Sue & Nan

Sue Conley and Nan Haynes bought Silver Penny Farm from the Cardoza family for the purpose of creating workforce housing and opening the Big House to conservation groups for meetings and retreats. Ten acres are leased to a certified organic farmer who is growing heirloom tomatoes.

The Church

Soon after the capture of Patty Hearst, the family moved out and donated the land to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  The Church turned the property into a retreat center which is why there are so many bedrooms in the mansion and six cottages on the grounds.  It operated as a retreat center until the late 1990’s when a ranching family, the Cardoza’s purchased it from the Church.  They also farmed the Tolay Lake tract to the south of Silver Penny and sold that land to Sonoma Land Trust at the turn of this century. It was developed into a park by Sonoma Regional Parks and has just recently been open to the public.

William Randolph III

Patty Hearst’s brother, William Randolph III, purchased the property in the early 1970’s to serve as a place to hide his sister after she had been kidnapped by the Symbonese Liberation Party. He hired detectives to find Patty before the cops got her so that the family could de-program her.  Well, she was caught before her brother could get to her and spent time behind bars for her collaboration with her captors. It was the Hearst family who named the farm Silver Penny after a beloved children’s poetry book.  They developed the gardens and spent a bit of time living in the house, using the water tower as an office and art studio.

Historical Gap

There is a bit of an historical gap between the late 1870’s and the 1970’s.  We are currently researching that period and will add it to the history when we find it.

The Town of Lakeville

The town of Lakeville thrived in the late 1800’s because a steamboat stop near our property was developed into a transit hub for people headed north by stagecoach.  This is evidenced by the businesses that supported the travelers including a hotel, dance hall, post office, a school, a race track and more than one saloon.  (If time permits, enjoy a beer at Ernie’s Tin Bar, an historic speakeasy on the corner of Stagecoach Road and Lakeville Highway).

William Bihler

In 1859, William Bihler purchased the 8,000 acres, and drained Tolay Lake in order to plant potatoes and corn. The town of Lakeville grew around this farm and attracted Irish immigrants to the area who worked the farms and established a close-knit community.

General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s

The property was part of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s holdings “acquired” from the native Alaguala Nation in 1834. There was a huge demand in San Francisco for fresh food to feed the Gold Rush population which was growing very quickly with the discovery of gold in northern California and Vallejo helped to fill that demand. The land was cultivated to supply grain for his expanding cattle operation.