George Watriss had enjoyed an extraordinary reputation as hotelier and restauranteur, opening the Astor House in New York and the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, before coming to San Francisco in 1851. He worked for a while at Moffat & Co., the most important assaying and minting operation in San Francisco while, like many householders in San Francisco, the Watriss family rented rooms of their home to boarders. Then they took over management of the fashionable Oriental Hotel, which figured largely in the social, economic and political development of early San Francisco.
Then, on February 15, 1858, Martha Watriss wrote to her son in New York: “A farm or ranch was offered for sale in Sonoma containing six hundred and forty acres or a mile square called the Hooker Ranch for the sum of ten thousand dollars… your father and Frank Brown went to look at it and found it every thing it was represented. It is situated about two mile from the City of Sonoma, bounded on one side by Sonoma Creek where plenty of salmon trout are caught and on one side by mountains and on the other sides by splendid large oak trees laid out they say like a fine park; so you see there is plenty of wood and water, and there are plenty of people who have spent weeks at the farm that declare it to be the Paradise of California.”
With that the Watriss family relocated to the Valley of the Moon, and their home inevitably became a popular social gathering place in the growing community over the following years.