Brain Teaser with a Historic Twist

Submitted by krinehart on July 23, 2012 - 11:59am

709 Fifth Street, Petaluma, CA July 22, 2012. Photo taken by Katherine J. Rinehart

Some people enjoy crossword puzzles, Scrabbletm or Sudoku as a way to keep their minds sharp. For me I prefer brain teaser with a historic twist.

While working at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library I’m often scanning microfilm copies of old newspapers for one reason or another. In addition to locating whatever it is I have set out to find I also like to keep an eye out for articles that relate to the construction of a building. I do this because newspapers are often the only place one will find the date of construction, name of architect and contractor for a building. By noting such articles and making sure the information is entered into the Library’s Sonoma County History Index then someone in the future researching a particular property or person will find this reference.

For example I recently came across the following item in the April 8, 1931, edition of the Petaluma Argus Courier:


Mrs. J. Lauritzen of Paula Lane has awarded the contract to Fred L. Wayne to erect a modern stucco bungalow on her lot on Fifth Street, below I, opposite the Adams Cottages. Wayne will start work at once on the home, which according to the plans, will be one of the most attractive in that part of the city. The bungalow will contain five rooms with every convenience of a modern home. Mr. and Mrs. Lauritzen, who are now on the Hoelfeldt ranch, will move to town at the completion of their new home.

This little article is chock-full of information, but the street address is missing and this is where the detective work comes in.

City directories and census were no help so next I went to the California Death Index which is available online through Roots Web and found that there was a Johanna I. Lauritzen who died in Sonoma County on August 27, 1969. On a hunch I checked the Petaluma Argus Courier for an obituary and there on August 28, 1969, page 5 was an obit for Johanna Lauritzen who was described as living at 709 Fifth Street at the time of her death! Google Street View and a field trip confirmed that a stucco house is still standing at 709 Fifth Street and is located just below I Street.

Of course this “game” could continue. Using and other resources available at the Library I could learn a lot more about the Lauritzen family as well as Fred L. Wayne--not to mention the significance of the “Adams Cottages” but I’ll leave that for someone else.




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