Site History ~ Ranching and Manufacturing Roots Inspire the Future

Early History

American Canyon is infused with a rich history. Three Native American tribes, the Patwin, Coast Miwok, and Wappo lived in the Napa Valley for thousands of years. The Mexican government granted 84,000 acres of land, known as Rancho Suscol in 1843, to the famous General Mariano Vallejo. In the 1850’s the specific site known as Watson Ranch was homesteaded by the Watson family. Augustus Watson started the Napa Junction Company in 1900, which crushed and manufactured aggregate rock, the main ingredient in cement.  In 1902, Watson sold Napa Junction to Standard Portland Cement Company. Standard built many of the buildings whose relics still remain today. The facility operated for 33 years and included oil-heated kilns, manufacturing and warehouse buildings featuring a machine shop, laboratory and cooperage. In 1946, Basalt Rock Company purchased the property and started production of lightweight aggregate. Basalt added new industrial buildings to the property as well as employee housing and operated until 1978. All of this flourishing activity had provided building materials for the entire San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. This vibrant history contributes to making the site an ideal location for a burgeoning new town center.

Growing Interest in a Historic Site

In June 1984, Jaeger Vineyards purchased 100 acres of land that included the former basalt factory. They soon purchased another 715 adjoining acres from Felton Watson, a descendent of the original homesteaders, and began growing grapes on the site. William “Blue Sky Bill” Jaeger, the patriarch of the Jaeger family, was a successful grape grower and winery owner (Freemark Abbey and Rutherford Hill wineries). Bill wanted to help build the future of Southern Napa County which he loved and called home. He and other local business people began to formulate a vision for a new town center on the old cement works site, now known as “The Ruins.”

When the City of American Canyon was incorporated in 1992, it included 30 acres of Jaeger Vineyards property in the vicinity of the Ruins. Interest in the property as the site of a future Town Center began to grow and in 1994 the Ruins was officially designated as “Town Center” on city documents. In 1999, 83% of voters approved Measure C, pre-zoning an additional 70 acres to the town center. LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) then added 70 acres to the city’s sphere of influence, making it eligible for annexation from Napa County to City of American Canyon.

Critical Factors Pave the Way for the Project

It was after the formation of the Jaeger-McGrath joint venture in 2004 that some real momentum began to build toward the goal: the creation of a Specific Plan to develop a mixed-use community on this site, approved by the City of American Canyon for development. Through extensive, diligent efforts of the Project Team, led by McGrath Properties, several critical milestones were achieved. In 2008, an Urban Limit Line (“ULL”) was approved by the City of American Canyon. The ULL governs growth boundaries for the City of American Canyon through the year 2030. In 2010, LAFCO approved the annexation of the Watson Ranch Specific Plan Area. A lot line adjustment establishing the approved City limits was recorded in 2011. Since then, the Project Team has continued to work with American Canyon to complete all the entitlementsfor development of the Watson Ranch. The Watson Ranch entitlements are scheduled for completion in Q3 2018.