Local History and Genealogy Notes

Oral History Workshop

Thanks to the Friends of the Santa Rosa Libraries we are pleased to offer a free oral history workshop on June 16th in the Forum Room at the Santa Rosa Main Library. For more information please see Oral History Workshop Flyer

Sonoma County Hospital Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary

The Sonoma County Hospital was designed by Santa Rosa architect, John I. Easterly (1885-1974) in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Construction began in 1936 and the hospital was completed and dedicated on April 24, 1937. The cost was approximately $300,000 of which $137,000 (45%) was supplied by the National Public Works Administration (PWA), and the remainder was supplied by Sonoma County with only a slight increase in taxes during 1936 and 1937.

Postcard of Sonoma County Hospital

Postcard of Sonoma County Hospital

The  Hospital is one of several architectural gems that were undertaken during the New Deal Era that can be found throughout Sonoma County.

For more on the subject of California's New Deal art and architecture be sure to check out the web site for California's Living New Deal Project.

National Library Week

SR Carnegie Library 1903 SCL Photo No 4834

Better late than never!  Last Sunday (4/15/12) marked the end National Library Week which seems like a good opportunity to talk about the Santa Rosa Carnegie Library that once stood at Fourth and E Streets.

The library was designed by Ernest M. Hoen of Sacramento and constructed by William Peacock of San Francisco. The cornerstone was laid on April 14, 1903 and the doors opened on March 10, 1904.

SR Carnegie Library Cornerstone and Box of Contents SCL Photo No 2618

Lucy Kortum, in her SSU Master’s thesis: California Carnegie Libraries 1899-1921, describes the building as an example of the Romanesque style characterized by round arches, rock-faced masonry, lintels and other structural features emphasized by the use of a variety of stone. Romanesque buildings might contain both arched and straight topped windows, with stone mullions and transoms, and towers were frequent.

Demolition of SR Carnegie Library SCL Photo No 4983

The Santa Rosa Carnegie Library included most of these features. Complex in construction, there appears to have been a large cross gable wing, with another gable to the front next to a tower with parapets, and low round arched entrance topped with a fenestrated parapet. Roof lines were hipped, gable, and at the tower, pyramid. Main floor windows were tall and narrow and deeply recessed, windows high in gable end and tower were much smaller, and grade level basement windows wider and rectangular. The building was constructed of locally quaried basalt blocks, with the same material used for lintels, arches, sills and course lines.

The Santa Rosa Carnegie Library was demolished in 1964 and the “new” library was completed in 1967.

New Santa Rosa Library Completed in 1967 SCL Photo No 7632


Three Blind Mice

A Petaluma Argus Courier article dated July 28, 1938, announced the showing of Three Blind Mice, a Hollywood movie starring Loretta Young, Joel McCrea and David Niven at Petaluma's California Theatre which was located in the old Hill Opera House at the corner of Washington and Keller Streets (home of the Phoenix Theater today).

Washington Street looking east with the California Theatre on the right (SCL Photo No. 5659)

Washington Street looking east with the California Theatre on the right (SCL Photo No. 5659)

According to the article a scene for the movie was filmed at the William P. Beggs' ranch in Two Rock. By referring to the book The Valley of the Trail Between the Two Rocks In Its Younger Days, and Mine  by Margaret Martin Paull, I was able to determine that the Beggs property near the intersection of Spring Hill and Purvine Roads.

A Hole in the Head

PG&E crews digging a hole at Bodega Head

PG&E crews digging a hole at Bodega Head

A nuclear power plant by Bodega Bay? PG&E proposed a new plant to be built on Bodega Head at the new Bodega Bay Atomic Park and had even started excavation for the reactor before Sonoma County residents -- spurred to action by rancher Rose Gaffney -- said NO! Gaffney ranched on Bodega Head and balked at selling PG&E a portion of her land for an access road. Local historian Simone Wilson notes in her 1995 Albion Monitor article that Gaffney was a formidable opponent and inspired others to pay attention to PG&E's plans.

Diners at Bodega Nuclear Power Plant Victory Party

Diners at Bodega Nuclear Power Plant Victory Party -- Rose Gaffney on left


Even after geologist Pierre Saint-Amand pointed out that PG&E had ignored the San Andreas Fault that ran directly through the reactor site, the utility pushed ahead with construction, but the state Public Utilities Commission stopped the project in 1963. The 8.5 magnitude Anchorage quake in 1964 finally put to rest any further efforts when geologists found the quake had caused significant slippage at Bodega Head. 

After PG&E gave up, they sold the land to the California State Parks for $1 and the Hole in the Head became part of Sonoma Coast State Beach (now Sonoma Coast State Park). You can view the hole from Westside Road as it climbs toward the parking area on Bodega Head

Want to learn more?

Check out the photographs of  the Hole construction, protesters and the victory party included in the Sonoma County Local History & Culture or resources from our print and video collections, including articles from the California Historical Society journal, protest materials, newspaper clippings, legal opinions from the California Supreme Court and a documentary on Rose Gaffney.