The building locally known as Fagiani’s was the site of one of Napa’s grizzliest murders and longest running mysteries. It stood shuttered, lost in time for more than thirty years until reopening in 2012. While the rest of Napa’s Main Street underwent transformations, Fagiani’s stayed the same, gathering dust, a monument to one of Napa’s most notorious crimes.
Designed by architect William Corlett around 1908 for Fred Martin, the pair also responsible for the Center Building which stands behind it on Brown Street, Fagiani’s is an example of Second Renaissance Revival style. It includes later Art Moderne touches on the first floor, most notable of which is its signature exterior tiling.
Fagiani’s began its life as a restaurant run by Nicholas S. Thomas while the second story was used as boarding house. After the Thomas tenure, the building was utilized as office space and storage, and is rumored to have been the location of a speakeasy during the prohibition era.
Nicola Fagiani, son of an Italian immigrant family, purchased the building in 1945, and turned it into the bar and liquor store that is so well known to this day among Napa natives. Fagiani ran the establishment until his death in 1969 when he passed the ownership on to his daughters Muriel Fagiani and Anita Andrews.
Reluctant bar owners, Andrews and Fagiani worked their respective jobs during the day and took turns running the bar at night. On the night of July 9, 1974, Andrews was running the bar at closing time. Bar patrons reported seeing Andrews talking with a lone, sandy-haired man who remained as the last patron in the bar at closing time. This was the last time Anita Andrews was seen alive and the last time anyone in Napa County saw the sandy-haired man for over 30 years.
The following morning, Muriel Fagiani, responding to a report from Andrew’s employer that she had not shown up for work that day, went to check on the bar. She found the front doors unlocked and saw immediately that the doors leading to the backroom, which were usually left open, were closed tight. Inside the rear room Fagiani discovered her sister, dead since the previous night from multiple stab wounds.
From the start police had little to go on in their pursuit of the killer. Andrew’s Cadillac was discovered missing and her credit card was used once at a gas station San Joaquin County, but after that the trail went cold. To this day no one knows what happened to Andrew’s Cadillac, license plate UGA 370.
Muriel kept the bar open a while longer, but closed the establishment abruptly in 1976, leaving the building padlocked and largely untouched. For more than thirty years pedestrians walking down Main St. could peer into the windows of Fagiani’s and see a kind of time capsule of the mid-seventies including half-empty liquor bottles, stacked bar glasses, and dusty stools lined up next to the bar.
Over the years there were many theories as to what happened on that summer night in 1974. Some thought an ex-boyfriend who ran off with a traveling carnival was involved. Others believed that the notorious Zodiac killer might be responsible. It was not until 2010 that a break in the case came. Years-old DNA evidence recovered from a cigarette butt left in a bar ashtray led to a match with Roy Melanson, a convicted murderer and career criminal serving time in a Colorado prison. In 2011 in Napa Superior Court Melanson was convicted for Anita Andrews’s murder and sentenced by Judge Ray Guadagni to serve another life term.
In 2007 the building was sold to Steven and Johanna Hasty. They undertook a substantial remodel, adding a rooftop dining area overlooking the Napa River, but preserving the building’s unique architectural features, including the original Fagiani’s sign, the Art Moderne tiles on the building’s first floor exterior, and the beautiful stonework which makes the building so notable among Napa’s commercial structures. The restaurant and bar were known respectively as The Thomas, after the building’s first tenant, and Fagiani’s Bar at the Thomas, after the family that made the building famous.
The Thomas saw itself briefly closed after the South Napa Earthquake in 2014 due to damage sustained by adjoining buildings on Brown St. It and five other restaurants were affected as inspectors worried that a building collapse on Brown might cause severe damage to buildings facing Main St. Within a few days the City of Napa withdrew their occupation ban, stating that the old Fagiani's building was likely too tall to sustain damage in the event of the collapse of a neighboring structure.
2015 saw the announcement that the building's lease holder, Avroko Hospitality Group would be removing the historic Fagiani's sign, reportedly because it had been damaged by trucks parking on Main St. Also announced was the decision to re-brand the restaurant and bar as Ninebark under the leadership of chef Matt Lightner.