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.