A Study of Petaluma’s Architecture Leads to Interesting Discoveries

Sketch of the United Methodist Church – Petaluma Argus Courier 85th Anniversary & Progress Edition – May 9, 1941.

Vincent G. Raney, AIA of San Francisco designed Petaluma’s United Methodist Church, which is located at the northeast corner of D and Fifth Streets, in 1941.

A quick search using Ancestry.com and other web sites including those associated with the Construction Specifications Institute and Rediscovered Paper brought fourth some interesting information about Vincent G. Raney (1905-2001).

Mr. Raney was born in Martin County, Indiana on October 17, 1905, to Francis and Ruth (Gootee) Raney. It was while working alongside his father, a building contractor, that Vincent learned about construction techniques. Following high school, he attended the University of Indiana, then received a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1929. He also attended the University of Arizona in 1930.

Raney worked for H.G. Atherton in Anderson, Indiana; and for Frederick H. Reimers, Masten & Hurd, and William I. Garren in San Francisco, 1930-36.

Ray Watanabee’s colored pencil sketch of the Kuhio Theatre Raney designed in 1941 for Consolidated Amusement. http://www.rediscoveredpaper.com/chinatown.html

In 1937, Raney started his own company, under his name. He specialized in buiding and design of multiplex theaters for Snyfy Enterpries. The Cinema Treasures web site lists 36. Including the Kuhio Theatre in Honolulu.

Another speciality of Raney’s were service stations. He designed more than six hundred service stations for the Associated Oil Company of San Francisco.

In 1939, Raney designed a house for the Golden Gate Exposition at Treasure Island. Notable for its high ceilings, floor-to-floor ceiling windows, and access to a garden from almost every room, it was named the Sunshine House. It was sold in a raffle, with tickets costing one dollar. The home was built to encourage home building and buying after the Depression. The winners sold the house immediately for $7,000. It sold for $845,000 in 2004 (San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 2004, page G1 & G10).

After World War II, Raney got involved in designing affordable tract homes for returning GIs.

We may never know what brought Vincent Raney to Petaluma to design a church, but it is fun to have this background information. I’ll never look at the Methodist Church the same way again. Are there other Raney designs to be found in Petaluma?

About Katherine J. Rinehart

Katherine J. Rinehart received a MA in History from Sonoma State University in 1994. For the past 19 years, Ms. Rinehart has worked in various positions within the fields of Cultural Resource Management and Historic Preservation and is currently employed by the Sonoma County Library where she has worked in the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Department since 2002. Katherine is the author of Petaluma: A History in Architecture, a contributor to Celebrating Petaluma published by the Petaluma Sesquicentennial Committee and the Petaluma Visitors Program. Ms. Rinehart is an occasional contributor to the Press Democrat and is proud to be a Petaluma Good Egg.
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