What’s cooking in the cute little yellow building next to the old Grandfather Chauvet Hotel in downtown Glen Ellen? Turns out it’s a boulangerie français avec délicieux gateaux.
According to Christine Hansson, owner of the the Yellow Building at 13758 Arnold Drive, “If everything goes according to plan, the intent is to open an authentic French patisserie and boulangerie in the newly renovated space.” She warns, however, that “until all the paperwork is cleared, this is an intention – not a guarantee.”
It turns out that Glen Ellen’s French roots run deep. There once was a thriving French colony here with names like Garric, Bouscal and Cambou.
Imagine! A French bakery on property once owned by Joshua Chauvet. An early European in these parts, Chauvet purchased the old wooden saw mill, now Jack London Village, from General Vallejo himself in 1854, later milling flour there for French bread.
Chauvet et son père François, had personally brought their grindstone around the horn from France thinking they’d make a fortune baking bread for the miners in the Mokelumne Hill region during the Gold Rush. That grindstone now leans up against the wall outside Aventine, the mill’s current incarnation.
When the Gold Rush venture didn’t pan out, Chauvet relocated to Glen Ellen where he ran “the old grist mill,” but quel dommage – a lack of grain in the Valley caused that project to go under. No slacker he, Chauvet then distilled brandy in a beautiful copper still named “the Egrot” which you can see today inside Wine Country Chocolates in the Jack London Village. Chauvet managed to build the yellow-brick Chauvet Hotel – saved from destruction by Christine Hansson in mid 2000s – the Jack London Saloon building, and several other buildings in town.
Monsieur Jean Lasbareilles ran a dairy in the center of town in the 1920s. Madame Lasbareilles delivered the milk door-to-door in a Model-T touring car. The milk barn, now converted to a house, is still across the street from the firehouse.
One of the splendid resorts in the area enjoyed by tourists arriving by train from Sausalito, then transported by spring wagon to their summer vacations, was Gaston’s or Reux Chambeau Cabins and Resort up on Sonoma Mountain.
Frenchman John Cambou, popular for his hospitality and French cuisine, ran the Rocky Terrace Resort on Warm Springs Road on the site of the current inn, Olea. They served French frog legs that Cambou got out of the Spreckles Ranch pond to serve at famous Cambou dinners.
Rainbow Quarry on Trinity Road was owned by a Frenchman, Mr. Cabral, and his flagstone was mined and hauled down to the intersection of Trinity Road and Sonoma Highway where it was loaded onto the train passing on its way north.
A Glen Ellen French patisserie and boulangerie is perfectly appropriate, and will be tout simplement délicieux.
Giving credit where credit is due, this historical information was gleaned from "Childhood Memories of Glen Ellen," edited by Bob Goltzbach, who had the foresight to interview many original Glen Ellen residents.