Local History and Genealogy Notes

Follow Up on Dairyman's Feed

It was during an interview with a former Dairyman's Feed manager that I "learned" that the mill at 323 East Washington had sat vacant between 1964 and 1982. Thanks to Ralph Woodson, a contributor to the Facebook group: You Knew You Grew Up in Petaluma If . . . . , I know now that this is untrue. Ralph remembers when he use to pick up soy bean meal from the East Washington Street plant when he drove for Chicken International (took over Barlas Feeds when Reif and Brody went out of business) in the late 1960s. Looking at Petaluma city directories I do in fact find a listing for Pacific Growers Feed and Nulaid Foods (whole eggs) at 323 East Washington Street in 1971.

SCL Photo No. 931

The cataloging notes on this 1975 Sonoma County Library photograph states that it is a view of the Nulaid Foods Feed Mill. Note the railroad cars. I suspect that Dan Peterson, A.I.A. took this picture when he was in the beginning stages of the Petaluma Historic Resource Survey project. Clearly more research to be done on Nulaid, Pacific Growers, etc., but in the meantime here is another bit of history on the mill. According to a current employee there is a fallout shelter beneath the plant equipped with shelves for canned food and other emergency supplies. And finally with regard to the photo of the men standing in front of the Nulaid truck.  If you take a close look you will see the name William J. Raffetto painted on the window  behind the men. 

SCL Photo No. 8963

According to city directories, William J. Raffetto and later his son, William J. Raffetto, Jr., had a real estate, insurance, loan, and notary business at 401 Columbus Avenue during the 1940s and 1960s which suggests that the photo was taken in San Francisco and not Sonoma County.

Petaluma Palooza and the Sonoma County Library

SCL Photo No. 7357

Don't miss the Petaluma Palooza being held this Saturday, September 15th, at the Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville Street, where I will be presenting "Everything You Wanted to Know About Researching the History of a Petaluma Building in 10 Minutes or Less" at 4:30 PM.

For information on all the days' activities go to http://petalumapalooza.com/

Dairyman's Feed - A Petaluma Landmark Worthy of Respect

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.

SCL Photo No. 4844

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.

SCL Photo No. 33482

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.

SCL Photo No. 8963

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.

100 Year Old Craftsman Home for Sale in Petaluma


622 Walnut Street, Petaluma, Calif. Photo taken by Katherine J. Rinehart on September 4, 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.

Mortensen Hatchery - Two Hatcheries for the Price of One

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 White Hatchery. SCL Photo No 15209

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.