The Family-Owned B&B Carving Out Its Place in Healdsburg's History

From by Katherine Bond
The Family-Owned B&B Carving Out Its Place in Healdsburg's History

The Camellia Inn, so named after the 50 or so varieties of camellias on property, is a short three-block walk from Healdsburg’s main square. As I approached the walkway up to the inn, I could sense its rich history, one attribute of inns that I love. During a delicious breakfast one morning, the inn’s current owner Ray Lewand wandered in and shared the story of the inn which few had heard straight from him.

camellia innPhoto Credit: Camellia Inn

The stately Victorian home was built in 1869 by local Ransome Powell, Ray explained and was purchased by the Seawell family at the turn of the 20th century. The home was then turned into Healdsburg’s first hospital, ran by the Seawall’s only son J. Walter Seawell. At one point, it was abandoned and stood quiet for several years. In the late 70s, Ray and his wife decided they would leave Los Angeles and enjoy retirement in the Napa region.

They searched for months to find a perfect home they could turn into a bed and breakfast, and eventually came upon the house now known as the Camellia Inn. Though dusty, it had some stunning original attributes, such as the inlaid hardwood floors, glass chandeliers, and double parlors with twin marble fireplaces. Yet, another buyer had beat the couple to a bid that was accepted just before Del and Ray prepared their offer. Disheartened, Ray and Del drove the entire way back to Los Angeles.

camellia innPhoto Credit: Camellia Inn

On a sheer whim and in an attempt to perk up Del two months later, Ray suggested that they meander back up to Healdsburg just to take a peek at whatever was available in the region. They had no appointments and the alarmed real estate agent insisted that there were simply no properties on the market. However, upon arrival, Ray got a call. The buyer of the camellia home had bowed out. Ray and Del immediately submitted their bid, and in 1981, they were the owners of the newly-christened Camellia Inn. “Are you telling them the LONG version of the story?” Lucy, the innkeeper, asked, popping in from the kitchen to hear where Ray was in the story. Four of the other guests nodded and one said, “Yes, it’s great! Keep going!”

camellia innPhoto Credit: Camellia Inn

Today, Ray and his wife’s daughter Lucy runs the inn which holds title as the longest family owned and operated inn in the Healdsburg area. Its charm is undeniable, as well as its impeccable aesthetics. The nine room property features a handsome mahogany mantle in the dining room as well as a fishpond with original 1920s-era Rookwood tiles. Its newly opened spa, the home’s original sun porch, rests just behind the small swimming pool and offers various massage treatments. Beyond the spa and lush grounds, the breakfast at Camellia Inn is a standout.

Lucy, in fact, created a section on the website just for the recipes used at the property. Ingredients for the robust breakfasts are sourced within the region. If you’re lucky enough to wake up on a Wednesday, you’ll be treated to Lucy’s Chocolate Covered Wednesday, a morning filled with treats that pretty much seal the deal of your devotion to Camellia Inn as your go-to accommodations in Healdsburg.

camellia innPhoto Credit: Valette

A few blocks from the Camellia Inn is one of my favorite “new” restaurants in the region, Valette. When I told Lucy I had a reservation for Friday evening, she enthused, “Wow. How’d you get that?” Indeed, a table at Valette is now a coveted win for any discerning foodie. The restaurant, opened in March of 2015, has been included in countless “top” ranking regional restaurant lists and has already earned a spot on Wine Enthusiast’s top 100 wine restaurants. The cuisine is the quintessential, extraordinary kind that Napa is known for: robust, bold, and flavorful dishes that just take a touch of finesse and devoted skill to bring out the greatness of the ingredients.

Next time you’re considering heading to Napa, take a break from the tried-and-true accommodations in the valley and visit Healdburg’s Camellia Inn. The welcoming family atmosphere is one that will ensure you come back year after year.

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