Drawing Sonoma: The Swiss Hotel

The last Friday of each month, the Index-Tribune runs ink illustrations and historical essays from Sonoma Treasure Artist Barbara White Perry. Her new book, “Drawing Sonoma 3rd Edition” celebrates Sonoma Valley’s historic and unique properties including the Swiss Hotel and Barn.

(Meet Barbara White Perry at Readers’ Books on Sept. 15 at 6 pm)




In 1840, Don Salvador Vallejo, General Vallejo’s brother, completed his adobe dwelling on the northwest side of the Plaza. In 1850, he added a second frame story to his one-story adobe building, and at the same time added the adobe wing to the east. That addition became known as the Ticino Hotel. Four years later, Salvador’s Sonoma land holdings were auctioned off in a sheriff’s sale and a succession of owners followed.

The Ticino Hotel was acquired by Bartolomeo Toroni in 1892 and was sold to Mose Mastellato in 1922. The original Swiss Hotel, on the west side of the Plaza, was destroyed by fire in 1927. Mose purchased the surviving signage from the owners and changed the name of the Ticino Hotel to the Swiss Hotel.

In 1930, after the death of their daughter Eunice, Mose’s daughter Antoinette, her husband Henry Marioni and their two children, Helen Marioni and Dario Marioni moved to Sonoma and took over operation of the Swiss.

Henry and Antoinette Marioni purchased the Swiss Hotel in 1936 from the estate and heirs of Mose Mastellato.

In 1946, Marioni’s daughter, Helen, and her husband Ted Dunlap, purchased the Swiss Hotel and restaurant from Henry and Antoinette Marioni. In 1981, the ownership was transferred to Dr. Tom Dunlap, his wife Ingrid Dunlap and his sister Tedi Dunlap Respini.

Helen and Ted Dunlap continued to operate the business until 1989 when the Swiss Hotel closed for a two-year retrofit because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. This event led to a mandate by the state to either tear down the Swiss Hotel or perform a seismic retrofit.

The Dunlap family with the help of local architect, Victor Conforti, developed and completed an extensive seismic retrofit and building upgrade. This skillful retrofit preserved the historical adobe construction, the shipwright redwood frame construction of the second floor, and the original look of the building while making it seismically stable.

Hank Marioni, grandson of Henry Marioni and Tom Dunlap’s cousin, took over as the owner of the restaurant, bar, and hotel business and helped guide the final stages of the seismic retrofit construction. Under his master restaurateur guidance, the Swiss Hotel reopened in September of 1992. Hank has operated the business since that time. Kristin Dunlap Schantz, Tom and Ingrid Dunlap’s daughter, is the manager and will be the fifth generation of the family to operate the Swiss Hotel.

The redwood barn was built around 1926 by Mose Mastellato for the horses that worked in the fields and vineyards. The barn had four large stalls, and areas for hay and storage. During Prohibition one of the stalls had a false floor that held bottled wine. The false floor is now gone.

The Swiss Hotel property remains today, as it has for 100 years due to the dedication of five generations of the Mastellato, Marioni and Dunlap families who have been its stewards and will continue to remind us of Sonoma’s intriguing and colorful past.

Information for this article was provided by Dr. Tom Dunlap.

“Drawing Sonoma 3rd Edition” is available at Readers’ Books in Sonoma.

Email Barbara@BarbaraWhitePerry.com.

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