The Sacramento River delta’s historic Grand Island Mansion is a uniquely spectacular Italian Renaissance styled villa. The Mansion is the largest private estate in Northern California, enchanting visitors and guests with a display of the finest features of classical architecture and expert craftsmanship.
Built by Mr. Lewis W. Meyers, this impressive estate sits on the outskirts of the town of Walnut Grove, California. Walnut Grove is one of the earliest settlements on the Sacramento River Delta, established in 1850. Mr. Meyers was an accomplished and influential Californian, and was the owner of 865 acres on Grand Island, where he built a highly successful fruit farm, growing pears, peaches, plums, cherries, and asparagus, and which was, at the time, one of the show-places of the county.
Planned by Mr. Meyers’ wife Henrietta and designed by renowned San Francisco architect J. W. Dolliver in 1917, this four-story, 24,000 square foot, 58 room villa was the centerpiece of Louis W. Meyers’ personal empire. Construction of the Mansion was completed in 1920. However, Mr. Meyers’ enjoyment of his grand domicile was brief, as he died in April of 1922, at the age of 51. Upon the untimely passing of Mr. Myers, Mrs. Myers took over the management of the estate, and with the assistance of her son Louis J. Meyers, carried on farming operations.
Louis J. Meyers and his wife Audrey, the daughter of David Lubin of Weinstock Lubin Department Store fame, enjoyed being a part of high society as well. As a result, the Mansion served originally not only as the Meyers’ family home, but as a favorite haunt for many a celebrity of 1920s and 30s. The Meyers, who loved to entertain, played host to such luminaries as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Greta Garbo and mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner. Distinctive touches throughout the mansion still reflect its star-studded past, such as the private movie theater and closets in the ladies’ lounge named for Hollywood stars of the day.
Unfortunately, the Meyers’ good times came to an end along with so many others’ with the arrival of the Great Depression. As their fortunes suffered, they could no longer afford to live in the Mansion they called home, and it and orchards were parceled off. Fortunately, thriving pear orchards surround the Mansion to this day, preserving the area’s traditional ambiance.
The story of the Mansion picks back up in the 1950s, when Sacramento restauranteur Frank Perese saw the potential of this impressive property. Mr. Perese installed a commercial kitchen, and the Mansion began its second life as the backdrop for a unique dining experience.
Since 1978, the Mansion has been operated as a dining, wedding and event venue, lovingly maintained and periodically refurbished to ensure that this classic landmark will always embody the opulent style of a bygone era.
The Mansion is a treasure trove of handiwork of the finest craftsmen from Europe. Everywhere you look, the Grand Island Mansion embodies the finest craftsmanship and design, meant to please the most discerning guests of yesterday and today. Distinctive original features like marble fireplaces, unique handmade tile work, inlaid parquet flooring and imported wood paneling have remained intact for visitors to admire and enjoy a century after the mansion was constructed, enhanced by luxurious period furnishings and authentic artwork. Enjoying a game on the oversized billiards table, descending the grand staircase, or taking a stroll through the Italian Statuary Garden gives visitors the feeling of what it might have been like to rub shoulders with the upper crust of yesteryear. From the spacious, manicured front lawn to the dramatic collonade room, a trip to the Mansion is truly a rare glimpse into the opulence of an earlier age.
The Mansion has been featured in such publications as National Geographic, Architectural Digest, and many other publications, highlighting its historical significance, classical beauty and its unrivaled desirability for weddings and events. It has also provided the setting for films and music videos, and hosted events attended by such prominent guests as President Ronald Reagan, who, upon seeing the Mansion, quipped that “This must be the Western White House.”
Today, the Mansion enters its second century in capable hands, a beloved Northern California landmark ready to provide an elegant setting for special moments or a fanciful glimpse into the past, attracting visitors and guests from all over California and the world.