Spotswood House Redwood Valley, California

National Register of Historic Places Data

Spotswood House has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places with the following information, which has been imported from the National Register database and/or the Nomination Form. Please note that not all available data may be shown here, minor errors and/or formatting may have occurred during transcription, and some information may have become outdated since listing.

National Register ID
Date Listed
September 27, 2007
Spotswood House
Other Names
Newell House
11820 West Rd.
Potter Valley
Miller Bros.
Level of Sig.
Years of Sig.
Areas of Sig.


Text courtesy of the National Register of Historic Places, a program of the National Parks Service. Minor transcription errors or changes in formatting may have occurred; please see the Nomination Form PDF for official text. Some information may have become outdated since the property was nominated for the Register.

Spotswood House is an Italianate style, two-story, single-family residence constructed in 1887. The redwood-frame building with brick infill and facing has an asymmetrical, cross plan with an intersecting hipped roof trimmed with wood cresting. The arched one-over-one double-hung wood windows throughout the house are trimmed with segmental arch brick headers. A square cupola, solarium, and projecting square window bay complement the front brick facade. Three large chimneys, one at each north-south end and one in the center near the cupola, punctuate the roofline. Large wood brackets under the deep eaves along the entire roofline are mimicked in smaller versions under the shallower eaves of the front bay, solarium and entry porch as well as under the cupola roof. Narrow, square wood columns with carved capitals and brackets support the main front entry and the southern porch and entry.

A small, two-room, one-story stucco-clad concrete building that has been extensively altered, a two-car wood frame garage likely constructed in the 1930s, and a mid-century, in-ground pool are non contributing resources. A modern brick and cast-iron fence borders the property along West Road and is not a contributing or non contributing resource.

The property sits east along West Road in the center of a large agricultural lot surrounded by open meadow and hay fields near the small village of Potter Valley, at the northern end of the valley of Potter Valley. Several mature trees shade the pool, house and outbuildings.

Spotswood House underwent extensively remodeling in the 1930s, which removed many of the architectural elements. Building reconstruction and rehabilitation completed in 2006 reconstructed many of the original architectural details. Wood architectural elements, porches, cupola, and solarium are reconstructions of the originals, which were removed during the 1930s remodel. All reconstructed elements were based on historical photographs and remaining material evidence. All masonry architectural elements were reconstructed using salvaged and original materials discovered on site during the course of the project.

While the house has been modified, overall, it retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, feeling and association and is in excellent condition.


The original house appeared much as it does today: brick foundation, brick walls with wood additions, arched double-hung windows, cupola, etc. After Joseph Spotswood's death, the house was occupied first by his daughter Elva and then by his daughter Mabel and her family.

Sometime after 1930, Mabel remodeled the house. The most dramatic change was the alteration of the original roof. At this time, the roof slope was made steeper and the overhangs much more extensive (photos 010-013.) Portions of the second floor exterior brick walls were dismantled to accommodate the lower roof. On the southern portion of the front façade, the roof was extended far enough to connect with that over the former servants' porch (photo 013.) The north and south ends of the original hipped roof were shortened to resemble a clipped gable roof. The roof over the central cross wing of the house was modified to resemble a large shed dormer. On the second floor, the front windows were either filled in or removed to accommodate a new fenestration pattern.

On the rest of the house, the arches of each window were filled in and the windows modified to a more typical square one-over-one double-hung configuration. Three windows in the Library were the exception. These arched windows remained unaltered. Windows were either filled in or removed to accommodate a new fenestration pattern. The front entry porch and solarium were removed. The main entrance was replaced with a large tripartite window while the servants' entry became the primary front entrance to house (photo 015.) Two of the three chimneys were removed as was the cupola and all of the original cresting.

On the interior, the staircase to the second floor was altered from a straight stair to a switchback stair and several openings were cut to provide direct interior access to those portions of the house that were originally used as servants quarters. The alteration of the stairs accompanied the incorporation of the original foyer into a large family room. Originally this was a small front room separated by a wall from the foyer and front stair. A gable-roof wood-frame kitchen and utility wing was added at the rear at an unknown date prior to 1930 and replaced or altered sometime after 1930. (Evidence of the earliest addition was visible when the roof of the existing addition was removed during the rehabilitation.)

While these details dramatically modified the exterior appearance of the house, the overall material integrity, massing, plan and scale of the residence remained. Very little new material was added during the remodeling campaigns. Rather, the existing material was altered or removed and much of it was utilized as fill in the porch areas. Also, the siting remained unchanged. The building was, and is, still surrounded by mature trees, plantings and lawn and the setting retains the characteristics of a nineteenth century farmhouse.

This is consistent with the overall rural and agricultural setting of Potter Valley. The population distribution has remained constant and consistent and many of the same families continue to live in the area and are engaged in agricultural pursuits to some degree.


In 2002, the current owners began the process of returning the house to its original appearance. As a result, today the house has been partially reconstructed and completely rehabilitated following the Secretary of the Interior's Standards.

The exterior has been returned to its original full 2-story height. A new hipped roof with composition shingles has been built with original brick, discovered during demolition underneath the 1930s porches, and was designed according to evidence in historic photographs and material evidence discovered during construction (photos 1-8, 20-21.) Two new chimneys were built to approximately replicate the appearance of the originals, in the original locations. (Some modifications to the original dimensions of the chimneys were necessary to make them building code compliant.) New cresting, manufactured from designs taken from historic photographs and samples of original material discovered during the demolition phase was installed in the original locations. A new wood cupola was also constructed according to historic photographs (See sheets A2.3 and A2.4 for further illustrations of the cupola reconstruction and sheets A3.2 - A3.5 for further illustrations of alterations to the exterior.)

The exterior walls that were modified in the 1930s to accommodate the lower, clipped gable roof, were returned to their original heights (photos 022-029, 031.) Most of the brick for this reconstruction was original to the building and used as fill for a 1930s era concrete porch. It remained in good condition after over 70 years of protection beneath the porch deck. All of the brick on the original portions of the house date back to the original construction. Only those entirely reconstructed elements of the front porches and entry utilize any new, modern brick and this is limited to their foundations.

Because so much of the original layout, fenestration and entrances remained visible on the building, and because historic photographs of the house were of high quality, reconstructing the other elements was based solely on substantiated historical documentation. Roof brackets, the solarium, the square projected front bay, the entry porches and much of the original exterior detailing were recreated and installed in their original locations (photo 030.)

Twenty-three (23) of the windows were original to the building. Twenty (20) of these had been modified by cutting off the arched portion of the upper sashes and retrofitting them with straight frame pieces (photo 015.) The reverse process was used to return the windows to their original form (photos 016, 022.) Only one (1) window required (photo 022) replacement in kind on the original brick house. All the windows on the reconstructed area were new reproductions based on designs from the remaining, unaltered original windows. Period compatible double-hung windows were installed in the new additional areas of the rear wood-frame wing.

The only modern alteration to the original design of the brick portion of the building was the placement of additional sections of railing for the second-story roof deck to meet the current building code requirements (photo.)

The wooden kitchen wing at the rear of the building was more heavily modified to accommodate a new master bedroom suite on the second floor. Because this portion of the building was known to not date to the period of significance, a second floor was added to what was a onestory kitchen. No other square footage was added in the rehabilitation (photos 024-026.) On the interior, the alterations were limited to improving circulation and installation of new wall finishes. Originally the house was split into two sections; one for the family and one for housing their live-in servants. There were no interior openings between these two living quarters. Some openings were cut in the proceeding years, but many came at the expense of original circulation patterns.

During demolition, traces of the original stair placement were discovered (photo 020.) This was used to reconstruct a new stairway with the same dimensions and configuration as the original and in the original location (photo 032.) (The 1930s switchback stair was removed and the original landing was reconstructed on still existing framing discovered during finish demolition.) This returned much of the first floor to its original layout, including returning the family room to its original, more modest room dimensions. Reconstruction of the solarium and return of the main entry to the original location just north of center of the front elevation, further altered circulation into and through the house. These alterations all contributed to the restoration of the original floor layout and were based on physical evidence discovered during demolition and oral histories from former occupants and visitors. The existing first floor bath was stripped of its nonhistoric fixtures and remodeled with modern, period-designed fixtures. Any new trim elements were based on, and replicated from, existing trim designs and placement. (See sheets A1.2 and 2.1 for further illustrations of the rehabilitation of the first floor.)

On the second floor, the return of the stair to its original location required some alteration of the existing floor plan and circulation to accommodate the reconstructed landing. Also, the installation of a circular stair to access the reconstructed cupola further dictated several necessary changes to the second floor plan. These modifications involved the limited relocation of interior walls in immediate proximity to the new stairwells. Several closets were removed and entry into these rooms was relocated to other locations along the same walls. The most major rehabilitation to the second floor involved the creation of a new master suite. A second-floor was added to the wood-frame kitchen wing to provide a new sitting area, master bathroom and increased closet space. To provide access to this new space, a large arched opening was cut in the western wall and a smaller window opening was altered into a doorway to provide access to the new master bath. The salvaged brick was used elsewhere on the front elevation of the building. The existing sitting room was made smaller to accommodate the new stairs, and turned into a walk-in closet for the master suite. The existing bath was converted into an office and a front bedroom that was made smaller by the alterations to the stairs was turned into a new bathroom. (See sheets A1.3 and A2.2 for further illustrations of the rehabilitation of the second floor.)

Overall, 85% of the original interior plaster walls had been replaced in a prior remodel with circa 1950-era early gypsum board installed over wood lath. What plaster remained was highly compromised and delaminating. All wall finishes were removed in the rehabilitation and replaced with modern gypsum board. The myriad wood doors throughout the house included one original panel door with a faux grain finish (photo 018.) In the rehabilitation, all doors not resembling this original panel door were replaced with modern reproductions of the original 4-panel door. Three original cast iron fireplace surrounds with marble mantels and decorative enamel finishes also remained (photos 019 and 038.) These were carefully cleaned, repaired and reinstalled.

Non-Contributing Buildings


Located behind, and perpendicular to, the Spotswood House, this building is referred to as the "Creamery" however, its original use remains uncertain. Its date of construction is unknown but appears, to be from the first quarter of the 20th century based on its construction. It is a one-story, poured-in-place concrete building with a wood frame side-gable, corrugated metal roof. The building is covered in an orange cement stucco (photo 037.) The few windows are vinyl replacements. Even though it is possible that this building was constructed during the period of significance, so many of its original details, finishes and materials have been replaced, that is lacks material integrity. Additionally, its associative integrity is questionable. While it may be original to the property, it does not appear to have been directly involved in the processing of hops and may not have been constructed by Joseph Spotswood. Therefore, it is represented here as a non-contributing building.


This one-story, wood-frame, front-gable wood shingle roof building is clad on three sides with flat-sawn, unfinished wood boards. The south side of the building in open and divided into two bays, each flanking a central support post under the gable peak. The interior is unfinished and used for the owners' cars and other storage needs. It is located on the south side of the property adjacent to the house near the rear wood-frame kitchen wing (photos 013, 025.) Its date of construction is unknown but appears to date to around the time of the roof alterations in the 1930s. It appears that boards from the original roof were reused in the construction of the garage roof.

Non-Contributing Structures


The in-ground concrete pool is located at the rear of the property and is accessed from the house via a large wood deck (photo 027.) It measures approximately 10 feet by 25 feet and is 8 feet deep at is deepest end. Concrete coping stones mark the pool boundaries. This pool was installed in 1995 and is outside of the period of significance.

A brick and cast-iron fence separates the front of the property from West Road. It is constructed of square brick pillars, spanned by cast-iron baluster of differing heights. Each balustrade, thus appears to have a scalloped upper edge with the tallest baluster nearest the brick pillars and the shortest baluster at the center of the section. This fence was constructed in 1997 and is not a counted contributing or non contributing resource.

Statement of Significance

Text courtesy of the National Register of Historic Places, a program of the National Parks Service. Minor transcription errors or changes in formatting may have occurred; please see the Nomination Form PDF for official text. Some information may have become outdated since the property was nominated for the Register.

The Spotswood House was the center of the largest and most successful hops growing enterprise in Potter Valley. As such, it is eligible for the National Register at the local level under criteria A and B for its association with the late-19th century hops industry in southern Mendocino County and for its association with prominent local farmer and businessman, Joseph Spotswood.

The period of significance is 1887-1907, spanning from the construction of Spotswood House through the period of active hops cultivation on the Spotswood property, and ending the year Joseph Spotswood harvested the last hops crop from his property.

At the end of the 19th century, the Russian River Valley area of southern Mendocino County was one of the most productive and well-known hops producing regions in the United States. Joseph Spotswood was an early adopter of hops cultivation in the region and eventually came to dominate hops cultivation and processing in Potter Valley, located in Mendocino County within the Russian River watershed. His agricultural success made him highly influential in Potter Valley and other business communities of southern Mendocino County. His agricultural success was unparalleled in all of Potter Valley and provided him a high level of economic and social influence in the Valley.

The physical manifestation of his influence and power was the 12-room Italianate style, brick 1887 Spotswood House. From this house, Spotswood directed his agricultural enterprises for twenty years until failing health forced him to lease out his rich lands to local farmers. The house stands today, with most of its original materials, layout, and feeling in the middle of a vital agricultural region that remains almost untouched from Joseph Spotswood's time.

The property qualifies under criterion A as the only documented hops-related historical resource from the peak period of hops production in Mendocino County. It is also eligible at the local level under criterion B as the only remaining building associated with prominent hops grower, Joseph Spotswood.

Context and Historical Background

Hops are the flowers of the deciduous hop vine. Their primary commercial use is as an important flavoring and stabilizing agent in the production of beer. The vines can grow up to twenty feet in length and are typically trained on wires often arranged into tall, gridded networks, fifteen to twenty feet off the ground. As the vines mature, they produce flowers that resemble coniferous seed cones. (Typically, the vines take three full seasons to reach maturity. This lag between investment and initial harvest made it a crop only the wealthy could afford to gamble on.) Once full maturity is reached, the cones are carefully harvested while still slightly green, and then slowly dried in specially-built hop kilns. The dried cones are then tightly pressed into bales and sold for flavoring all varieties of beer.

Two other hops-related resources are known in Mendocino County. Both are wood hop kilns. However, they date to the end of the period of hops production in the late 1940s. See: Mendocino County: Hops Industry (Ukiah, Ca: Mendocino County Historical Society, Inc., 2006), 4.

The history of hops in North America dates back almost to the first European settlers. While native hops were found growing wild in the woods of the northeast, cultivation of the crop is documented back to at least the early 17th century. By the time the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded in 1628, the importation of hops roots was considered a staple for all new colonizing communities.

In California, the first hops were planted around 1857. This marked the beginning of the end for eastern and mid-western hops production. The Californian growing conditions and soils, combined with the mild, relatively dry climate, made it an ideal cultivation area. The resulting hops were of higher than usual quality and the quantities grown far outstripped production in the rest of the United States. (The western states typically produced at least twice the quantity of hops cones per acre than the best eastern regions.)

When the Transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869, fast and economical transportation between the east and west coasts further strengthened California's hops-growing dominance. Within the state, the Russian and Sacramento River valleys eventually became synonymous with plentiful crops of superior quality hops. A confluence of events in the mid- to late-19th century lead to a surge in national hops demand, and consequently to a dramatic increase in profits for hops farmers.

Technologically, completion of rapid cross-continent railroad shipping routes opened up Californian fields to global markets. This rise of California's importance in the agricultural economy of the United States was accelerated by its dominance of the hops markets from this time through World War II.

Within California, southern Mendocino County, and specifically the Russian River Valley, was at the center of hops cultivation and processing. It strongly influenced the economy and social patterns of much of the region, yet little remains today to remind us of the hops industry during this period.

Hops were first introduced to Mendocino County in 1859 by H.W. Knowles when he planted an experimental crop on his ranch just off the current Highway 128, near Mountain House Road in the far southern portions of the county. Commercial growing in the area began shortly thereafter and by 1867 hops was a major agricultural crop throughout Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. While production in both counties remained strong, by 1871, southern Mendocino County came to be a dominate hops growing region in the state, with more than five times more acreage planted with hops than Sonoma, Napa and Lake Counties combined. By 1880, hops were the dominant source of agricultural income to the Mendocino County and its cultivation and harvesting was becoming an influential factor in the social arid economic lives of citizens in the area.

Globally, the hops grown in the Russian River Valley were held in high regard for their superior quality. This afforded the farmers in the area the ability to command higher-than-market prices for much of their crops. In 1880, approximately 450 acres of hops were planted in southern Mendocino County. By 1906, this had increased to over 1800 acres. Even within this acreage, Potter Valley was known for being "especially productive," not only for hops, but for grains and vegetables as well. The soil of the long and narrow spur valley within the floodplain of the Russian River was well suited for a variety of crops.

Joseph Spotswood (1837-1912) settled in Potter Valley around 1875 after marrying his second wife, Daisy (or Disey) Hopper. Daisy was the daughter of wealthy local banker and land owner, Thomas Hopper. The newlyweds moved to Potter Valley so Joseph could take over the management and operation of one of his father-in-laws ranches. Unfortunately, Daisy passed away in late February 1879, leaving Joseph a widower with two young children.

Joseph was well aware of the success that the early hops farmers elsewhere in the county were experiencing. He saw the potential in Potter Valley and decided to use his savings (and likely inheritance) to buy land and go into farming for himself. Around 1880, he purchased a large piece of property on West Road near the small settlement of Centerville (later renamed Potter Valley) and began to cultivate grains, winegrapes and hops.

His foresight was a direct contributor to the rising importance of Potter Valley within the larger regional hops market. Spotswood's hops acreage constituted over 95% of Potter Valley's hops fields, therefore, almost all of the hops coming out of the Valley after 1880 could be attributed directly to him. By 1906, shortly before his retirement, Spotswood was responsible for almost 5% of the entire Mendocino County hops crop production. Not only was his farm one of the wealthiest in the Valley, it ranked in the largest 10% of hops farms in the County.

Spotswood ceased hops production in 1907 after his health began to fail. The property was rented out for hops cultivation to local farmers until 1913, a year after Joseph's death. At this time, it was the only land in Potter Valley still devoted to the crop.

After 1913, the land was rented out for other agricultural crops. Generally, production throughout the county began to decrease around this time. Production in Washington and Oregon was dominating the domestic hops markets while the mostly small-time farmers in Mendocino County were finding it harder to compete with the corporate farms in the Pacific Northwest.

The passing of the 18th amendment in 1919 further strained the remaining hops producers in Mendocino County. Prohibition was the final nail in the coffin for most of the hops growers and processors in Mendocino County. Only a few farmers along the Sacramento River remained in production after Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Additional Family and Property History

Joseph's success allowed him to expand his agricultural business interests beyond simply growing hops. He constructed kilns to process his harvests. Spotswood's first hop kiln burnt to its foundations in 1893. It was immediately rebuilt but burnt again in 1900. (It too was rebuilt but nothing remains of it today.)

He also purchased one of only two threshers in the Valley and hired it out to the smaller farmers to save them the trouble of bringing their wheat to facilities near Ukiah, a tiresome day-long journey over very rough roads in 1880.

As his success grew, Joseph began construction of a 12-room Italianate wood-frame and brick house on his Potter Valley property in 1885. Bricks were hauled over dirt roads by horse and cart from kilns in Ukiah for its construction. Each load took more than a full day to make the round trip and the associated expense and architectural grandeur caused quite a sensation throughout the southern county. Even today, its size, mass and beauty are unmatched in all of Potter Valley and are very rare in all of Mendocino County. It was completed in 1887.

The following year, Joseph married his third wife, Ada May "Addie" Spencer, daughter of a prominent Potter Valley farmer. Ada and Joseph had six children: George, Elmer Augustus (Gus), Gladys, Geneva, Elva, Olive, and Mabel over the next ten years.

With all of Joseph's various business interests and a large family of young and teen-aged children, help was needed around the house and in the fields. The Spotswood's maintained a small domestic staff that lived in the house in a separate wing, and employed several local Indian women as well who helped with other domestic tasks. This was highly unusual in the area as most families were too poor to afford outside help.

The children grew up on the Spotswood property, worked on the farm, and harvested hops along side other local families. Oral histories from several of the Spotswood children recall summers picking hops and living near the kiln and field cookhouse with the workers. At least two of Joseph's children from his first marriage, James and Joseph William, also lived in Potter Valley at this time. After Joseph's health began to decline in the early 1900s, he rented out the majority of his hops fields to Howard Brooks who farmed the land beginning in 1907. By 1913, Spotswood's land was the only land in Potter Valley where hops were grown and processed.

Joseph died in 1912, and after Brooks harvested his final crop in 1913, the family rented the farmland to tenant farmers. Gus Spotswood remained and farmed a portion of the family land. Ada May moved with her five daughters to Santa Rosa, and after she died in 1917, Elva and husband Herbert Pickle moved into the Spotswood home.

About 1930, Spotswood's property was split equally amongst the Spotswood siblings. Mabel and Percy Whitcomb drew the house and the immediately surrounding property. Mabel stayed on the property until her death in 1993. The property remained vacant until 1996 when it was purchased by Castle and Barbara Newell.