Preserving history on the Mendocino Coast

  • Preservationist Jim Martin is working to save the historic Captain Fletcher's Inn at Navarro Beach. Navarro-by-the-Sea Center (NSCR) is the non-profit working with State Parks to save the two remaining structures at the mouth of the Navarro River. Capt. Charles Fletcher was a seaman, ship's carpenter and early settler of Navarro around 1851.

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.

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