In Napa, Browns Valley Neighborhood Still Makes Room for its Rural Past

Scenic view in Napa's Browns Valley neighborhood.

A bucolic view in Westwood Hills Park, adjoining Connolly Ranch in Napa’s Browns Valley neighborhood.

Browns Valley, a neighborhood on the west side of Napa, is one of those rare communities that has managed to hold onto its rural identity even as it boasts all the hallmarks of modern suburban life.

While the neighborhood has its requisite housing subdivisions and streets dotted with retail stores, a drive out Browns Valley Road will take you past 100-year-old farmhouses and weathered barns that refuse to be ignored. The land was once cow pastures and orchards, and the old and new now peacefully coexist.

This tony neighborhood is home to Connolly Ranch, a 12-acre educational site on Browns Valley Road that showcases chickens, geese, goats, cows, and donkeys. Down the road is the John E. Brown house, built before the turn of the last century and once home to the area’s eponymous settler.

Opposite Woodlawn Drive is a little-noticed stone marker declaring that in 1911 the “public-spirited citizens” of the area were “the first people in California to vote a direct tax upon themselves for building a macadamized road” — at the time a modern improvement on dusty dirt streets. (Can you believe it? Folks proud of taxing themselves for a civic improvement!)

Today, Browns Valley Road remains the neighborhood’s lifeline, not least because it offers easy access to another local institution, Browns Valley Market. The grocery opened 32 years ago and remains popular and crowded. Adjacent to it is another favorite, Browns Valley Yogurt & Espresso Bar.

Browns Valley Elementary School helps draw young families to the area. The school earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 838 out of 1,000 in 2012.

Homes in the neighborhood range from townhouses selling for $220,000 to custom-built estates that fetch $3 million and higher.

“Homes here sell really quickly,” according to one of Pacific Union International’s top Napa County real estate professionals. “If there’s a for-sale sign in the yard, it’s sold.”

(Photo courtesy of Odwallafemme, via Flickr.)

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