Local History and Genealogy Notes

Stolen Memorial - A Work of Art

Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Walnut Park, Petaluma 1995. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Over the past few days a number of newspaper articles have reported on how the Vietnam Veterans Memorial plaque at Petaluma's Walnut Park was stolen. This is sad news indeed. Absent from the coverage is that the plaque was of artistic significance having been created by Rosa Estebanez (1927-1991), an immensely gifted artist who called Petaluma home for 31 of her 64 years.

Estebanez’s life has been described as a remarkable story of courage, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit. Born in Cuba, Estebanez graduated from the National School of Art in Havana with a master’s degree in art and became the official sculptor for Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. In 1960, Estebanez left Cuba following the communist overthrow of Batista’s government.

Rosa Estebanez 1976 photo by Morrie Camhi. Photo donated to the SCL by Lynn Camhi

Estebanez arrived in the United States unable to speak English with her 10 year-old-son, Jorge, and a $5 bill in her purse. She chose to settle in Petaluma because she had a brother living there.

At first Estebanez worked as a chicken plucker at a local poultry plant before she was able to resume her art career. For a time she was employed part-time as a “re-toucher” at Decker’s Photo Studio. Estebanez also held a position with Kresky’s Sign, communicating with her supervisor through drawings and sign language. Estebanez taught classes privately and at night at Petaluma High School; led tours abroad, and created a prolific body of work, including murals, bas reliefs, sculpture, public statues, and paintings. In 1978 she joined the National Art Board of the American League of Pen Women. Estebanez also hosted a 7-part television series entitled “How to Sculpt with Rosa” on KQED’s Open Studio.

Most Petalumans know Estebanez’s work from the wristwrestling statute at the intersection of East Washington Street and Petaluma Boulevard North, the Helen Putnam Memorial at Putnam Plaza, and the Fred J.Wiseman Monument at Kenilworth Park. Estebanez also created a bust of General Vallejo and painted a portrait of Benecia Vallejo for the Old Adobe State Historic Park. Among Estebanez’s larger works is the mammoth state seal on the State of California building on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco and a large three dimensional plaque for the gates of the former St. Anthony’s Farm on Valley Ford Road. Additional examples of Estabanez’s work can be found at the Smithsonian American Art Museum online catalog.

According to James Bleifus, creator of the California Vietnam Memorial Project, there are over 90 memorials throughout the state, many designed by prominent regional artists such as Rosa Estebanez, a number of which have been defaced or neglected. This puts the Walnut Park Vietnam Veterans Memorial in a broader context.

Streamline-Style Building One of Petaluma's Sleekest

Mose Goldman (1881-1952) was a man who did things in a big way, whether it was his private residence or a commercial structure to house his Leader Department Store. In both cases, Goldman looked to San Francisco to find architects who would do him and his adopted city of Petaluma proud.

In 1924, Sylvain Schnaittacher designed Goldman's Mediterranean-inspired home at 1 Brown Court. In 1940 Goldman hired Hertzka and Knowles to design the largest and most modern building in the North Bay devoted entirely to ladies' wear. In later years this firm would gain recognition for its collaboration with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill on the Crown Zellerbach building, a San Francisco landmark.

The Leader Department Store under construction at the corner of Kentucky Street and Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA - 1941. SCL Photo No. 18324

Goldman may have selected Hertzka and Knowles because of their work, with local architect Cal Caulkins, on Santa Rosa's Rosenberg's Department Store in 1937. Considered by some to exemplify the technology of the future, a model of Rosenberg's was exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island.

Ground was broken for the Leader Department Store in January of 1941. William D. Rapp, a Santa Rosa builder, who later served on the Santa Rosa City Council, was awarded the construction contract after submitting a bid for $52,160.25 to complete the 19,000 square-foot structure that included a rooftop penthouse. G.M. Simonson was the consulting engineer.

The streamline design of the Leader Department Store mirrors the era in which it was built when efforts were made to draw people out of the dreariness of the Depression and into a promising future. The style was heavily influenced by the shapes of modern transportation that reflected the growth of speed and travel in the 1930s.

Carithers Department Store, Petaluma, CA. SCL Photo No. 18143

The style is founded on the idea that mass production and quality were not mutually exclusive. Rounded corners, flat roofs and unadorned surfaces that incorporated horizontal bands of windows to create a streamline effect were all included in the design of the Leader Department Store.

W.R. Carithers and Sons Inc. of Santa Rosa purchased the Leader Department Store from Goldman in 1946. In 1985, having sat vacant for a year or so, Carithers was sold to Terese and Mark Thomas who owned Couches, Etc., a Petaluma business since 1979.

After weathering 68 years of evolving retail trends, Hertzka and Knowles' original design stands as Petaluma's finest (and one of its last) examples of the streamline style and as such is a contributor to Petaluma's Downtown National Register District - a district significant for its broad spectrum of architectural styles that collectively present a visual history of Petaluma's commercial development.

Today the building is occupied by Sleep City. Plans for its alteration are underway following a City of Petaluma Planning Commission vote on December 11, 2012 (documents and audio/video recordings posted on the City of Petaluma website).

Note: A portion of this article first appeared in the Petaluma Magazine Winter 2009 edition.

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?

Petaluma Business Supports the WWII Effort With Coveralls

While going through my very large pile of items to be filed I came across a Petaluma Argus Courier article dated January 20, 1941, that describes how Goldstone Brothers, a garment manufacturer located at 300 Main Street (Petaluma Boulevard North), had signed a contract to supply the U.S. Government with 12,000 aviator coveralls within four to five months. The coveralls were to be assembled by 25 to 35 women and shipped to the quartermaster department at the Presidio in San Francisco and from there sent out to bases, ports and training fields across the United States.

300 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma CA. Photo taken by Katherine J. Rinehart - May 2012.

I've checked the Library's catalog and have yet to locate a picture of the factory or its employees.

Today the Goldstone Brothers building is occupied by Military Antiques and Museum. Wonder if they have any Petaluma made coveralls on display?

It's Cheese Country!

Trays of Sonoma Jack Cheese, Sonoma, Calif. 1972. Photo taken by Don Meacham. SCL Photo 22862.


So often we hear Sonoma County referred to as "The Wine Country" which is great, but we are also known for a whole host of other things including cheese. We just added The Guide to West Coast Cheese to our collection here at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library. The book is written by Sasha Davies and was published by Timber Press in 2010.  I found 16 Sonoma County cheesemakers listed. Pretty impressive. The names, which range from Achadinha Cheese Company in Petaluma to Vella Cheese Company in Sonoma, will be added to the Sonoma County History Index. The Library has a large number of dairy related images, in fact if you go the Sonoma Heritage Collection you will find the Northbay Dairy Collection which includes many photos from the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery and Clover Stornetta as well as from individual dairy families. The only pictures we have that depict cheese making specifically are those associated with the Sonoma Cheese Factory and those are from the 1970s. This seems odd as we know that cheese making has been going on in Sonoma County for many years. For example, in 1874 there was the Petaluma Cheese Manufactory, which was located on the Petaluma Creek, about one mile south of town and known as "the only cheese manufactory based on the eastern principle, in the state of California." The proprietors of this business were A. Killan and J. Payne and their advertisement in L.L. Paulson's 1874 Handbook and Directory of the Pacific Coast claimed that they were "prepared to manufacture 1200 gallons per day, into cheese weighing from 10 lbs. to 70 lbs." A year or so ago I assisted a patron who was researching the history of Cantels Cheese Factory which according to Petaluma As Seen Through the Eyes of Bill Lewis was located south of Petaluma at the foot of Hein's Rockcrusher. Today we might describe that area as being at the foot of the housing development - Quarry Heights. It occurs to me now that the Petaluma Cheese Manufactory and Cantels Cheese Factory might have been one in the same - although Cantels wasn't established until 1918. Unfortunately we do not have a photo of either establishment.