Local History and Genealogy Notes

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.


H.P. Vogensen Builds Home on Coady Court

Once again plowing through microfilm of the Petaluma Argus and the Petaluma Daily Courier for 1927 in an effort to find out who, if anyone, designed my sister's "new" house on Oak Street. We know it was built by local contractor Walter Singleton for June and Arthur Ross in 1927. Singleton may have drawn up his own plans for the house, but as he is known to have worked with prominent architects including Albert Farr, Julia Morgan and Brainerd Jones it's worth following up on. Follow up in this case means reviewing an entire year's worth of newspaper - two papers in fact because the Argus and the Courier were two separate publications until 1928.

It was while doing this that I came across an article in the Petaluma Daily Courier dated July 15, 1927,  which references the building of a residence on Coady Court. The street number isn't provided but the owner is. With the owners name I was able to find the street number using a city directory.

According to the July 15th article, H. Von Emster hired H.P. Vogensen to build a "very modest Spanish bungalow and garage" for he and his family on their Coady Court lot.

Checking the 1930 census I discovered that H stood for Hans and the Von Emster family consisted of Hans' wife Marion and their two sons: Conrad H. (22) and Ernest W. (21). The census taker also put a value on the house as $9,000.

In planning the residence, Vogensen Co. is reported to have incorporated many modern features and "with the assistance of J. E. Kresky" was able to solve the problem of economically heating the five room bungalow without the necessity of a basement.

Although I don't have a historic photo of the house (or should I say I have yet to come across one), I was able to take this picture the other day.

It is safe to say that if the current owners were to put their home on the market today, the price would far exceed $9,000.

Treasures in the Library Basement

Visiting the basement or what we call the closed stacks is one of many things I like about my job here at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library.

The closed stacks are located in the basement of the Santa Rosa Central Library which is next door to the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library. While hunting for an old copy of the Kenwood Press newspaper for a patron doing reseach on someone who is buried at the Santa Rosa Rural Cementery I came across two shelves containing several volumes of News Notes of California Libraries - the earliest being from 1906 and latest from 1993.


I pulled out the 1906 volume and looked up Petaluma and here is what is written:

"Petaluma Free Public Library. Miss Sara Frances Cassiday, Librarian. Established 1878. Total no. of vols., 9636 (June 30, 1905). Report from June 1906 not received.

The Petaluma Argus of May 11th states that the books, magazines and all reading matter of the Petaluma Free Public Library have been removed from the old building in the third story of the City Hall to the new Carnegie library buiding at Fourth and B Streets, where they will be stored until the new building is formally opened in a short time hence.


Owns lot 100 x 100, valued at $6,000, the money for which was partly ($3,500) received in private donations. Owns building, which cost $16,000; built in 1905; $12,500 of money for building was received from Andrew Carnegie, the balance from the city. Architect of building Brainerd Jones, Petaluma; style of architecture colonial; constructive materials brick and stone; two stories, four rooms."

Great information. Nearly every semester we get at least one San Jose State University library science student researching the history of a library - usually Petaluma or Santa Rosa. Now we have another resource for them to check out. Of particular interest to these students will be total number of volumes held by a library during a specific time period.

I can see that there is much more information to be gleaned from the News Notes of California Libraries. If this is a subject of interest to you, stop on by - you might even get a tour of the basement if you play your cards right!

The Other Goldman D Street Residence

On May 29, 2013, I gave a talk at the Petaluma Library called The Genealogy of a House: A Case Study. We had 82+ attendees. It was great to see so many people interested in Petaluma history, genealogy and architecture.

The focus of the case study was a Dutch Colonial Revival styled house built in 1927 and located at 517 Oak Street, Petaluma.

As part of the presentation I showed images of other homes built during the same period including a Spanish Revival bungalow at 1014 D Street that was built by Walter Singleton, the same contractor who built 517 Oak Street.

According to a Petaluma Daily Courier article, Mose Goldman, a local department store owner, hired Singleton in June of 1927 to build a new house on his (Goldman's) D Street property situated just east of Laurel Avenue.


This home was to be a much more modest affair than Goldman's previous residence located at 831 D Street which was designed by San Francisco architect Sylvain Schnaittacher in 1924.


Mose and his wife Lena sold 831 D Street to Leo Bourke, owner of the Must Hatch Hatchery before moving into 1014 D Street which may have been more modest in size than 831 D Street, but it clearly lacked nothing when it came to craftsmanship and character which can be seen up close this Saturday, June 15th when an open house is scheduled from 1 PM and 4 PM. Yes, this jem is for sale!

The listing agent is Christine Jones of Century 21 Bundesen. For more information check out the web site she's created http://www.century21.com/property/1014-d-street-petaluma-ca-94952-C2120722074