Forget Your Worldly Cares At Nepenthe Restaurant
By Mabel Plaskett
“Wherever you may go—New York, Mexico City or Tokyo—you meet people who know the Monterey Peninsula. And there’s a good chance they’ll ask you about Nepenthe. It’s a restaurant. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a church. The Victoria Nyanza is water falling over a cliff and Nepenthe is a restaurant.” (from an editorial in Monterey Herald, 1953).
Nepenthe stands on the site of the Log House, or rather is a fabulous addition to it. The Log House was built by Sam Trotter in 1925 for the “Trails Club” comprised of a group of business men of Carmel and San Francisco who purchased the land from the Post family. It served as a retreat for those seeking the peace and solitude found in the remote hills.
This was truly an isolated region as the coast road reached only to Posts at that time. The Trails Club was managed by a man named Fields who lived in Mule Canyon.
THE LATCH string was always out at the Log House and many people from all walks of life found refuge there over the years. Finally it was sold to Orson Wells but the famous actor never made it to his home and in 1947 Bill and Lolly Fassett took over the property and moved in with their five children.
Lolly Fassett, a remarkable woman, whose warm and friendly personality drew everyone to her, looked out on the magnificent vistas, the blue Pacific on one hand and the fastnesses of the Santa Lucias on the other and decided this was too vast, too wonderful to keep to themselves and they conceived the idea of Nepenthe.
Native redwood and adobe bricks were used for the building designed by Rowan Maiden a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was ingenuously executed and seems to belong to the ground it stands on.
“Nepenthe”, meaning surcease of sorrow, was mentioned in Poe’s poem “The Raven.”
“Quaff oh quaff this kind Nepenthe
And forget the last Lenore”
Nepenthe in its setting of incredible beauty, under the management of the friendly Fassetts caught on at once and soon became famous.
This little verse is printed on their menu:
“Forget your worldly cares
At Nepenthe’s gay pavilion
Where the Phoenix bird repairs
You’ll be feeling like a million.”
THEY TOOK the legendary Phoenix bird as their standard, it being a symbol of immortality.
Nepenthe has been a mecca for artists, actors and famous persons as well as local residents. They come to this congenial atmosphere to forget for a time all worldly care, to watch folk dancing on the broad pavilion or to listen to a concert by musicians of world fame.
Among the visitors to Nepenthe over the years were Jean Varda, Benny Bufano, Henry Miller, Sterling Hayden and family, Herb Caen, Editor Paul Smith, Steve Allen, Anthony Quinn, Alice Faye, Bing Crosby, Olivia de Haviland, Phil Harris, Patricia Morrison, Odetta, Adlai Stevenson, Kim Novak, and the Hon. Stanton Griffis former ambassador to Spain and a relative of the Fassetts. Harrydick Ross, Nicholas Rosevelt, Emile Norma and Brooks Clement, each famous in their line, still live in the neighborhood and are frequent visitors.
Nepenthe opens April first and closes the last day of October and is always closed Mondays. This rule is never broken.
Today the Fassetts may recall their early struggled followed by rewarding years and feel a sense of real achievement in the creation of Nepenthe, a restaurant.
Mabel Sans Plaskett was born in Coralitas near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountain area of California. Her father Edward Robert Sans ran a saw mill near Pacific Valley, along the Nacimiento – Ferguson road to the coast at Highway One. It was there she met Edward Abbott Plaskett, her husband. Mabel wrote about the coast and the pioneers of the 19th and 20th Centuries.