Local History and Genealogy Notes

Beautification Project at 330 Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA

Plans are underway to spruce up the old gas station at the corner of Western Avenue and Howard Street that was most recently occupied by the Cotija Restaurant.

I’ve often dreamed of purchasing this building and fixing it up. I think it would make a great spot to operate an ice cream shop, sell pizza by the slice and the like. Such a perfect location being across from the very active St. Vincent’s Parish Hall and just down the street from City Hall.

Apparently I am not the only one with a vision for this site. Marla Pedersen, a St. Vincent’s High School art teacher, has already begun working with her students to beautify the gas station that has sadly become an eye sore and graffiti magnet as it sits year after year vacant and waiting to be purchased.

Ms. Pedersen’s students are painting murals and doing a bit of landscaping. The Howard Street façade will include a tribute to the history of the building as a gas station which as far as I can tell dates back to the late 1940s when it was first operated by brothers, Clyde and Ted Zimmerman, as a 76 station. Later, Harry Park established a Richfield Service Station and then an Arco Station at this location.

The gas station was converted to a restaurant around 1979 when Pete’s Steak Sandwich moved in. Later there was the Rib Station and then of course Cotija Restaurant (sources: 2008 Phase I Environmental Site Assessment prepared by ECON, obit for Clyde Zimmerman, PAC 1/25/60, obit for Harry G. Park, PAC 7/19/82).

The work being conducted by the St. Vincent’s students is terrific and if you’d like to support their efforts please contact Marla Pedersen at mpedersen@svhs-pet.org.

With improved curb appeal the chances of a sale will hopefully increase. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that someone with a lot of spare cash will be inspired to invest in the property and follow the example of Brian Noyes who converted a 1921 Esso filling station located in Warrenton, Virginia into the Red Truck Bakery.

Meanwhile I’ll keep buying those lottery tickets!

A Little Bit of Petaluma Beer History

I’ve known for months that the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival was today (9/14/13) and had looked upon the event as opportunity to write something about Petaluma’s beer history. Well things haven’t gone quite as planned, but I still wanted to put something out there so here I present an abbreviated version of what I originally had in mind.

According to J.P. Munro-Fraser’s 1880 History of Sonoma County, the Petaluma Brewery was started in 1855 by Christlich & Erbe, and was the first establishment of its kind in Sonoma County. After some years they were succeeded by Baltz & Schierhold. In 1873, George Roberson, purchased the property and in 1880 he was producing about twelve hundred barrels of beer annually, which was sold throughout Sonoma County and to adjacent counties. The Petaluma Brewery was located on Main Street (where I’m not exactly sure) and according to Munro-Fraser was surrounded by pleasant gardens and shady arbors, making it a pleasant resort for those looking for a refreshing beverage of “jolly Gambrinus.”

George Griess was another well known Petaluma brewer. He was born in Alsace, France around 1844 and came to Petaluma in 1870, where he joined Charles Mitchell in operating the Sonoma Brewery which was located on Stanley and Upham Streets. Following a fire at the brewery in 1886, Griess established the United States Brewery at Bodega Avenue and Upham Street which he operated until his death in 1914. The property was later purchased by local contractor, William Sylva who built several homes in this neighborhood, including his own at 115 Bodega Avenue, beginning in the mid 1920s.

 

Sign Provides Clues to Past in the Oakhill Brewster Neighborhood

Now that my sister has moved into Petaluma's Oakhill Brewster neighborhood I find myself traveling Oak Street quite bit which is where I spotted this sign. I was curious as to its history and with some clues from a friend and a little sleuthing here at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library I was able to uncover its story (or at least one of the stories).IMG_1692

Using city directories, Ancestry.com and back issues of the Petaluma Argus Courier, which we have here on microfilm for 1950 to 2000 (the Petaluma Library has the complete run), I discovered that the sign is hanging on a garage that is associated with a residence at 343 Kentucky Street, the former home of John Axel Lundstrom and his wife Carrie.

Lundstrom was born in Sweden on July 8, 1882 and immigrated to the United States in 1909 and in 1915 was living at 223 Keller Street, Petaluma. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I and by 1929, had married Carrie Colmar and the two were living at 409 C Street, Petaluma.

A 1939 directory has John and Carrie living at 343 Kentucky Street. John's occupation is given as sheet metal worker with a shop at 350 Main Street. According to the census the couple were renting the Kentucky Street house for $30 a month in 1940. They later purchased the home.

John Lundstrom died at 343 Kentucky Street on April 14, 1962. His obituary states that he at one time operated the Petaluma Sheet Metal Works - hence the sign which the current owner of 343 Kentucky Street found in an outbuilding on her property.

Carrie Lundstrom remained on Kentucky Street until shortly before her death in 1986.

 

Street Names

Probably one of the most common questions we receive at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library is how to determine the origin of a street name.

Many names are associated with individuals who owned the land upon which the street is now located. A quick look at Thompson & West’s 1877 Atlas of Sonoma County will provide the source for the names of many of the county’s rural roads. For streets located in urban areas it may be a little more difficult, but still one will often refer to maps.

Unfortunately there is no master listing of street names to use. Some county and town histories will have information, but these books do not always provide accurate answers.

Such is the case with Hayes Avenue in Petaluma. Since President Rutherford B. Hayes visited Petaluma in 1880 it is easy to make the leap that he is the name sake for Hayes Avenue when in fact Hayes Avenue was originally known as Hays Avenue (no e) and was associated with a Presbyterian minister named George W. Hays.

According to his obituary, George W. Hays was born in Macomb, Illinois, on June 8, 1837. He was educated at McDonough College, Princeton University and McCormick Theological seminary and studied law under his uncle, Judge Pinkney N. Walker of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Later, Mr. Hays was admitted to the bar of that state, but eventually gave up the practice of law to enter the ministry.

In 1870 George W. Hays married Harriet Pease in Aurora, Illinois. Using the census and noting the birth places of the Hays children one can the trace the couples’ gradual migration west – not exactly a straight line: Kansas 1872, Iowa 1875, 1878, 1880, and California 1886.

By 1900 the Hays family had moved from Two Rock, where Reverend Hays preached at the Two Rock Valley Presbyterian Church, to Petaluma where they purchased to old “Hinman” place (more on that at some other time) which according to yet another obituary was later subdivided by George W. Hays and Hays Avenue was named for him.

In 1916 George W. Hays died while living in Berkeley. He and his wife, Harriet are buried at Cypress Hill Cemetery.  In 1927 the Hays property was incorporated into the “new” Linda Vista subdivision. It is here where note the change in spelling – from Hays to Hayes. A simple typo?

An article in the Petaluma Daily Courier dated October 27, 1927, states that “Mr. Deiss yesterday sold to R. J. Moretti of the A. F. Tomasini Hardware Company, lots 2 and 21, block 1, including the site of the old home of the late Rev. G. Hays and the lot containing the beautiful flowering quince tree. The tree planted many years ago is the largest in the city and is loaded with bright blossoms. Moretti plans to tear down the old Hays home and replace it with a modern bungalow.”

That modern bungalow stands today and is addressed as 103 Hill Boulevard, just one house north of Hayes Avenue – or more correctly Hays Avenue.

So if Hayes Avenue is really Hays Avenue is it possible that nearby Pearce Street started out as Pease Street after Harriet Pease Hays?

As always, when it comes to historic research one thing always leads to another.

The Theme is The River

On Thursday night July 25th, the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum will present The Theme is the River - an evening with local writers Susan Starbird, Rebecca Lawton, and Jonah Raskin; poets Bill Vartnaw, Patti Trimble, and Donna Emerson; and comedian Dave Pokorny.

This community event is sure to be  lively and informative and ties in with the Museum's current exhibit: Changing Courses -The History and Future of the Petaluma River which is up until August 25th.

As a primer I thought it would fun to share the following "story" which appeared in the Petaluma Daily Imprint on January 10, 1894.

The Dredger Arrives

"The big dredger Nevada arrived in the river on Monday evening from Stockton, in tow of the pretty little tug Santa Monica. During the heavy fog of that day she ran on a bank near Lakeville, where she remained fast. Yesterday the tug came to this city for water and supplies and returned to the dredger, and this morning came up river with the big mud slinger, passing through the railroad drawbridge at 12:30. The dredger and tug are the finest ever seen in these waters. Work will be commenced at once and mud will soon be flying."

Of course we all know how important it is that the river is dredged, but the poetry of this little article makes it sound really fun too. Let the slinging begin!

See you Thursday night at 7 PM - 20 Fourth Street, Petaluma, CA. Admission is $5.

 

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