A half-mile south of Glen Ellen on Arnold Drive you will find Jack London Village. General Mariano Vallejo had built a sawmill here in 1839, soon after his arrival in the valley, to make lumber of the redwoods and fir that grew plentifully at that time on Sonoma Mountain. The millwheel was powered by an overshot flume at the confluence of Asbury and Sonoma Creeks, and the lumber produced helped build the first homes in the area. The old building still stands, although it has gone through many changes over the years.
Joshua Chauvet bought the mill from Vallejo in the 1850s, after most of the trees had been harvested. He converted the sawmill into a gristmill, using the millstones he had brought from France; the stones are now on display near the front door of the building. Much of the equipment that had been used down through the years may be found on display throughout the area, including the still Chauvet had shipped around the Horn when he converted the mill into a winery in the 1870s, and the old steam pistons that were driven by the boiler he had put in the basement of the mill.
The original road may still be seen where it runs alongside the stream, above the broad decks that replaced the general store and stagecoach stop when they burned down in the 1970s. The long low wooden building close by the old road was the original stable, and the oddly-shaped cabin that stands between the road and the stream was a bin for holding grape stems during the crush.
In 1913, five years after Chauvet’s death, Felice Pagani purchased the winery, which he was able to keep operating throughout the Prohibition. His son Charles built the great cinderblock building in the early 1940s to replace the stone winery that had been built in the 1880s; foundations of the old stone building can be seen just south of the cinderblock building.
The carriage house and sheds, where Chauvet and Pagani had kept the wagons and equipment that they used, still stand across Arnold Drive with one of the last great fermenting redwood tanks from the winery. Just to the north of them, across Asbury Creek, the large white house Chauvet had built as a wedding gift for his son Henry in the 1890s still faces the old mill.
Beyond Sonoma Creek a paved trail follows the old railroad that had once served the region. The trail is a gentle ramble that goes on through the regional park a mile or so toward the highway. Footpaths, of various levels of challenge, climb the hills to circle Lake Suttonfield nearby. There are many fascinating and rewarding discoveries to be found during a day’s exploration of the area, with easy parking, pleasant places to rest, and several opportunities for leisurely eating.