Local History and Genealogy Notes
Posted on September 08, 2012
I was sadden to hear the news that thieves stole an American flag from Dairyman’s Feed in Petaluma for the third time this year. Now the owners have decided to only fly the flag on September 11th (Mary Callahan, Press Democrat, 9/7/12).
Dairyman’s Feed is without a doubt one of Petaluma’s most important landmarks that provides a visual reminder of the importance agriculture is to this community - both past and present.
With so much attention being given to the flag theft I thought perhaps sharing a bit of history of the building might be welcome.
The Poultry Producers of Central California (PPCC), an agricultural cooperative association that was established in 1916, began construction of the mill and associated buildings that we know today as Dairyman’s Feed in September of 1937.
According to a Press Democrat article, the mill was “towering majestically to a height of 170 feet” and changing the skyline view of east Petaluma and “eclipsing all other buildings in Sonoma County" by March of 1938.
The fireproof steel and concrete building and its equipment cost approximately $500,000 and had bin storage for 25,000 tons of grain. The 11 story structure was erected under the supervision of John Thompson of Jones-Hettelsater Construction Co. of Kansas City, MO., designers and builders of grain elevators, warehouses and feed plants.
A side note about Jones-Hettelsater Construction is that several of the grain elevators that they built in Garfield County, Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s are part of the Enid Terminal Grain Elevators National Register Historic District.
When the PPCC went bankrupt in 1964 many local farmers and ranchers lost their life savings which they had invested in the cooperative. The plant sat vacant until 1982, when Dairyman’s Feed moved their operation from 256 Petaluma Boulevard North (now home to Kodiak Jack’s) to the old PPCC facility.
Dave Soren, a native of Russia who trained as a cabinetmaker and immigrated to Canada in 1912 and to the United States in 1922, established Dairymen’s Feed & Supply Cooperative in 1959.
The Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library has over 50 images showing the PPCC/Dairyman's Feed complex being constructed as well as a large collection of books related to the history of Petaluma's dairy and poultry industry including copies of Nulaid News. Nulaid was the brand name of the PPCC eggs.
Posted on September 05, 2012
The house at 622 Walnut Street, Petaluma came to my attention several years ago while researching the history of my own Petaluma home which I suspected to have been constructed in 1912. As I scanned the Petaluma Agrus and the Petaluma Daily Courier (it wasn't until until 1928 that the two papers became one) looking for articles about the construction of our house I saw a headline that read: "New Home in the Hill Section" in a May 13, 1912, Petaluma Argus. We live on the flat land so I knew it wasn't our house, but my curiosity was piqued.
The article described how a well known local contractor, J.P. Hanson, had "commenced work on a beautiful new bungalow for Mr. and Mrs. E. Boersing on their property at the corner of West and Walnut Streets."
The article doesn't provide the street address, but it was simple enough to look up the name Boersing in a city directory for Petaluma. Low and behold there is an Ernest Boersing, a clerk for Newburgh & Company, listed as living at 622 Walnut Street in 1913.
By 1940, Ernest and his wife Eloise Boersing had moved to Oakland and the house at 622 Walnut Street was owned and occupied by Ralph and Louise Allison. Ralph worked for Pedranti Garage at 244 Main Street (Petaluma Blvd. North).
There is more to be learned about this house and other Sonoma County buildings. If that is the kind of thing that interests you then be sure to visit the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library at 211 E Street in Santa Rosa.
In the meantime if you are looking to purchase a piece of history then you will want to contact Robert and Elaine Ramirez of Century 21 Bundesen who are the listing agents. The house at 622 Walnut Street is offered at $395,000.
Posted on September 04, 2012
The other night I gave a talk on how Petaluma's agricultural heritage is reflected in its architecture. While discussing hatcheries several audience members were reminded of the Mortensen Hatchery which they thought was on Baker Street, but weren't quite sure. Jan Rodd, who brought up the subject, went home and looked at a city directory for 1963 and found a listing for Mortensen Hatchery at 620 Baker Street.
I followed up on this information and what should have been a simple research project became something else altogether.Mortensen Hatchery was indeed on Baker Street, but its address was not always 620. Different sources give the address as 632 and 634 Baker Street. It also appears to have backed up to and been attached to the White Hatchery which was addressed as 219 Bodega Avenue.The White Hatchery was established around 1910 by Jay L. White, the son of a Michigan farmer, and had a hatching capacity of 35,000 eggs according to Thea Lowry in her book Empty Shells: The Story of Petaluma, America's Chicken City.
The Mortensen Hatchery appears to have been founded by Weaver J. Mortensen, a native of Nebraska, in 1944. Mr. Mortensen was no stranger to the poultry business having worked the previous 20 years or so for the Bonded Chick Hatcheries as well as the Pioneer and White Hatcheries.I have yet to figure out if the White Hatchery and Mortensen Hatchery ever operated as one hatchery, but what I have discovered is that both buildings were torn down in 1993. Today two homes occupy the former Mortensen Hatchery site.The site of White Hatchery has been incorporated into the back yards for the two homes on Baker Street.
Posted on August 31, 2012
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.
Posted on August 18, 2012
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.
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.