Just 33 miles from San Francisco, six structures—all built in the early 1800’s and within the City of Sonoma—comprise Sonoma State Historic Park.
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Twenty minutes from Sonoma Plaza, Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park adds another layer of understanding to early California history.
A small admission charge (currently $3) is required for self-guided tours of the Sonoma Mission, Sonoma Barracks, Vallejo's Home (Lachryma Montis) and nearby Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.
Docent Conducted Tours of the Mission, Vallejo Home, Toscano Hotel and Kitchen and Petaluma Adobe are available on some Fridays and Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays. You can also view, but not enter, the Blue Wing Inn and the Servants Quarters.
Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma
Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma was founded on July 4, 1823 by a young, ambitious, and impatient Father Jose Altimira in a controversial plan to replace the existing missions at San Francisco and San Rafael. The Sonoma Mission was the twenty-first, last, most northern and only California Mission established after Mexico's independence from Spain.
Visitors to the Sonoma Mission can take a self guided tour through the Bell Room, Dining Room, Chapel and Courtyard.
Paintings of California Missions by Chris Jorgensen as they existed in 1903–05 are on display in what was once the dining room at Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma.
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features a California Missions Museum with detailed mission models originally built for the 1939 Worlds Fair on Treasure Island in San Francisco.
Among the oldest of the historic buildings around the plaza, Sonoma Barracks was built by General Vallejo in 1836 to house Mexican soldiers.
Expeditions to subdue natives were launched from this adobe building. It was also briefly used as the headquarters of the Bear Flag Party in 1846.
The building—across the street from Sonoma Mission on the northeast corner of the square—is open to the public and is furnished as it would have been in the 1840's.
A wood frame building next to the Sonoma Barracks on the north side of the plaza was built in the 1850's and housed a retail store and rental library.
Later known as the "Eureka" when it became an inexpensive hotel the name changed to "Toscano" around 1890 when many of its customers were Italian immigrants.
The downstairs lobby, upstairs bedrooms and other rooms at the Toscano Hotel are furnished with period furniture much as they might have been at the turn of the century.
The kitchen and dining room, in a separate building in back, are also furnished with period furniture and finishes. The buildings are open to the public during limited times for Sonoma SHP Docent Conducted Tours.
La Casa Grande (servant's quarters)
About the same time as the Sonoma Barracks was being built General Vallejo's first home in Sonoma was constructed in the middle of the block. Eleven Vallejo children were born in the imposing building with its second story balcony overlooking the square.
It was here also that the general was confronted by leaders of the Bear Flag Party on the morning of June 14, 1846. After the revolt parts of the building were used for a retail store, city council chamber and as a girls school.
Most of the building was destroyed in a fire in 1862 with a two-story servant's wing all that survives.
The Blue Wing Inn
Under renovation and not open to the public a two-story adobe building across E Spain Street from the Sonoma Mission got its name, The Blue Wing Inn, from a Gold Rush era gambling saloon and hotel.
Portions of the building, originally built to house soldiers assigned to the mission, were joined together with a second story added later. Lotta Crabtree and Ulysses S. Grant (before becoming president) are said to have visited the Blue Wing Inn.
Lachryma Montis—Vallejo's last home
One half mile from Sonoma Square on W. Spain Street General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, then a California State Senator, built a home on a sixty acre estate he purchased in 1850. Grape vines, fruit trees, a large barn, pavilions, houses for workers and various outbuildings graced the property.
A spring on the property called Chiucuyem "crying mountain" by Native Americans was translated into Latin by Vallejo as Lachryma Montis "mountain tear."
Visitors can tour the Gothic-style American-Victorian home which was built on the east coast and transported via sailing ship around Cape Horn and reconstructed on the site in 1851. Many furnishings were imported from Europe.
A limited supply of skilled labor during the Gold Rush years accounts for the popularity of "prefab" buildings during that era. A building near the main house and originally used as a warehouse to store wine, fruit and produce is now serving as a museum and interpretive center. Known as the "Swiss Chalet," it was constructed with prefabricated timbers imported from Europe and bricks that might have been used as ballast on sailing ships.
Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park
The Petaluma Adobe is a 20 minute drive from Sonoma Plaza. This two-story adobe building encircled by a veranda is all that remains of the vast Ranch de Petaluma owned by Commandant General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.
Once the largest and most prosperous private rancho in Mexican northern California the surviving building was part of a larger complex which employed hundreds of Indian laborers on the 66,000 acre Rancho Petaluma.
Visitors can walk the slanted (so that rain flows away from the adobe) veranda, see period furniture, visit the small museum and learn about life at the rancho.
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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2013 Lee W. Nelson
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