Beverly Willis received a call from Richard Goeglein, the President of Holiday Inns Hotels. Though he and his wife were living in the East, they had just purchased a ranch in the Napa Valley, staying in temporary quarters on the ranch when they visited. Their home would be built in the future. In the interim, they wanted a Pool House to serve as a lounge and dining area—he called it an entertainment center.
The small Pool House building on Owl Ridge Ranch served as a place for indoor around the pool entertaining with a kitchen, fireplace, and a bathroom with shower and changing rooms. Alcoves for changing into swim suites, a bath and a bar-kitchen with storage flanked the single great room. Architecturally, as it was an independent structure, that Willis saw as a fresco-sculpture surrounded by vineyards, but one with very functional uses.
Willis covered the rectangular floor plan with a stucco façade. Under the stucco, she placed the exterior detailing and art to create a bas-relief sculpture. Thus, the sculptured trim creates “facade windows” where none exist. The entire exterior was red colored stucco, covered with a matching red tile roof
Two giant glass sliding doors comprised the front and back walls with an oversized fireplace were on the left, opposite the dining side. The exposed wood structure of the intersection of the cross gable roofs formed a tall, conical, ceiling space. Flat stone flooring material covered the floors and extended out and around the pool.
In early California history, the Owl Ridge Ranch land was a camping site for the Wappa Indians who inhabited the Napa Valley. The Wappa Indians were nomadic gathers and hunters. Researchers had found little in the way of Wappa cultural customs or artifacts.
Next to the building site was a mound that local tradition believed was former burial place. Willis wanted to memorialize it. Mr. Goeglein was enchanted with her suggestion that the design incorporate Indian values of the inter-connectiveness of people, land and universe.
She wanted to capture the essence of a Native American idea, if not the fact of the unknown Wappa Indian one. On the wall facing the burial mound, Willis placed a fresco frieze of a sky boat taking the spirit of the dead to the world beyond under the rays of the sun. Around the burial mound, she designed a concrete, monument circle wall two feet high with a semi-circular, six feet high wall edging its eastern section. I placed a circular steel plate on a small cylinder rod support two feet high in the middle of the rock mound. Like a sundial, the circular plate cast a shadow on the rocks of the mound. Echoing the frieze design, as the sun moved across the sky in the summer, the marker’s shadow would move across the rock mound, creeping from the painted azure horizon to the painted, blue sky on the semi-circular wall. In harmony with the sun, the nearby oak leafed boughs seemed to cast cloud shadows that moved across the painted sky when the winds blew.