Local History and Genealogy Notes

Friendly City Has A Birthday!

Sign advertising Rohnert Park Industrial Park 1958. Photo taken by Don Meacham. SCL 17428

Rohnert Park is celebrating their 50th anniversary with a parade, festival, fireworks and more on Saturday, September 15, 2012. For more details or to learn how to get involved visit www.RohnertPark50.org. In the meantime you may want to check out a recent Sonoma County Library acquisition - Images of America: Rohnert Park by Tim Danisi and the Rohnert Park Historical Society. Copies of the Rohnert Park Historical Society newsletter, known as the Rohnert Park Historian, dating from 2000-2002 are available Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library. Subjects mentioned in each newsletter have been entered into the Sonoma County History Index.  It was through the history index that I found a reference to the Steuben School (subject of my last post) in the January-March 2002 issue of the Rohnert Park Historian. If anyone has more recent additions of the newsletter, we'd gladly accept them as a donation.

Steuben School

This morning I was fortunate enough to visit the Sonoma County Archives which is managed by the Sonoma County Library. The Archives are located off of Highway 12 in Santa Rosa at Los Guillicos.  I was looking for blue prints for the Cotati School for a patron which I did - one set drawn in 1911 by Petaluma architect Brainerd Jones (1869-1945) and another dated 1923 prepared by San Francisco architect Norman Coulter (1875-1959) which depicts the building that is currently occupied by Cotati's City Hall and Historical Museum.  Finding the Cotati School plans was great, but there's more  - I also discovered a set of drawings for the  Steuben School which until now I was unaware had been designed by Brainerd Jones. The Steuben School was located at 5250 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa. According to the 2002 Winter Issue of the Rohnert Park Historian, the school was not only a place of learning, but also home to the Steuben Club from the 1930s until the 1950s.

Steuben School as it appeared in 1947. SCL Photo No. 15884

The school was purchased in 1952 by Jack Henninger (1899-1983) who converted it to a residence. Jack's wife, Inger Henninger (1917-2010), lived in the house until 2007. A gold star for the person that can tell me whether the house/school still stands.  

Petaluma Little League -- 1958

SCL Photo No. 32655

What better time than now to share this great photo as the Petaluma National Little League is competing for a place in the National Little League World Series to be held in Williamsport, PA beginning August 16th.

This is one of several Kodachrome transparencies (slides) loaned to the Library for scanning following a Petaluma Little League 50th Anniversary celebration held at Mario & John's Tavern on East D Street in 2007.

Aerial view of the Sonoma Marin Fairgounds and surrounding area in 1973. SCL Photo No. 307434

Thanks to Petaluma Argus Courier columnist and 2010 Good Egg, Harlan Osborne, we now know that the picture was taken in 1958 in the driveway of coach Mario Figone's driveway at 317 Wilson Street, Petaluma. The boys are Johnny Figone, Nino Pedrini, and Donnie Figone. 

Harlan also states, in a Petaluma Argus Courier dated February 27, 2007, that 1958 was the first year that the Petaluma Little League (no National back then) played at Kenilworth Park on a diamond located at the corner of East Washington Street and Fairgrounds Drive now occupied by the Petaluma Library. The Library was dedicated in July of 1976.

I Do!

The Petaluma Museum is hosting a fabulous exhibit called I Do! which features vintage wedding dresses and other associated textiles and artifacts related to Petaluma families. If you haven't seen it, consider putting it on your To Do! list. The exhibit runs until September 30, 2012.

Photo by Liz Cohee - July 25, 2012

Seeing Neyda Houx-Brown's dress brought to mind a photo owned by the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library in which Neyda is seated with her groom, Walter Clayton Brown,  in the backyard of Neyda's parent's home located at 241 Liberty Street, Petaluma where the couple was married on June 5, 1927. I might not have come across this photo had it not been for the fact that 241 Liberty Street was on a Heritage Homes of Petaluma House Tour in 2006. The Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library is a major resource when it comes to researching the history of a house. I do remember locating information on this property and the Houx family using city directories, HeritageQuestTM, Sanborn MapsR, and other materials found through the Library's online catalog. One such item being the photo of Neyda and Walter shown below.

SCL Photo No. 32683

Over the last several years Heritage Homes has produced some terrific tour booklets that come with the price of a ticket to the biennial event and the 2006 brochure is one of the best containing high quality images - both historic and current and is replete of history and architectural descriptions. This brochure and others dating back to 1978 are on file at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library. The next Heritage Homes tour is scheduled for September 16th. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Connie Hammerman at whammer@petalumanet.org or (707) 762-4701. Tour tickets will be available starting September 1st at the Petaluma Museum, Petaluma Visitor's Center, Tuscan Gardens and the Mail Depot - $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour. For more information go to www.heritagepetaluma.com.

Brain Teaser with a Historic Twist

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 Ancestry.com 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.