This site pays homage to the original and very popular LGBT Resort, The Woods  and Hexagon House from the period between 1978-90 in Guerneville,
Sonoma County, California.


This site first published on April 18, 2016.

Remembering The Woods Original Russian River Resort and Hexagon House

 Logo adopted by the resort for all their advertising.

 The Woods Russian River Resort, the original, is now merely a footnote in the annals of Gay California history. Even the beloved Hexagon House, the place that offered up some many weekend nights of fun and entertainment burned to the ground under rather mysterious circumstances on June 26, 1991. One thing is certain, the memory of the place lives strong in the hearts and minds of those who lived the dream back in the heyday! For those of you who were lucky enough to have been there, to have been part of the magic, this webpage is dedicated to you! Hopefully the things you find within these pages will spark some wonderful memories...

We know there are many of you out there who search the internet for information regarding the original Woods Resort and the Hexagon House to no avail. One good reason for your futile seaches might have to due with the fact that while everyone was having so much fun, no one bothered to record the events for posterity! Well, don't fret, that's where we come in!

My name is Michael Mayer, and my partner (spouse), Carl Bruno, was one of the three owners who began creating the dream at the end of Armstrong Woods Road  in Guerneville, California in 1978. Carl is old-school, which loosely translates into him not being all that computer savvy. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to bring all of this information together. Naturally, Carl will be providing the  scrapbooks and, of course, his vivid rememberances. Here we will offer up all the information that is still available from the original owners and originators of The Woods.

Back then, owner Carl Bruno (center), speaks with friends at The Woods.
Present-day Carl Bruno (right) and partner, Michael Mayer with the first two of their three adopted sons, at home in Palm Springs.

What Really Happened To The Hexagon House?

The hexagon shaped pad circled at lower right in the image below appears to be the original hexagonal dance floor of the famously gay resort in Guerneville called The Woods. The eclectic Hexagon House (building) that stood over the dance floor was designed and built by Gordon Herr in 1949 as part of an artist community called Pond Farm. Herr, an architect and his writer wife, Jane, used Hexagon House as the central classroom building as a classroom for students participating in Pond Farm summer programs. The main hexagon building was flanked by cabins for student housing. Gordon Herr lost the property in the late 1950s after the death of his wife and having lost interst in the project. The Hexagon House became the restaurant part of a popular resort of the same name under new ownership. In addition to the hexagon shaped flagstone floor, it appears that the c.1960s motel building still stands on the site (the L-shaped building next to the pool in the photo).

In 1978, the Hexagon House Resort was purchased by new owners (Carl Bruno, Gene Arnaiz Jr. and Al Knopka), who established the site, within two years, as one of Guerneville’s most famous gay resorts, drawing crowds in the thousands on popular weekends. The Woods had two pools, one clothing optional, a motel-style hotel building, several dozen cabins scattered through the trees, two dining areas, several bars, and one very notorious hot tub... The great room in the Hexagon House was transformed into an incredible dance floor, with sound that reverberated from the rich wood walls and ceiling.
According to a 2005 blog by Glen Gertmenian, “At night, masses of shirtless men would fill the dance floor, where every disco star of the day would perform. Sylvester was a regular. So were Angela Clemmons, Anita Ward and every other 'one hit wonder' with a popular song at the time."
By the late 1980's, the Aids epidemic had taken its toll on the Russian River and the visiting summer crowds began to deminish. In 1990, Carl Bruno and his partners saw the writing on the wall and sold The Woods. The Hexagon House burned to the ground in 1991, apparently caused by an electrical fire, despite speculation of arson. In 1996, arsonists set fire to the 21-room lodge, causing $200,000 in damage. The Woods closed shortly thereafter.
A detailed Chronicle article regarding the fire that completely destroyed the Hexagon House on June 26, 1991.
A 1964 artist's rendering of the Hexagon House, which was built in 1949.
How The Woods Came To Be?
The Woods was located at the very end of Armstrong Woods Road, on approximately 5 acres of land bordering Armstrong Woods State Park. The property had previously been operated as the Hexagon House. When the new owners Carl Bruno, Gene Arnaiz Jr. and Al Knopka purchased the property in 1978, they continued using the name Hexagon House until 1981. At that time and under the same ownership, the resort became The Woods, catering to a predominantly gay clientele.
The main building, built in 1949, was one of a kind; a wooden masterpiece. At nearly three stories high, the building's open hexagon-shaped atrium great room had a peaked roof held aloft with gigantic Douglas fir poles and sported a giant stone fireplace. Just off the great room was a small cabaret room. The main building had first been a central building for classes as a part of Pond Farm, an artist's enclave. After that, the hexagon shaped great room housed a a fine dining restaurant as part of Hexagon House Resort. This building continued to be utilized as a fine dining restaurant by the new owners until 1981. In that year, along with the name change to The Woods,  the great room in the building was transformed into a dance floor to accomodate the Disco craze which had already been the rage for several years. Owners Carl, Gene and Al hired lighting and sound people, and The Woods Resort was off and running in a new and exciting way. The popularity of the resort took hold immediately with the growing Gay population in Guerneville. For evening enjoyment there was cabaret entertainment; the only of its kind on the River! The dance hall, formerly known as the Hexagon House, provided not only a spectacular sound and light show, but also top name performers. The Club Room offered a fireplace lounge with large screen TV and the latest in video games.

After the addition of wood flooring over the flagstone, the great room in the Hexagon House, a former fine dining restaurant, suddenly became a world class disco dance floor.

Sylvester, San Francisco's own, performs at The Woods.
Old Photos Of The Woods

Have a look at a collection of Carl Bruno's old photos from The Woods Russian River Resort! These are sure to bring back some memories... See The Woods Photo Page to view the entire collection.

View the Hexagon House Resort Original Brochure

The resort was named The Hexagon House before becoming The Woods...
View or download the entire 8 page brochure here as a .PDF file...

Hexagon House Resort Brochure.PDF Hexagon House Resort Brochure.PDF
Size : 7985.445 Kb
Type : PDF

In Loving Memory

We dedicate this site to the loving memories of The Woods owners, Gene Arnaiz Jr. and Al Knopka...
Gene Arnaiz Jr.
June 20, 1952-April 30, 1993
Al Knopka
August 23, 1939-June 5, 2008

 

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