Sonoma County’s first green bed and breakfast
By ANDREA GRANAHAN / West County Correspondent
The lovely farm house at the Case Ranch Inn in Forestville is over a hundred years old, but while it enjoys a venerable history, it is also on the cutting edge of a modern movement. It has gone green.
Diana Van Ry and her husband Allan Tilton have the distinction of owning the first Bed and Breakfast inn to have gone through the Sonoma County Green Business Program.
They practice water conservation, recycle and follow other guidelines, but they have taken the mission even further. They now produce 40 percent of their own power with two solar installations and, to put the icing on the cake, they even installed an electric car recharging station.
“We haven’t had anyone use it yet,” said Van Ry, but she is confident that they will come. “The days are coming when people from the San Francisco area will be using electric vehicles. They can drive to the country and stay here, knowing they’ll be charged up for the ride home.”
The entire inn has been a major labor of love for the couple.
The house was built in 1894 by Joseph Walker and was purchased in 1910 by the Case family. He was the town minister, but when the Depression hit, a bank foreclosed on the property. After World War II, owners subdivided the original 50-plus acres. The inn sits on two acres left from the subdivision, just west of Mirabel Road.
Van Ry moved to Sonoma County in 1983. Originally from Oklahoma, she came to Sacramento with her parents when she was just a young girl. She and her husband purchased the house in 1992, well aware that anything 100 years old needs a lot of TLC.
“We bought it with turning it into an inn in mind,” Van Ry recalled. “The foundation was the big thing. It took us two years. Then we put on a new roof.”
While the house underwent its transformation, Van Ry and Tilton camped out in a motorhome parked in the driveway. They did all the work while Tilton held down his full time job as a Santa Rosa traffic engineer.
During the process they located an original Case family member who was born in the house in 1917. “She was able to tell us a lot about the house, which rooms were used for what and such,” Van Ry said.
After learning about the family that had made the house their home, the couple decided to name the inn after them.
Van Ry and Tilton also have devoted a lot of time and love to the gardens surrounding the house, creating charming nooks and niches for their guests. They kept the apple trees still left from the ranch days, and Tilton purchased a small hand press to make fresh apple juice for their guests.
“The idea for the charger came about because Allan had a colleague who is installing electric chargers in San Francisco for the new generation of electric cars,” Van Ry said. “He thought, ‘Why not us, too?’ And in no time he had put it up.
“When the Enron company was kidnapping California’s energy and costs went up, we decided solar power made sense,” she said. At first they put up a small array of panels, but when it began to pay off they decided on a second, larger array, partly paid for with a county rebate.
“We are going to be here long enough to reap the rewards,” she said. “That’s the secret to making it really work for you.”
Case Ranch Inn Bed & Breakfast, at 7446 Poplar Drive in Forestville, has three guest rooms and a garden cottage. The organic breakfast served to guests includes hand-pressed apple juice from apples grown on the property.
For more information, call 887-8711 or visit caseranchinn.com.