National Register of Historic Places in Napa County

National Register #92000994: Wulff House in Napa, California 23 November 2010
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National Register #92000994
Capt. N. H. Wulff House
549 Brown Street
Built 1885

The Wulff House was designed by Napa architect William H. Corlett in the Italianate style. The exterior is virtually unaltered, but the interior lost much of its detailing when the building was converted into three rental units.

When Capt. Wulff lived here, his house was only 120 feet from the Napa River dock he used.

The Napa River was an important link to distant markets from the time Napa was settled in 1848 until the 1920s. For the city's first two decades, riverboats were almost the only means of transportation between Napa and San Francisco. Even after the coming of the railroad in the late 1860s, riverboats continued a brisk trade until the 1920s when river transportation was replaced by rail and highway transportation.

Captain N. H. Wulff had a long career on the Napa River. He was born in Denmark in 1830, took to the sea as a youth, and arrived in California in 1850.

After mining for a few years, he bought a schooner and began transporting goods on the Sacramento River. In 1859, he moved to Napa and went into business sailing local wheat and flour to Sacramento and other points.

In the 1870s, Wulff shifted from schooners to steamboats and owned several boats in later years, the most notable of which sailed on regular schedule to San Francisco. In 1889, he commissioned the building of the Zinfandel, a sternwheeler which was probably the largest boat ever to regularly cruise the Napa river. With comfortable passenger accommodations, it sailed from Napa to San Francisco and back three times a week.

Wulff kept the Zinfandel on this schedule for seventeen years, during which time it was the most prominent boat that sailed from Napa.

Wulff remained in business until 1906, when he sold the Zinfandel and retired.

He lived in this house until his death in 1911.

Source: Adapted from the NRHP nomination submitted in 1992.

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