Interior designer, philanthropist and Stone Edge Farm co-owner Leslie McQuown is the driving force behind the current renovations underway at the old Cooperage building at 301 First St. W. McQuown, working with architect Michael Ross, has submitted plans to the Sonoma Planning Commission seeking a live/work type permit for the space which would include a 1,750-square-foot “lifestyle retail store” downstairs and a residence upstairs.

The Cooperage Building has a storied history.

The stone portion was originally constructed in the 1890s. The stone-clad second floor was added in 1923. Over the years, it has been used as a wine barrel making factory, an icehouse, a naval weapons depot, an artist’s studio, a bed & breakfast, a brewery, wine storage, and even possibly a jail.

There is the large commercial building, an early 20th Century 1,600-square-foot wood-framed barn and an adjoining 342-square-foot non-historic garage on the 7,500-square-foot parcel.

The second floor of the Cooperage, which currently contains two apartments, will be converted into a residence for the owners. The barn will be turned into an 850-square-foot accessory dwelling unit and storage area and the garage will be demolished. Ross said that there is no vacation rental planned for any aspect of the proposal and no events.

McQuown purchased the property last year. In 2016, the previous owner had planned to lease the building to Catherine Venturini and John Burdick, of Olive & Vine, for an eatery but their plans were derailed by the extensive necessary structural improvements to the unreinforced masonry building.

When artists Claudia and Ken Wagar owned the property, they used the historic building for their home, as well as art and photography studios, a private frame shop and a gallery. As recently as 2013, the Cooperage was also garnering mixed reviews on Yelp as a bed & breakfast.

Ross pointed out that the Cooperage shares an architectural style with the Depot Hotel and Vella Cheese Factory, as well as several “plum stone” style buildings along East Napa Street.

“We’re excited to be preserving a key part of an architectural ensemble of Sonoma’s downtown buildings,” said Ross.

While it looks like work had already begun, Ross explained that what is in place now is simply beams to shore up and stabilize the building, which sustained significant damage during the 2014 Napa earthquake.

Ross presented the plans to earthquake retrofit, preserve and repurpose the building to the Sonoma Valley Historical Society Board and the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation in April. He also hosted a gathering for the neighbors to hear more about the plans.

“We had a really good turnout and got some great feedback into the historical background of the site and on our design plans,” he said.

The project is on the Planning Commission agenda for May 24. If approved, Ross is hopeful that the Cooperage will be stabilized, restored and renovated by mid-2019.

To see early drawings of the project, visit