Dance hall, speakeasy, popular nightspot, Paul’s Resort had rich history
Paul’s Resort has roots that extend back in into the early 1920s, although the structure was reportedly built in 1908 and its history includes multi-generational claims that ghosts have been seen wandering the grounds.
The resort was established by Sonoma Valley resident Paul Vannucchi, who was referred to in early issues of the Index-Tribune as a “sportsman.” He raised and raced greyhounds, with kennels in El Verano, and may have also been a professional boxer at one time. He opened the resort on Verano Avenue and added cabins and a swimming pool, along with a dance hall, restaurant and bar.
During prohibition, it was a allegedly a speakeasy and there is at least one report that in 1924 Vannucchi was arrested and fined (along with his bartender) for serving whiskey. Vannucchi died in 1943.
The resort was purchased the same year by Paul Marcucci, who operated it until his death in 1981. A widely known musician, composer, builder and contractor, he made Paul’s Resort one of the Valley’s most popular recreation spots in the 1940s and 50s. Sonoma’s centennial celebration of the Bear Flag Rebellion was held at the resort, for which Marcucci composed a song – “On the Outskirts of Heaven, in the Valley of the Moon.”
Many locals also used the resort for wedding receptions, anniversaries and other special occasions. Dances and live music were usually featured on weekends, and during Marcucci’s time it was one of Sonoma’s hot nightspots.
Marcucci’s family leased a portion of the property to the community for the establishment of the Valley of the Moon Little League for $1 a year, and the first game took place there in 1958.
The resort continued to operate for a number of years following Marcucci’s death, and then became the local Moose Lodge for a time. His daughter, Yvonne Thibault of Santa Rosa, is still the property owner.
The old dance hall, restaurant and bar has been closed for many years, but Roland Thibault, Yvonne’s husband, did some interior renovation of the old dance hall last fall and held a surprise party for his wife and many old family friends there last month.
Contacted Thursday following the fire, Yvonne Thibault expressed sadness at the loss of the building. “It was a part of my family… I have so many fond memories. At least we had one last celebration,” she said.