Pattea Torrence, owner of Old Edna Townsite, was recently acknowledged by the California Legislature Assembly for her dedication to helping resurrect and revitalize the community of Old Edna and preserving its rich history. She received a certificate of recognition from Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian last week in praise of her work over the past 14 years. The gesture was a complete surprise.
“I’ve tried many things in my life: riding horses, playing drums and guitar and singing,” Torrence said. “I didn’t seem to excel in those things. Then I realized how much I love to refurbish old things. So receiving recognition for my efforts for revitalizing Old Edna is very rewarding. It’s the first time I’ve ever received any kind of official recognition.”
Originally introduced to the property in the 1970s, Torrence fell in love with the property as a child. When the opportunity came to purchase the historic site in 2000, she and her husband, Jeff Kocan, purchased it. With 11 structures at Old Edna, their projects began with the most historic building on site, Edna Hall, now home to Sextant Wines Tasting Room. Torrence then refurbished the main farmhouse, Suite Edna, and DeSolina Cottage into vacation rentals where guests can stay and enjoy the Edna Valley wine country.
Historical records of Edna Valley can be traced back to the 1840’s when the Corral de Piedra land grant was awarded to Jose Maria Villavicencia by the Mexican government. When the townsite was bustling with commerce and activity, it became a provision-supply center to travelers in covered wagons making their way to the beach.
Despite the available historical records, an ongoing question still remains unanswered. Where did the name Edna come from? Since the valley holds much name recognition as prized wine country, local historians have come up with a few possible answers. In 1887, a widower with three small children by the name of Lynford Maxwell became the postmaster at Old Edna Townsite. He set up the post office building that doubled as Tipton’s Butcher Shop. Maxwell eventually purchased more acreage from the Steele Brothers and made plans to develop a town named “Maxwellton.” Allegedly, the United States postal authorities rejected the name because it was too lengthy. Some historians presume that Maxwell then chose Edna in honor of one of his daughters or granddaughters.
Other theories of the town’s namesake may have come from Edgar Steele’s prized brown mare named Edna, or a German nun, Sister Edna, who courageously broke up brawls among the cattlemen in the town’s saloons. The name may have been attributed to a woman who provided her services in the “Crib” located on the property.
Torrence has taken on a serious responsibility as co-steward of Old Edna. When asked what she loves most about owning the town, she happily replied, “I love going to work every day. I don’t even go to the beach anymore.” She added, “I remember the day we closed escrow like it was yesterday. We purchased the property from the Ahearn and Wendt families. Driving to my own little town on Old Price Canyon Road, I realized then that not only had I committed to a project that may take a few good years, I’d also bought in on a lifestyle that suited me quite well. The excitement of the day is still with me, and I believe it always will be.”
“She (Old Edna) and I are old friends, I scratch her back and she scratches mine!” Torrence said.