Two Homes of Catherine Farley Brown

Submitted by krinehart on March 15, 2012 - 4:32pm

920 D Street

1897 view of 920 D Street (Proctor & Reynolds atlas)

This lovely 1893 Queen Anne Victorian home at 920 D Street, Petaluma, which recently sold for $1,200,000, was built for Catherine Farley Brown. Prior to moving to D Street, Catherine had lived on a large dairy ranch that was established by her late husband John McAllen Brown in Hicks Valley, Marin County that was part of the Borjorques grant. At the time of his death in 1886, John McAllen Brown was considered one of Marin County’s wealthiest dairymen and stock raisers.

Catherine Farley Brown

Why Mrs. Brown chose to locate to D Street may have been influenced by the fact that her brother-in-law Sam Brown and his wife Harriet had a home across the street at 901 D Street. The ranch at Hicks Valley was eventually sold to the William Hill Company. Catherine came to California by way of covered wagon with her parents and siblings in 1853 at the age of 11. The story of this excursion is documented in Kate Farley, Pioneer an 82 page book written and illustrated by her granddaughter, Esther Waite in 1939. This book is available at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library in Santa Rosa and at the Petaluma Library

Vallejo's Adobe

The last few pages of Esther Waite’s book tells the story of how the Farley family, Catherine’s parents, Francis and Elizabeth, and their nine children (the oldest being 17 year old Catherine) moved into General Vallejo’s adobe in 1859.

Adobe circa 1938 SCL Photo No. 3148

Esther writes that the Farleys lived in the west wing of the adobe and used the north side for a kitchen. A fresh-water spring bubbled at the foot of an outdoor stairway that led to a broad balcony and upstairs apartments. The south wing, never completely finished, was used as a stable. Dancing classes taught by Professor Dillion were held in the adobe’s “great rooms” – one of which was sixty feet long. How long the Farley family remained at the Adobe is unclear, but by 1870 Catherine had married John McAllen Brown, was the mother of four children and living in the San Antonio Township, Marin County, California. In 1910 Vallejo’s Adobe was deeded to the Native Sons of the Golden West and Catherine Farley Brown was living in 4,500 square foot home on D Street with daughter Marie, son-in-law Randolph Leavenworth, and two servants.

Louisa Vallejo Emparan, a daughter of General Vallejo, and others install marker April 25, 1933. SCL Photo No. 3148

Vallejo’s Adobe became a California Landmark in 1933 and ownership transferred to California State Parks in 1950. Today the property is known as the Petaluma Adobe Historic State Park,  is a registered National Historic Landmark and one of 70 state parks scheduled to be closed effective July 2012. The Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Park Association, a non-profit, is working hard to assure that this does not happen. For more information send an email to   

Adobe circa 1951 SCL Photo No. 33024

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