The Belvoir was built by Giles and Emily (Nana) Chittenden. Emily and Giles were neighbors in Marysville when they met and married in 1868. Soon after, they bought a sheep ranch near Willits in Mendocino County. They sold it to Giles' brother in 1879 and moved to Oakland where they lived until purchasing the Belvoir property. The size of the original parcel was 150 acres, purchased for $3,556. The Belvoir adjoined property owned by Emily Chittenden's cousin, Emily Parson Mayhews.
The original single story Belvoir was built in 1884. Three bedrooms were added above the milk room on the back of the house and two rooms above the living room with only a skylight for light and air. There was a glassed-in porch on the original house that ran around three sides of the house. The rock walls were built with rocks hauled in by horse and wagon from Alameda Creek. The barn in back of the house had two carriage sheds and stalls for 6 horses and 10 cows. The chicken house was located where cottage #4 now stands. The basement was finished in 1902 and had a special room for bicycles. There were bicycle races around the San Francisco Bay before all the bridges were built and the Belvoir was one of the stopping-off points were the riders spent the night.
The property was operated as a farm but soon also a summer camp for friends from Oakland, a destination resort, a boarding house for school teachers, Southern Pacific employees, and "many commercial men." Niles was a busy train junction with 24 passenger trains a day stopping in town. The "commercial men" would rent a horse and buggy in town, make their rounds and then come to the Belvoir to stay. Also, the summer encampment became popular with friends of the Chittenden's from Oakland. There were four permanent platforms for tents. The families would come to the Belvoir for the summer with their children for the "farm" experience. The encampment was much larger after the 1906 earthquake when many people came to the Belvoir after having been displaced.
The following is an account of life at the Belvoir in the early days written by Marie Bishop. She was the grandchild of Giles and Nana and came to the Belvoir along with three older sisters and a younger brother after her parents were divorced in 1901.
"We all had to help the Chinese cook peel vegetables, etc. The cook was in the kitchen at 5am. We frequently had to get people of the 7am train. That meant having a horse and buggy ready. One and sometimes two hired men did the milking and took care of the horses and buggies. Should one of us be laid up, the rest of us filled in for them.
Tables had to be set, people waited on, beds made, rooms cleared, water and slops taken care from the bedrooms. Fruit had to be picked and canned, nuts had to be picked up and shelled.
On special days, like Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, we always had paper nut cups with salted almonds at each place. On Easter Sunday the butter was made into individual Calla lilies. Nana had many "would be" relatives who paid frequent visits. They helped with making soap, canning, baking, and salads in summer. Before the house was remodeled (1913) we had three tables in the dinning room which would sear 14 each. During the week, one was usually enough. We children usually ate in the kitchen.
The ironing seemed endless. We used tablecloths and napkins - no paper stuff. We had the irons that were heated on the stove until 1912 when we got our first electric iron It was very heavy.
The restaurant and hotel were closed in the 1920's. Nana began to travel and the hotel became a boarding house run by other families. Nana died in 1930 at the home of one of her grandchildren."
In 1912 the first telephone was installed. The Belvoir had a six-party line. The pone number was "2." In 1913 the Belvoir was remodeled and the second story was added. When the Belvoir was remodeled, the mode of serving dinner was changed from long tables and family style to the more intimate small tables. A player piano was added and all of the new hotel rooms upstairs had sinks - a luxury at the time. It was during this period when the film industry was starting in Niles and such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Beery and Ben Turpin came to the Belvoir to dine and kick up their heels. The actors had to behave themselves in town, but they could come up to the Belvoir and let their hair down. The hotel register from 1913 - 1918 reveals the entire production company from Essanay Film frequented the Belvoir Springs.
In the 1930's the Clarke Grifin family moved in and the Rotary Club began having their luncheons at the Belvoir. The Rotary Club met at the Belvoir from 1937 to 1944. In 1950 the property was sold to Joseph and Louise Grimshaw. They opened a Nursery where the Niles Gate sub-development now stands. One of the current tenants rented a room from Mrs. Grimshaw in the early 1970's. The rooms upstairs were rented while Mrs. Grimshaw lived on the main floor.
Many years later, in 1994 the Richardson's and Colin Young purchased the property. After much renovation and restoration, the Belvoir Springs Hotel has once again returned to splendor.
Continuing the traditions of the Belvoir, the Richardsons regularly host meetings and events for the Niles community. Today's register shows the familiar names of business property owners and local politicians who meet at the Belvoir to coordinate and influence the continued renovations of the Historic District of Niles.