Napa's only true Victorian living museum and event space
An event at Ackerman Heritage House is truly an original experience. In addition to the historical surroundings and the period-correct antique furnishings, your guests will be welcomed in a unique environment that truly captures the elegance of the 1880s. Call to book your event - (866) 334-8875.
THE ACKERMAN HERITAGE HOUSE STORY
Lauren has lived in Napa for over 22 years and is co-founder of Ackerman Family Vineyards, located in the Coombsville AVA in southeastern Napa. She has a passion for all things vintage and once happened by a dilapidated, but beautiful, Victorian house in downtown Napa. Lauren drove by this rundown house for almost a year before making the bold (daresay, crazy?) decision in August of 2010 to purchase this historic relic. Thus began the laborious process of restoring this faded gem back to its original beauty. A true labor of love, Lauren’s journey to restore this iconic mansion was, in itself, a lesson of persistence, heartache and joy during the five years it took to put it all together.
Lauren’s background as a marketing entrepreneur, business development consultant, philanthropic advisor and small business owner has greatly helped in the development of Ackerman Heritage House since she first owned it. Lauren spent her early career in Southern California in the emerging technology industry in sales and marketing positions before earning her MBA in Strategic Marketing at Pepperdine University. After starting her own company, Wavelength Marketing, in 1982, Lauren worked with over 75 technology companies in helping set up their distribution channels or improve existing reseller and retailer channels. After merging her company with a UK-based firm with offices in San Francisco in 1988, Lauren moved to the Bay Area and started consulting with corporations such as Motorola, Philips Semiconductors, PacifiCare, among others, before leaving the technology world for good in 1999.
Living in Napa at that point since 1994, Lauren began volunteering in the not-for-profit sector and soon found herself involved on several local non-profit (and one for-profit) boards: Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, The Napa Valley Community Foundation, Justin-Siena High School, The Vintage Bank (NorthBay Bancorp), Blue Oak School, Institute of International Education (IEE), Napa Valley Film Festival and NapaLearns. Currently, Lauren is a Trustee on the Di Rosa board, SEE International, and an advisory member of 3 Strands. More recently, she was invited to join as a Member of the Society of Fellows at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
Currently, being involved with both Ackerman Family Vineyards and Ackerman Heritage House has kept Lauren busy. These two distinct businesses are intertwined with wine, food and hospitality yet are unique in their own way. Her love of all things vintage and historical has created a distinctive experience for wine and food lovers that isn’t readily found anywhere else in Napa Valley.
Sarah Hayman (1849 - 1893)
"[T]he odds were against her and when the dreaded sensation of the last summons came to her as she was occupying the place of honor at the noon day meal, she probably realized fully what it all meant when looking into the anxious face of her husband she quietly and submissively said, 'It has come at last!"
(1894 Napa Register).
Lauren in the Library during the contruction
J.L. Sousa / The Napa Register
SARAH HAYMAN to LAUREN ACKERMAN
Built in 1888 through 1889, Ackerman Heritage House has had an interesting history over the 128 years since it was first constructed. Shortly after purchasing the lot for the grand sum of $10 in gold coins, Sarah Hayman and her husband hired the famous Bay Area architect, Luther Turton, to design and build their grand new home for their family. Luther Turton was known for his open and gracious designs, having designed several recognizable buildings still intact today in downtown Napa: the Noyes Mansion (now owned by The Wine Spectator), the Migliavacca mansion, The Semorile Building (now The Bounty Hunter), the Methodist Church, The Goodman Library, the Winship Building and dozens more. This corner of the new city of Napa had never been graced with a house before, and according to the local papers at the time, the Hayman’s built their grand home in a record 90 days for the princely sum of around $7500 – the average cost for a home at the time was just under a $1000.
Unfortunately, they were able to live in their beautiful home for only four years before Sarah died from a stroke at the young age of 44. Distraught, Sarah’s husband, Luther, and their adopted daughter, Lulu, swapped the house with one of Luther’s business partners, T.W. Mather, who lived just three doors down from the Hayman’s for $10 in gold coins, thus becoming the second owners of the Queen Anne mansion.
The Mather’s made a few changes to the house when they moved in in 1895, primarily enclosing the wrap-around porch on the front of the house and making it into a useable room with the addition of a bathroom. In research done on the history of the house, it was recently revealed that the Mathers also owned some properties out in what is now known as the Coombsville area – the same property that Ackerman Family Vineyards now uses as its vineyard. A most interesting coincidence!
After the Mather’s lived in the house for approximately nine years, they sold the property to E.R. Gifford in June of 1904. The Gifford family lived in the house from the early 1900s until 1940. They built the adjoining 620 square foot Carriage House where the key feature was an enclosed aviary where pheasants and chickens were raised to supply the family with eggs and meat during wartime. (This Carriage House has now become a tasting room for AFV wines, called “The Aviary” in honor of this original feature). The Gifford’s also added the small house next door to the main mansion and had the two properties for 40 years. Local old-timers remember them fondly and, indeed, in more recent years, the house became known as “The Gifford House.” After E.R. Gifford died in January of 1940, his daughters sold the property to John and Lillian Murphy, who promptly sold the smaller house behind the mansion and lived there until Mr. Murphy transferred ownership to his daughter, Ruth La Vonne and grandson, William Weirich, in 1954. After her father’s passing in 1964, Ruth La Vonne married William Rangod and lived in the house until she herself passed away in 1998 (her husband preceding her in 1979).
Her son, William Weirich, who had lived in the house during his high school and college years, immediately sold the old Victorian to Paula and Michael Hamilton, who, at this point, were purchasing a home with more than 40 years of deferred maintenance. Over the next nine years, they attempted to restore this faded diamond but finally decided to sell the house and move to Kansas. That’s when Lauren Ackerman purchased it in August, 2010 and started a whole new chapter for this grand old house.
When Lauren purchased the house, there was one working bathroom downstairs being used by a family of six with no shower. There were eight truckloads of trash to be taken out. There was only a sink in the kitchen area – no appliances, no cabinets – not even finished floors. The walls throughout the house showed where there had been significant rain damage, creating the problem that the original lathe and plaster fell off in numerous spots, exposing the framing beneath. In short, the house was in serious need of repair, not just restoration, and to quote an inspector who toured the house as part of the purchase process “it was a dilapidated mess.”
On the positive side, however, the house had great bones. What Lauren saw when she first walked through that old house was the potential of something grand and quite unique for downtown Napa – a house that the community should have a chance not only to see, but to be able to use, as well. What she dreamed of was bringing it back to its original glory and making this fine specimen of Victorian architecture shine once again. It was a true labor of love over five long years (and an earthquake in 2014) to bring this piece of history back to its intended beauty.
What emerged in the fall of 2015, after almost 50 years of deferred maintenance when she bought this 128 year-old house, is a completely renovated, thoroughly modernized Victorian jewel now called “Ackerman Heritage House.” AHH represents a step back into time unlike any other Victorian house in the area – everything in it is “period-correct” from the late 1600s to the early 1920s – it is a true historic representation of a bygone era. For Lauren, it was a dream come true to finally bring this grand dame back to life. For visitors lucky enough to tour it, it brings another element of Napa to life in a whole new way. It is a truly special experience.
P E O P L E
Lauren Ackerman, Proprietor
Tiffany Brookman, Event & House Manager
To visit The Aviary call (855) AFV-WINE
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