About Bertha Cole
In telling the story of La Casa Rosa and the original proprietor, Bertha Campbell Cole, it is important to know that both her mother and father were California pioneers, coming across the plains, though not in the same wagon trains. Bertha's father's family, the Campbells, came through the Sierras to Sacramento and ultimately to Sonoma. Her mother's family, the Smiths, crossed through Salt Lake, then the Oregon Trail, and eventually from Oregon by boat along the Pacific Coast to the Bay Area, settling in Sonoma.
Bertha was born in Sonoma November 28, 1876. She lived there with her family until 1902; her older brother prevailed upon her to accompany his wife to Philippines, where he was working as a building contractor. She taught school in Manila for two years, when she was invited to take a trip to Shanghai. There, she met and married Frank Cole, a mining engineer. Cole's engineering jobs took them to many exotic places - to the interior of China (Harbin and Peking, among others) Java, Northern Japan, North Korea, Siberia, the Ural Mountains, even North Vietnam. They returned home in 1927 and retired to Carmel.
In 1935, needing to supplement their income, Bertha located a vacant hotel in San Juan Bautista, California, renovated it, painted it Pink and named it "La Casa Rosa". She opened it as a tea room, serving a special Mexican dish, "California Casserole", a recipe given to her aunts, "The Smith Sisters", by the daughter of General Vallejo, who had been commandant of the town of Sonoma, before California became a state. Mrs. Cole's clientele was very select, movie stars and wealthy people from Carmel. Soon after her husband's death in late 1940's, she retired to Palo Alto. Bertha passed away August 19, 1961.