Local History and Genealogy Notes

Historic Homes of Petaluma: 16 Sixth Street --1914 or 1916? McCargar or Lepley?

16 Sixth Street - Oct 2012. Photo taken by Katherine J. Rinehart


One of the first things you should look for when you begin researching the history of your Petaluma home is to see if it was included in Dan Peterson's Petaluma Historic Resource Surveywhich was completed in 1977. The survey is not comprehensive. It's aim was to identify architectural resources that give Petaluma "its essential character."  Because of this when Peterson and his volunteers came across a street inhabited by several houses exhibiting the same architectual style having all been constructed around the same time period he chose to survey a sampling rather than the whole block. Even if your home was one of those not included in the survey, you should find the document of use in gaining a general understanding of your neighborhood's history - if your neighborhood is included in the survey. Should your house be included, you will likely discover some useful information, but keep in mind that not all of the information may be factual and additional research will be required. A case in point is the Dranit home at 16 Sixth Street which is described on the form as having been constructed in 1916 by Frank Lepley for Mrs. Myrtle Winans who had an existing house on property moved to the rear of her lot to accomodate the new house.

Myrtle Winans' house that was moved to 16 Post Street. Photo taken Dec 2010 by Katherine J. Rinehart


The house was built for Myrtle Winans who did have an existing house moved when her new home was built. Historic maps confirm this; however, the rest of the facts may not be accurate. According to a July 8, 1914, Petaluma Argus article the house at 16 Sixth Street was built by H.S. McCargar, not Frank Lepley and was designed by Brainerd Jones. Here is the text from that article: "Contractor H.S. McCargar has been awarded the contract by Mrs. Myrtle Winans for the construction of an elegant new two story Colonial home on her property on Sixth Street and will begin work in a few days. The home was designed by Brainerd Jones and will be one of the prettiest and most convenient in the city and will be of plaster exterior. It will be full two story of seven rooms and sleeping deck and it will include every sanitary and labor saving device and will be a credit to the city. The old home will be moved back on Post Street having been purchased by Ed D. Hedges, who will put it in shape for renting purposes to desirable tenants. The new home will grace one the select sections of the residence district." It's interesting that the article describes the house as being stucco when the house today as it was in 1977 has shiplap siding. Perhaps there was a change of mind between the time McCargar got the contract and the house was built. Given that this information conflicts with the survey form, I'd want to follow the story forward. What happened after July 8, 1914? Is there an article that describes the completed house? Is it possible that despite this initial story, that in the end Mrs. Winans decided to wait until 1916 to build her new house - hiring Frank Lepley to do the work? Inquiring minds would want to know.  

From Peasants to Entrepreneurs: The Italian American Experience in the North Coast Wine Industry

SCL Photo No. 5689

On Saturday, September 22, 2012, join the Wine Library Associates of Sonoma County and the Pedroncelli Winery for an evening with Professor Paola Sensi-Isolani as she discusses how the Italians came to the Sonoma County Wine Country and transformed it. This event will be held at the Pedroncelli Winery at 1220 Canyon Road, Geyserville from 5 PM to 8 PM. Wines and appetizers will be served. Tickets are $50 for the general public and $40 for members of either the Wine Library Associates or the Pedroncelli Wine Club, Club Ped. You can join either organization when you order tickets and receive the discounted price. Reservations: (800) 836-3894 - please ask for Kathy Cross  

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.