Camille Seghesio has lived all over the world, from New York to London to Buenos Aires. Home was merely a temporary landing and launch pad for a life centered around business travel. She never owned a home.
That changed when she came back to her hometown of Healdsburg in 2009 to care for her ailing mother, Rachel Seghesio Passalacqua. The small ag town had changed dramatically since she left for Georgetown University at age 17 some 30 years earlier. She had gone on to a career in international finance and investment banking, always living in apartments.
It took awhile to find her happy place again in Healdsburg. But when she did, it came within the solid walls of the home her great-grandfather Francesco Passalacqua had built in 1914.
Seghesio, with no home improvement experience — or even any experience as a homeowner — in 2012 took what to some would seem like a crazy leap. She bought the Greek revival house that had been passed down to her Passalacqua cousins through their mutual forefather. She then embarked on a top to bottom renovation that was completed just last October.
Seghesio is a product of two of Healdsburg’s bedrock Italian families. Her father, Ted Seghesio, was the youngest son of Edoardo and Angela, who planted the Seghesio family’s first vineyard in 1895. Her mother was the granddaughter of Francesco Passalacqua, who left Genoa with nothing, only to build a small fortune in land and agriculture in Northern California, starting in the 1860s.
The historic Passalacqua home still looks much the same as it did when Francesco and second wife, Rachele, moved in at the beginning of the first World War. There are the twin pairs of Ionic columns at the formal entry, a porte cochere for carriages, a fountain in the front yard and even the original iron horse hitches at the curb.
Inside it is a bit of a living museum, filled with artifacts, photos and furnishings handed down from both sides of her family as well as pieces she bought with the house, including the original dining room table, purchased for the house by great-grandfather Francesco and where four generations of Passalacquas had shared formal meals and celebrations.
Seghesio undertook the renovation with the idea of making it available as a family gathering spot for a multitude of Passalacqua and Seghesio relatives who remain in the area. She will open it up to visitors on May 7 as part of the annual Healdsburg Homes Tour. The tour features six homes that represent the span of 150 years of Healdsburg architecture, from an 1868 Victorian cottage and 1870s mansion to a contemporary hilltop estate with sweeping views and an art studio.
Seghesio’s goal was to make the house function for life in the 21st century while preserving as much of the original layout and as many of the vintage details as possible.
The three-story house — four if you include the finished basement — was ultra-modern for its time, with sinks and running water in each bedroom and a servant’s call system. Seghesio kept all of it.
At the time she bought the place she had been contemplating a move back to London. Her mother died in 2010 and the Seghesio winery, for which she had managed exports out of London, had just been sold. It was her brother, Pete, who had been CEO of the family winery, who suggested she take a look at the old Passalacqua home, which had been passed down to Francesco’s son Francis, an attorney, and his wife, Elsie, who had raised their children there. Francis died in 2005. Elsie died two years later.
Homes you can tour in the coming weeks
Spring is the season to go peeping in other people’s homes and gardens with their permission. Here are the top home and garden tours in the area.
Garden Conservancy Open Garden Days: You can visit one garden or many during Open Garden Days, help throughut the country in the spring and fall. Cost is $7 per garden. On April 29 four gardens in Mendocino County will be open for visits, including Frog Song Farm in Point Arena, Wildwood, with kitchen gardens in Philo, Kate Frey’s sustainable garden in Hopland and Mullins Mendocino Stonezone in Gualala with handcrafted stoneworks by artisans from around the world. A second open gardens day in Mendocino County is slated for June 17. On June 3 gardens in the Ross Valley of Marin County will throw open their gates. Highlights include an English garden, a tranquil garden beside a 1920s cottage beneath oaks and redwoods and the gardens surrounding a 1910 summer cottage on a tree-lined street. For information visit gardenconservancy.org/open-days.
Eco-Friendly Garden Tour: A self-guided tour of landscapes that go easy on water and long on natural beauty. Pick and choose among 24 gardens in Sonoma and north Marin counties open to visitors on May 13 from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Free. Sponsored by a consortium of water agencies working together to promote water conservation. Includes plant sales, workshops, talks and information on sustainable landscaping. To register and arrange for a ticket with a link to garden addresses visit savingwaterpartnership.org.
Soroptimists of Mendocino-Sonoma Coast Architectural Tour and Wine Tasting: A chance to get inside great homes in The Sea Ranch and along the North Coast. The tour includes newly remodeled and historically significant homes. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 13, followed by a wine tasting and silent auction at the Gualala Arts Center. $60 if ordered in advance, $65 day of the tour. $35 for students. Tickets available by calling 800-838-3006, or brownpapertickets.com.
Sonoma County Medical Association Alliance Foundation Garden Tour: This annual event, celebrating its silver anniversary, is May 19 and 20 and includes a self-guided tour of eight gardens in Santa Rosa. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $45 in purchased in April or $50 in May. Highlights include a French Norman cottage garden tended by a master gardener, a hilltop retreat and urban oasis carved into a neighborhood of tract homes. Food truck lunches, plant sales, live music and more. Benefits local charities. Scmaa.org.
Food for Thought Spring Home & Garden Tour: Highlights of this annual tour benefiting the HIV/AIDS food bank are an estate in Santa Rosa’s Montecito Heights with a Japanese garden and antique rose garden and a renovated 1905 home and garden featuring many succulents in and around a rock garden. Cost for the tour is $50 and includes a booklet with descriptions of the tour homes as well as a map. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 28. $15 for a pre-ordered box lunch that can be picked up on the day of the event at Food for Thought in Forestville. For information visit FFTfoodbank.org or call 707-887-1647.
Mendocino Art Center’s Coast Garden Tour: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 24. Behind the scenes look at coastal gardens, including a garden shop and plant sale and gourmet vegan lunch at Ravens Restaurant. 707-937-5818 or 800-653-3328. MendocinoArtCenter.org.