This weekend, I stopped by briefly at Melitta Station, which is a quiet and pretty location by the side of Santa Rosa Creek, to the east of Santa Rosa. If I’d been hoping to catch a train from the station, I’d have had a long wait, because there haven’t been any trains through here since the 1930s. Over a hundred years ago, this was a busy railroad depot, with sufficient population to warrant its own Post Office.
Even among those who live in California, there is a tendency to assume that any non-English “European-sounding” name must be of Spanish origin. However, in the Santa Rosa area there was a significant settlement of Italian migrants, and Melitta is a name of Italian origin.
The Southern Pacific Railroad built a branch from Napa Junction to Santa Rosa through here in 1888. There were significant stone quarries on the South side of Santa Rosa Creek, so a railroad depot was established to transport stone from these quarries. A tramway ran from the quarries down to the railroad depot. Basalt paving stones were sent from here all over California, covering many streets in San Francisco.
Eventually, the quarries were worked out, and in 1934 the Southern Pacific abandoned the railroad. The rails were lifted in 1942 and taken to Oakland for reuse in the docks. Melitta declined to the point that the Post Office and store closed, and all that’s really left of the settlement now is the Melitta Station Inn, which now offers Bed & Breakfast. The owners are apparently British, so they presumably know something about converted railway stations and English breakfasts!
In the photo above, looking West, the railroad trackbed was to the left (now Montgomery Drive), and Melita Road is on the right. (The name of the road has a different spelling.) Melitta Station Inn sits in the fork of the junction. However, the railroad always stayed on the opposite side of the creek, so it did not cross the creek or Melita Road, as the modern alignment suggests.
Had the Sonoma Freeway ever been built, this junction would have changed beyond recognition, because the freeway was planned to rejoin the existing Highway 12 near this point. It seems now that all plans to construct that freeway have been abandoned, so Melitta Station looks set to continue its tranquil existence.