Update Saturday: Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue has told Patch that the field work for the investigation is finished. The results should be released to the public early next week.
Paul's Resort in El Verano was "the jumping spot" in its hey day, according to Sonomans. But on Thursday, the long-vacant former dance club near Maxwell Park erupted into flames and was destroyed.
The blaze was reported at about 2:30 a.m. and it took firefighters until nearly daylight to quench it. Its cause was still under investigation late Thursday afternoon.
Fire authorities initially reported what they thought was a "possible explosive device." But the Sheriff's Bomb Squad later determined it to be an "anti-tank round" stored among other collectibles belonging to a friend of the owner.
As residents heard about the conflagration, many drove by or walked to the spot to reflect on the loss of the landmark. One elderly neighbor described the scene as "shocking."
Another resident who said she rents a place behind the old resort said she was awakened at 2:45 a.m. by someone knocking on her door to tell her about the fire. Authorities later told Patch that no one needed to be evacuated.
Other people visiting the spot Thursday recalled going there decades ago, during "good old times for people."
"I used to come here with my parents for dinner when I was about 8 to 12 years old in the 1950s and '60s," Mike Duane of Kenwood told Patch. He remembers hearing about a lot of bands that played there.
Later in the day, Jason Bell, a volunteer with Sonoma League for Historic Preservation, recalled going there for Christmas parties with his family when the building was used as the Moose Lodge.
"It was a big part of my life and a big part of Sonoma life," he told Patch.
According to various historical sources, the property has been in the ownership of the Marcucci family for decades. Family members were at the scene after the fire, assessing damage but were not readily available for an interview.
The building was reportedly constructed in about 1908. Over the years, it has been used as a bar, restaurant, train depot, Moose Lodge and meeting location for local organizations.
City of Sonoma historian George McKale told Patch, "It's well-named 'Paul's Resort,' because it was owned by three Pauls. Paul Marcucci Sr. built it in 1908 and it was known as Paul's Resort then. San Francisco socialites would be ferried over and they'd catch the train to the depot at the back of the building. The train tracks went where the bike trail is now in Sonoma."
McKale said the resort was sold during the Depression and Prohibition to Paul Vannucchi.
"It was known as a place where you could call in and get a drink," he said.
In the 1940s, Paul Marcucci's son took over the property and gave it "an overhaul," McKale said.
"He returned it to the family tradition of dining and entertainment," he said.
"Lots of meetings were held there. Sonoma County Board of Realtors had their annual meeting there. I have a note that says, 'They danced the night away, always vowing to return.' It was a lot of fun for a lot of people," McKale said.
The Vintage Festival Patron's Ball was also held there, according to notes in the Cochran Binders at the Preservation League's Maysonnave House.
McKale said the resort was active until the 1980s and has been vacant since then.
"The field next to it is known as Paul's Field," he said. "In 1958, the land was donated by Paul Jr. and his wife, Eve, for use by the Little League. The Valley of the Moon Little League was established there."
According to historical notes of the Preservation League, the field is leased to the Little League by Marcucci's daughter, the current owner, for $1 a year.
The now charred resort sits on 6.3 acres.
Local artist Barbara White Perry visited the site to sketch it a few years ago. Her impressions and the sketch hang on the wall at Maysonnave House. She wrote that hornets had taken over the roof.
Perry told Patch on Thursday that she was sad to hear of the resort's demise and that she was glad her work had captured a part of local history that no longer exists.