor family, their mountain, and the White Sulphur Springs resort in an August 28, 2005 column available in the Press Democrat archive (no permanent link). The September sendoff, held two doors down at the magnificent Paxton house, was hosted by the creme de la Santa Rosa creme.

Before big brother William and his family left for the Portland exhibition, Wyatt gave them an auto tour of the area, with none other than speedster Fred J. Wiseman behind the wheel. “Returning to this city, Colonel Oates gave orders to turn the auto loose, and Wiseman complied in a manner which shook the party up.”

Distinguished Alabaman Will Visit City of Roses

Judge and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates are looking forward with great pleasure to a visit from General W. C. Oates of Alabama. The local attorney recently received a letter from his brother, stating that he expected to come to the City of Roses and spend the summer with his relative. While not [sic] date has been set for his coming, Judge Oates would not be surprised to have him walk in upon him at any time. The visitor from Alabama is one of the best known men of the southland, and has previously visited here, where he has many warm friends. He was Governor of his State, served fifteen years in Congress as its representative, was a Colonel in the Confederate Army and a General in the Spanish-American War. Few men have such a record of public honor and service as General Bell. [sic]

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 27, 1905

Ballroom Handsomely Adorned With Flowers and Greenery — Party a Success in Every Way

Miss Zana Taylor’s dancing party last night at Woodmen’s hall in honor of Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia who is here spending the summer with Colonel and Mrs. Oates was a decidedly pretty and successful function.

The hall was transformed into an ideal ballroom. It was brilliant with floral embellishments and color effects which gave it a fascinating appearance. Baskets of pink roses and greenery were used here and there in the decoration scheme with much taste. Overhead streamers of pink and white radiated from the centre chandelier and were caught up gracefully at each end of the room.

The fair young hostess was assisted in receiving her guests by her mother Mrs. John S. Taylor, Mrs. James Wyatt Oates, Mrs. Blitz W. Paxton and Mrs. M. S. Solomon. The music for the dancing was furnished by Parks’ orchestra. The musicians were stationed behind a bamboo hedge, a pretty creation.

The dance program will be kept as dainty souvenirs of the party. They were “bell” shaped. Supper was served shortly before twelve o’clock and dancing was resumed afterwards. The party was a delightful affair in every way and guests entered fully into the spirit of the occasion.

– Press Democrat, July 28, 1905


Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates will hold a reception at their residence on Healdsburg avenue this evening in honor of their guests, General and Mrs. W. C. Oates of Alabama. A large number of invitations have been issued.

– Press Democrat, August 8, 1905

As a usual thing there are not many social happenings at this time of the year, but the week just passed was marked by two events of importance — the reception in honor of General and Mrs. W. C. Oates of Alabama and the dance in Miss Anna May Bell’s honor. General and Mrs. W. C. Oates, and their son, W. C. Oates, Jr., and Miss Bell are guests of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates.

Except for the card party giving in Miss Bell’s honor a few weeks ago, where only young people were present, the reception was the first formal event to be given in the handsome new Oates home — and indeed the place was bewilderingly lovely. It was as much a treat to see the elegant reception rooms in their artistic furnishings as it was to see the handsome gowns that graced the occasion. Although the affair was a reception given an ex-Governor and a General of two wars, and formal in its nature, it was anything but formal as far as the clothes worn by the men were concerned. Having come west, with no idea of doing society, General Oates left his dress suit at home, so the gentlemen invited to meet him did the same.

The arrival of Miss Bell from Visalia is always the occasion for functions in her honor, not the least pleasant of which was the dancing party Thursday evening in Woodmen’s Hall. This enjoyable affair was attended by all of the members of the younger set who were in town and a number of young married couples. The party was arranged by a number of Miss Bell’s friends and admirers and was a success in every way.

– Press Democrat Society column, August 13, 1905
General Oates Seeing Beauties of Sonoma

Colonel James W. Oates and General W. C. Oates and W. C. Oates, Jr., took a trip to San Francisco today and spent the time enjoyably in sight seeing. Yesterday Colonel Oates took his brother through the pretty Gold Ridge section, where the Alabaman had visited twenty tears ago. He was agreeably surprised to note the improvement and prosperity which had come to the people there since his last visit. Twenty years ago, General Oates saw but a sparsely settled country at Sebastopol and today he finds it thickly settled, with every evidence of the abundant prosperity which had come to it in these years. Another enjoyable trip which was taken by the brothers was to Cloverdale, where General Oates was delighted with the beautiful country. A stop was made at Asti to see the wonderful sights at that place, all of which proved enjoyable. The trip was made in an auto, with Chauffeur Fred Wiseman at the throttle. This was the general’s first ride in an auto, and he is now partial to that mode of travel. Returning to this city, Colonel Oates gave orders to turn the auto loose, and Wiseman complied in a manner which shook the party up en route to this city. General Oates occupied a front seat on the machine and remarked when he reached the City of Roses that he had traveled about as fast as he wished to on the trip.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 18, 1905
General and Mrs. Oates Have Departed for Home

General and Mrs. W. C. Oates and W. C. Oates, Jr., departed this morning en route to their Alabama home, going by way of Portland and the Yellowstone Park. At Portland they will make an extended visit at the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Colonel and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates went to San Francisco to see them off on the northern trip, but were unable to accompany them as they had planned owing to important business which demanded the presence of Colonel Oates here. Colonel and Mrs. Oates had expected to have the pleasure of visiting at the fair with their relatives, but have had to forego the journey.


– Santa Rosa Republican, August 19, 1905


Elegant Paxton Home on Healdsburg Avenue Transformed Into a Veritable Bower of Beauty

The elegant Paxton home on Healdsburg Avenue was the scene of a brilliant reception Thursday afternoon in honor of Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia. Almost three hundred guests called between three and six o’clock to meet the popular girl in whose honor the affair was given.

Miss Bell is a relative of Col. and Mrs. James W. Oates of this city. She has spent much of the present summer here, where she has many friends. She is a charming girl with friendly, cordial manners that make her a great favorite wherever she goes and the reception of Thursday afternoon was one of the most successful of a large number of functions that have been planned in her honor this summer.

The house was a veritable bower of beauty. The decorations were entirely pink. The reception hall and parlors were decorated with La France and Duchesse roses and amaryllis blossoms. The dining room was fragrant with great clusters of beautiful pink carnations attractively arranged and placed where they showed to advantage. Master Marshall Paxton stood in the doorway and ushered the guests into the reception hall, where they were received by Mrs. Blitz Wright Paxton, the hostess, assisted by Mrs. J. W. Oates, Mrs. T. J. Geary, Mrs. M. H. Dignan, Mrs. Wm Martin, Mrs. Mark McDonald, Mrs. Frank Doyle, and Mrs. James Edwards. Mrs. Paxton looked charming in a handsome silk gown trimmed with heavy pearl lace. Miss Bess Riley, Miss Jessie Robertson, Miss Zana Taylor, and Miss Bessie Porter served ices and cakes in the beautifully decorated dining room. Music was furnished during the afternoon by C. Mortimer Chapin and Mrs. Berry.

– Press Democrat, September 15, 1905

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This 1902 reference to the Belvedere is frequently cited in mentions of turn-of-the-century Santa Rosa, so it’s interesting to see what exactly appeared. The surprise was that the article also describes the next-door Paxton house, which allows us to date this lost Brainerd Jones masterpiece to 1901-1902.

Also noteworthy is that contractors are named, but never the architect Jones. Neither did the Press Democrat mention Jones in coverage of the 1904 dedication of the Carnegie Library. Is this because contractors are hometown companies and Jones hailed from rival Petaluma? Or does it suggest that architects were held in lesser esteem? None of the other items in the complete article mention an architect, but almost always the contractor is identified — and in one case, a “workman.”

Thirty-Five New Residences Going Up in This City
Four Brick Blocks in Course of Construction-Seven Other Business Houses Lately Completed

Santa Rosa has had quite a building boom this winter. The sound of saw and hammer can be heard in all parts of town and every few days a new home is started in some part of our thriving city. This is good evidence of the fact that Santa Rosa is prosperous.

A Press Democrat reporter took a run about Santa Rosa yesterday to ascertain how much building was going on at the present time. He found there were thirty-five dwellings in the course of construction or just completed. Nine business houses are going up and another was finished last month. One planing mill, a new maccaroni [sic] factory, three barns and four wood and coal sheds will also be soon completed. To this must be added the addition and improvements to the Santa Rosa Maccaroni factory of P. Bertoli just finished, and the handsome block which was started Saturday by C. C. Donovan. This is indeed a fine showing.

Among the new buildings noted during the newspaper man’s rambles are the following:


Blitz W. Paxton has just finished his costly and elegant home on Healdsburg avenue with the help of Contractor Kuykendall. This is an elegant mansion and a big improvement to the city.

Just across Carrillo street from the Paxton mansion is the large ten thousand dollar home of W.H. Lumsden, which with the Paxton home are the handsomest dwellings built in Sonoma county this year. Simpson & Roberts has the contract for Mr. Lumsden’s house.


– Press Democrat, February 2, 1902

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