When one enters the Elk Coast from the north, crossing the bridge at the Navarro River, they are entering an area known as North Greenwood. Greenwood refers to Elk's second name dating back to the 1800's as explained in the Elk history section. After crossing the bridge over the Navarro River, there will immediately be a turn off leading towards the ocean taking you past the old Navarro Inn by the Sea and to Navarro State Beach.
The old Navarro by the Sea Hotel was a flourishing resort years ago. Captain Fletcher, the first European to settle at the mouth of the Navarro River, built the inn in the 1860's for sailors from the lumber schooners that serviced Navarro Mill. The sailors often had to wait three days while their ships were being loaded at Navarro Landing.. Read an excellent historical piece on the Navarro by the Sea Hotel written by Hillary Adams, a historical expert on the area and a resident of North Greenwood.
Navarro Beach is home to camping, abalone diving, river sports, and many other activities. Managed by the California State Parks, the park has low fees due to it's privitive nature. The beach has an interesting history with respect to public access. Like many issues on the Elk Coast, the issue of public access was settled through legal action and was a locally intense issue for many years. Read a short summary of those turbulent years for Navarro Beach.
Before 1994 Navarro Beach was known as the last "free beach" in California. A beach where one could stay and camp without a fee. On past trips that I made to this beach it was always full of busses, campers, shacks and the like. Visitors such as myself were given stares meant to discourage new comers from coming into the beach. The State Wildlife Conservation Board, who had long maintained the beach, grew short of funds and patience for the condition of the beach. In 1996, they finalized a land transfer with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. This “swap” included enough money for the purchase of the Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel. The eviction of residents dragged on with emotions high on both sides. Eventually homes were found for most and the beach became a State Park. Today there are many camping sites managed by the State of California in a clean, safe environment.
Some History on Navarro Beach
Navarro Beach has been used as a "public" beach long before it became the State Park that it is today. The old state highway snakes along the bluffs above the beach and is still visible today. In 1960 a new owner acquired the property providing access to the beach. The “new owner,” Robert B. King, purchased the property to the west of the Inn in 1960 from the Haub’s who had purchased it from a lumber company. King’s property included the last 2,200 feet of Navarro Beach Road, as it was called at the time. The road curved south toward the beach at this point. King attempted to close the road in 1966, first putting up “No Trespassing” signs, and then by placing logs across it. When local people removed the logs and the signs, he brought in heavy construction equipment, apparently with the intention of erecting a barricade and seizing control of Navarro beach for his own use.
In 1970, Lester and Lotus Dietz, brought suit, representing the public. Dietz claimed “common law dedication” of the beach because the public had used both Navarro Beach Road and the beach for nearly a hundred years without interruption for numerous recreational activities including camping, fishing, picnicking and collecting driftwood for fuel. In 1949, the owners of the Inn ( McCorkle /Wulk) had attempted to control access to the beach by putting up a sign that said “Private Road--Admission 50 cents--please pay at the hotel” but they did not enforce this and local people ignored the sign. The suit resulted in a landmark decision by the California Supreme Court. The court ordered the beach open, ruling that since the road to it had been open to the public for more than 5 years that an "implied dedication" or perscriptive easement had established the route as public access. Only during World War II, when the U. S. Coast Guard took over the beach as a base from which to patrol the coast, was the public barred from the beach.
The Navarro-by-the-Sea-Hotel in about 1948
Captain Fletcher’s Inn (Navarro-by-the-Sea Hotel)
by Hillary Adams
Captain Fletcher’s Inn is located in Navarro River Redwoods State Park at Navarro beach, four miles north of the historic town of Greenwood/Elk. The beach can be accessed from scenic Highway 1 at its juncture with Highway 128 near the Navarro River bridge. The Inn was built in the 1860’s by Charles Fletcher and his partners for sailors off the lumber schooners that served the Navarro mill. Charles Fletcher, a Scottish sailor, ship’s carpenter and captain of a whaling ship, was the first settler at Navarro (ca. 1851). He and his partner James Kennedy built the first lumber schooner on the Mendocino coast, the Sea Nymph, in 1862. At least eight other ships were built at Fletcher’s Navarro yard.
Captain Fletcher’s Inn is owned by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and is an Official Project of the Save America’s Treasures program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The rehabilitation of this historic inn is a combinedeffort by several local non-profit groups and the Parks Department. When completed, the lower portion will be open to the public with historic displays. The Navarro-by-the Sea Center for Riparian and Estuarine Research plans to occupy the upper story. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Fletcher, a sailor, ship’s carpenter, and whale boat captain, was the first settler of what became the town of Navarro near the mouth of the Navarro River. Capt. Fletcher’s father was a Scottish sea captain. Charles was born in the China seas on the Schooner “Wildcat.” He came to San Francisco in 1849 during the gold rush. By ca. 1851, he had arrived on the north coast, apparently as captain of a whaling ship with a kanaka crew. Nathaniel Smith, an African American from Maryland, was said to be his cabin boy. Nathaniel first settled in Mendocino. Later he returned, with Francisco Faria, as one of the first “white” settlers in the area that became known as Cuffey’s Cove.
Capt. Fletcher, in partnership with James Kennedy and Capt. Thomas Kennedy of San Francisco, built the inn during the 1860’s for sailors who had to wait three days while their schooners were loaded with lumber from the Navarro Mill. The Navarro Mill was built in 1861 by Henry B. Tichenor and Robert G. Byxbee co-partners in the firm of Tichenor and Co. of San Francisco, on land purchased from Charles Fletcher for $1,200. The first mill was built on the Navarro Flats near Capt. Fletcher's home.
An artists rendition of Navarro by W.C. Fitler. Most likely taken from a 1878 photograph which is quite similar.
Charles Fletcher and James Kennedy built the first lumber schooner on the Mendocino coast. The Sea Nymph (1862) was built for C. Goodall of San Francisco and was considered a “fast sailor.” She was the first of at least eight ships built at the Navarro yard by Fletcher and others.
The Navarro wharf in about 1886 with the steamer "Newsboy" taking on lumber from the mill.
In 1860, after he sold most of his land to Tichenor and Byxbee, Charles Fletcher married Bridget Cooney of Mendocino, a widow from Roscommon, Ireland. They built a large house, which replaced Fletcher’s original redwood cabin, and raised four children there. Historic photographs show the house located immediately to the west of the Inn where a motel unit, built in 1964, now stands. The Fletcher family was one of the last to live in the old village of Navarro. Charles Fletcher died in 1902. His daughter, Ellen (Nellie) Fletcher Schaeffer inherited both the Inn and the family home. When she moved to Fort Bragg in the early 1920’s, her daughter, Elsie Nystrom (later Farnsworth) purchased the house and Inn for $10.00.
Captain Fletcher’s Inn has survived three major fires, the earthquake of 1906 and the devastating flood of 1907 that swept away a bridge near the mouth of the Navarro. In July, 1890, a fire destroyed the first Navarro lumber mill located near Capt. Fletcher’s Inn which was built in the 1860's. Tichenor had died in 1883. Byxbee re-formed the company with Mrs. Tichenor as one of the partners. Byxbee then built a second, larger and more up-to-date mill about a mile up river. In 1911, a chimney fire, which started in the home of Schaeffer’s daughter “Nellie,” destroyed much of the village on the Flats. In the early 1920’s, a fire started by fishermen destroyed the Fletcher’s family home next to the Inn.
The Navarro Mill went bankrupt in the "crash" of 1893. Byxbee attempted to sell to an English firm for $1,030,000 but was unsuccessful. The company was deeply in debt, not only for the new mill building, but also for improvements such as the extensive railroad line and a new engine called the "Tichenor." One of the company's steam schooners, the "Newsboy," was sold to Robert Dollar. It was his first ship, and the beginning of the famous Dollar Steamship Line. According to his descendants, Capt. Fletcher and Dollar were on friendly terms and had long talks at the Inn.
After the mill was sold, it burned down under mysterious circumstances. The fire occured in 1902, the same year that Fletcher died. This was followed by the fire of 1911, the quake of 1906 and the flood of 1907, all of which damaged Navarro. By 1914, the name "Navarro" was usurped by the town of Wendling, located eleven miles up river. Wendling also had a lumber mill for sale, and wanted to capitalize on the Navarro name for quality lumber. That town still bears the name "Navarro." What remained of the original village of Navarro eventually became known as “Navarro-by-the-Sea.” Capt. Fletcher’s Inn and the mill manager’s house are now the only buildings remaining from the once thriving town of Navarro. At its height, it had 500-600 inhabitants, with another 300 men located in camps in the woods up river.
The Inn served as a popular fishing resort from the 1920’s through the 1970’s under various owners. It was purchased in 1996 by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The North Greenwood Community Assn., which successfully nominated the building to the Save America’s Treasures program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, gave a grant to the Navarro-by-the-Sea Center for Riparian and Estuarine Research to help pay for a temporary metal roof. The Navarro-by-the-Sea Center also received a matching grant from The National Trust for Historic Preservation for restoration planning. The contract for the initial plan was awarded to well-known preservation architect Dan Peterson of Avila-Tom Architects in Oakland. The Charles Fletcher Society provided much of the historical research on the building. Both the Charles Fletcher Society and the Navarro-by-the-Sea Center can be reached by E-mail at the following address: email@example.com.
Excerpts about Capt. Charles Fletcher from the Mendocino Beacon
Saturday, October 11, 1884: “From Navarro: ... A couple of weeks ago there was a perfect mass of fish in our harbor. Mr. Fletcher went out to cast his net, and did so making a large haul; but in coming in his boat capsized and he lost a thousand pounds of herring.”
March 14, 1885: “The Shipping Interest,” (lists ships built on the Pacific Coast by year) 1862: “This year the schooner Sea Nymph was built at Navarro by Kennedy and Fletcher. This was the beginning of ship building on the coast of Mendocino County...This was the well known Captain Fletcher of Navarro.”
January 30, 1897: “The Salvation Army has rented Murray’s Store. It has been renovated throughout, and on the opening night, February 4, a big time is anticipated. Captain Fletcher is preparing an interesting program consisting of songs and recitations...”
August 16, 1902 (obituary):
“[Charles Fletcher was] highly respected as a business man and as a citizen. He was generous with his employees...large hearted, fearless and honest, he was a representative type of the hardy pioneers of this state...”