The St. Helena Historical Society is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2002 by a small group of local citizens led by former library director Larry Hlavsa. Our mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret, and provide access to the history of the St. Helena area from the ancient settlements of the first Native Americans until the present day.
Watch this video that elaborates on our mission of preserving St. Helena's history for future generations.
What we do
We achieve our mission by collecting photographs, documents, artifacts, books, oral histories, and other cultural objects, and then preserving and interpreting them to the public by means of exhibits, educational programs, lectures, public events, and publications. Our collection area roughly follows the boundaries of the St. Helena School District, which stretches north to Bale Lane and south to the edge of Yountville. The area also includes Pope Valley, Deer Park, and Angwin.
St. Helena is known primarily as the center of the Napa Valley wine industry. That aspect of our heritage is a great source of pride and is well documented. It represents one aspect of our multifaceted history. The land upon which our heritage stone buildings and cottage-lined neighborhoods rest hosted a parade of pioneer-spirited populations from all over the globe drawn here by the richness of the land. The downtown core of St. Helena is a National Register Historic District. Many of the building’s historic exteriors reflect the commercial districts early days.
It is the rich diversity of heritage that the St. Helena Historical Society seeks to illuminate through our exhibits, educational programs, signature events, research services, oral history program and publications. We tell the stories that expose the impact of values held by our predecessors and inform the decisions we make today about our future.
The Historical Society is currently located in a newly leased and renovated space in the former Catholic Elementary School at 1255 Oak Avenue. This new Heritage Center houses office space, collections storage space, a permanent exhibit room, a rotating exhibit room, and a community lecture room. It is here that we have created a place to preserve, document and exhibit local history, provide a meeting place for local organizations and offer research facilities for local students and residents.
Bonnie Thoreen, President
Kathleen Coelingh, Vice President
Nancy Caffo, Secretary
John Sales, Treasurer
Memberships Kim Farmer
Research Director Mariam Hansen
Collections & Acquisitions
Kim Farmer, Membership
As a new resident to St. Helena more than 20 years ago, Kim Farmer was looking for ways to become involved in her new community. She began volunteering and then working at the St. Helena Library. When Library Director Larry Hlavsa called the first meeting to form a local historical society, Kim was there.
Kim was a founding member of SHHS
She became a founding board member of the St. Helena Historical Society and has filled many roles over the years—treasurer, newsletter editor, membership and collections volunteer. She remains active in the historical society and is currently in charge of Membership. She’s also on the board of League of Women Voters of Napa County and Silverado Handweavers and Spinners. She enjoys weaving, knitting and spending time with her family.
We'll be showcasing our hardworking volunteers in our monthly newsletters. Like Kim, many have been with us since the beginning--that's 20 years this year!
Marilyn Coy, Collections
Marilyn Coy came to St. Helena from Burlingame, CA in 1975 to teach home economics at St. Helena High School. She had just met her future husband, Nick, after their moms had arranged a blind date. They married in 1976 and moved to St. Helena. Marilyn taught sewing, foods, child development, family living and history until 2006. During that time, she also taught homemaking at RLS. Marilyn’s kids, Nick and Pam, grew up in St. Helena and each was a student in her foods class for a semester.
"I have always been an American history buff, from the Gold Rush days on"
"I love collecting old things. I started with clothing from relatives, then bottles, books, Depression glass and purses. I restored and wore a great aunt's wedding dress when I got married. Nick collects and works on old Ford cars. I love volunteering for the Historical Society because of the challenge of recording and sharing history and organizing and caring for old things. Part of my job has been developing an inventory of the pictures the Society has collected. I love figuring out the when, where and who of these old photographs. After retiring, I also got a part-time job working at our wonderful public library which I am still enjoying. That’s what really introduced me to the Historical Society.”