Villa Grande is an unincorporated community in Monte Rio along the Russian River. How the name Villa Grande was born is a story unto itself. In the very beginning, there was “Big Flat”, a patch of land filled with redwoods and owned by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which ran along present-day Moscow Road. The logging boom started to fizzle out by the beginning of the twentieth century, causing NWPR to sell lots in the Big Flat area. A fourth-class post office was established under the title of “Mesa Grande”, a name which adorned the train depot as well (far left photo). Unfortunately, there was another Mesa Grande located in the San Diego area, necessitating a change. The post office operated under the new moniker of “Grandville”, doing business out of a cubbyhole in the general store. However, due to confusion with Grandeville in Tulare County, there was yet another adjustment. With a bit of linguistic trickery, “Grandville” was turned inside out to become “Villa Grande” and has remained such since 1921.
Sidebar: In 1973, the post office (near left photo) was moved to the garage/workshop area of the general store owner’s private residence in order to create a private lobby and additional mailboxes. It has remained at this site ever since.
Vacationers from San Francisco would climb aboard the North Pacific Coast Railroad for the three-hour ride from Sausalito to their front door in Villa Grande. The community soon accommodated a hotel, firehouse, general store, post office, and numerous shingled cottages. 1910 was the first year that electricity arrived along with a windmill (near right photo), which supplied water to the cabins. It was dismantled in 1977 and given to a camp in Cazadero but the attached house still remains. With the revenue collected from their whist games, the good ladies of the village erected a sturdy windbreaker for the main beach each summer, which was located directly in front of the windmill. Across the river was the Sherman House (known today as “The Chocolate House”…far right photo), which served as a hotel for those visiting Monte Cristo. This tourist locale extended from the Sherman House to present-day Monte Cristo Avenue near the Monte Rio Elementary School. This was the most popular party venue for residents of Villa Grande as it rightly laid claim to hosting the largest dance floor along the lower reaches of the Russian River