In 1943, a young man named Frank Bartholomew, a war correspondent in the Pacific, (one of the best news writers of the period and a lover of history) could not help but be intrigued by a legal notice in a San Francisco newspaper, even though he read it while on the leeward side of Guadalcanal.
The State of California, said the notice, would hold an auction for the purchase of land some 2.4 miles east of Sonoma, California. Frank lost no time. He sent a telegram to his wife, Antonia (known as Toni): "draw out whatever we have in the bank and enter it as a bid for some land in Sonoma..." Of course, this would be no story at all if they had been outbid. But they were not. The Bartholomews now owned several hundred acres of historic but ruined vineyard land, and neither had seen it but fleetingly.
But they soon did. The stone building, half fallen down, were the old Haraszthy cellars, they were told. Those stark, gnarled bushes pointing angular fingers at the sky had once been very fine grape vines. The only "house" on the property was a "shack" with walls of a sort and inhabited by a motley crew of raccoons, rats and ground squirrels-with no windows.
It looked utterly hopeless, but the Bartholomews wanted to restore the place. "I can never live long enough to bring this land back," Bartholomew thought. But then he mused... "that Hungarian ...what did he have when he came here? The raw land and his own two hands."
And so they began in earnest. Several times during the following years, they regretted his decision, but never reversed it.
Frank had an added problem that being a newspaper man demanded many extended absences from Sonoma, San Francisco, indeed the United States, especially when he became chair of United Press International, and moved to New York. Toni suddenly found that she had a new career (and became a first class foreman when Bart was away) and reluctantly became the boss of the Vineyards.
With Frank's absences in New York and elsewhere, they decided in 1968 to sell a part of their holdings, the Buena Vista Winery.
It wasn't long after Frank's retirement from the head of UPI that he became restless and decided to start a new winery in the building built by the State in 1923 for the then "Industrial Farm". The Bartholomews began crushing their vineyard's grapes under the name "Hacienda".
As their enthusiasm grew, so did their dedication to preserving and perpetuating the "ranch". And so they decided in 1980 to assure that it would be a park, open to the public in a manner to foster the area's beauty, tranquility, and showcase the ever developing story of grape growing and wine making and showcasing its earlier age. As a final step, in 1987, Toni surviving Bart, rebuilt the Villa to preserve physically the fascinating early era and way of life.
In 1990 on her death, the Park opened to the public.