Capt. Fletcher's Inn sits shuttered and empty, a dilapidated but important remnant of the bustling 1800s logging town that once thrived where the Navarro River meets the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County.
"It's an icon of the coast. It reflects the history of the last 140 years of that area," said Jim Martin, president of the board of Navarro-by-the-Sea Center.
The nonprofit and its supporters are racing against time to raise enough money to qualify for a grant to save the inn, built by Charles Fletcher and two partners in 1865 to house sailors waiting for their schooners to be loaded with lumber from the Navarro mill.
"Its days are numbered if we don't perform stabilization work soon," Martin said.
The group has raised $150,000 but needs another $15,000 before Feb. 10, the deadline for applying for $300,000 in grants to stabilize the building.
It will take at least that much more to bring the building back to near original condition, Martin said.
The inn, owned since 1996 by the state parks department and located in Navarro River Redwoods State Park, last month was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a boost to its funding prospects, he noted.
The inn and the mill manager's house are all that's left of the original town of Navarro, where up to 1,000 people once lived and worked.
Charles Fletcher, a Scottish sailor, ship's carpenter and captain of a whaling ship, was the first European settler at the Navarro River estuary, according to a history compiled by Hillary Adams, who was spearheading the effort to save the inn until her death several years ago. Her riding boots stand watch inside the nearby mill superintendent's house, which serves as an office for the rehabilitation effort.
Fletcher was about 22 years old when he first arrived on the Mendocino Coast in 1851. After living alone, hunting and fishing for nearly a decade, he sold most of his mile-square land to Henry Tichenor and Robert Byxbee so they could build a mill, which they did in 1861.
Fletcher retained his redwood cabin and a small amount of land, where he he built a two-story house for himself and his new bride, created a ferry landing and built the inn.
Fletcher also went into the shipbuilding business, constructing the first lumber schooner on the Mendocino Coast in 1862 with partners Thomas and James Kennedy.
In 1870, Fletcher bought out his partners in the inn, which by then had expanded into other buildings and included a store, saloon, boarding house and blacksmith.
The lumber industry continued to thrive and when the original Navarro mill burned, a new, bigger and more modern mill was was built. New locomotives were purchased to haul logs from the lumber camps upriver to the mill and finished lumber to boats waiting at the dock.
Then came the financial crash of 1893.
Work stopped and the mill closed, putting 250 men out of work, according to historical accounts. The mill was purchased in 1902 but then burned mysteriously.
Fletcher died that same year.
The ailing town was then hit by the great earthquake of 1906, flooding in 1907 and fires in 1913 and 1921. Very little was left and most of the residents had gone.