One of the first things you should look for when you begin researching the history of your Petaluma home is to see if it was included in Dan Peterson's Petaluma Historic Resource Surveywhich was completed in 1977. The survey is not comprehensive. It's aim was to identify architectural resources that give Petaluma "its essential character." Because of this when Peterson and his volunteers came across a street inhabited by several houses exhibiting the same architectual style having all been constructed around the same time period he chose to survey a sampling rather than the whole block. Even if your home was one of those not included in the survey, you should find the document of use in gaining a general understanding of your neighborhood's history - if your neighborhood is included in the survey. Should your house be included, you will likely discover some useful information, but keep in mind that not all of the information may be factual and additional research will be required. A case in point is the Dranit home at 16 Sixth Street which is described on the form as having been constructed in 1916 by Frank Lepley for Mrs. Myrtle Winans who had an existing house on property moved to the rear of her lot to accomodate the new house.
The house was built for Myrtle Winans who did have an existing house moved when her new home was built. Historic maps confirm this; however, the rest of the facts may not be accurate. According to a July 8, 1914, Petaluma Argus article the house at 16 Sixth Street was built by H.S. McCargar, not Frank Lepley and was designed by Brainerd Jones. Here is the text from that article: "Contractor H.S. McCargar has been awarded the contract by Mrs. Myrtle Winans for the construction of an elegant new two story Colonial home on her property on Sixth Street and will begin work in a few days. The home was designed by Brainerd Jones and will be one of the prettiest and most convenient in the city and will be of plaster exterior. It will be full two story of seven rooms and sleeping deck and it will include every sanitary and labor saving device and will be a credit to the city. The old home will be moved back on Post Street having been purchased by Ed D. Hedges, who will put it in shape for renting purposes to desirable tenants. The new home will grace one the select sections of the residence district." It's interesting that the article describes the house as being stucco when the house today as it was in 1977 has shiplap siding. Perhaps there was a change of mind between the time McCargar got the contract and the house was built. Given that this information conflicts with the survey form, I'd want to follow the story forward. What happened after July 8, 1914? Is there an article that describes the completed house? Is it possible that despite this initial story, that in the end Mrs. Winans decided to wait until 1916 to build her new house - hiring Frank Lepley to do the work? Inquiring minds would want to know.