Local History and Genealogy Notes

  • One sheet of a set of architectural drawings prepared by E. Geoffrey Bangs on July 16, 1945, showing a third story on the Sonoma County Courthouse drawing

    One sheet of a set of architectural drawings prepared by E. Geoffrey Bangs on July 16, 1945, showing a third story on the Sonoma County Courthouse

Interesting Discovery at the Sonoma County Archives

The Sonoma County Library was officially designated the official archive for the County of Sonoma and the City of Santa Rosa in 1965 by a joint resolution. Today that Archive is located about nine miles east of downtown Santa Rosa and is contained within a 3,800 square foot warehouse. It is not climate controlled.

Although many of the materials housed at the Archive are accessible via the Sonoma County Library catalog, many are not. To fully realize the value of this amazing treasure trove an updated inventory is needed. As is funding for a new facility and dedicated staffing.

This is what was going through my mind Tuesday morning as I came across a set of architectural drawings prepared by E. Geoffrey Bangs in 1945 for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for a third story addition to the courthouse. As far as I can tell the Library has no record of these drawings. Like some many things at the Archives, I just happened to stumble across them while looking for something else. As the photos reveal, the drawings are not in the best condition. At some point they got wet which explains the rippling.

Using the Sonoma County Library's edition of Newspapers.com, I learned that Bangs' plan provided for a total of 19,000 added square feet, 15,000 of which would be used for offices, and two elevators. The addition was designed with a light steel frame supporting the floor and roof. This light type of structure was considered not only economical, but permitted holding the addition back from the face of the main building, "thus avoiding any aesthetic problems or the need for glorifying a purely utilitarian structure." (Petaluma Argus Courier, July 17, 1945)

Further research lead me to the UC Berkeley Environmental Design Archives and the E. Geoffrey Bangs (ca. 1893-1977) Collection. The finding aid for this collection states that E. Geoffrey Bangs was a Bay Area architect and a graduate of University of California, Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1914 and obtained his master’s the following year. His early career was spent working in the office of John Galen Howard. Bangs designed many public buildings and large-scale public housing projects in Northern California. His projects included UC Berkeley’s Lewis Hall, the Contra Costa Hall of Records, and the courthouses for Shasta and Butte counties.

The E. Geoffrey Bangs Collection consists almost entirely of black and white photographs documenting numerous Bay Area residential and commercial buildings. The photographs also include images of UC Berkeley buildings. Some of the photographs in the collection may be for a photo essay entitled "Portals West: A Folio of Late Nineteenth Century Architecture in California." The collection also contains a typescript of this book which was published by the California Historical Society. The Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library has a copy of this book in its rare room (Annex Rare 720.9794)

 As we know a third story was never added to the courthouse. Why this was the case and why the Board of Supervisors sought to engage Bangs are questions I'm left with.

It may be that the Board of Supervisors decided to redirect funds to pay for the design and construction of one or more war memorial buildings.

Why Bangs? Well certainly it was not the first time a San Francisco based architect was involved in a Sonoma County civic project. For example, J.W. Dolliver, a prominent Bay Area architect designed both the Sonoma County Courthouse in 1910 and the Santa Rosa City Hall in 1912. Dolliver actually lived in Kentfield, but his offices were in San Francisco. Perhaps the Board of Supervisors would have called upon Dolliver again for the third story addition project if he hadn't died in 1927.

Again according to newspaper accounts, Bangs was involved in at least one more Sonoma County project. In March of 1946, the Board of Supervisors approved plans prepared by Bangs for a new county detention facility that met all of the requirements of the California Youth Authority and would be located on the grounds of the Sonoma County Hospital.

Would a visit to UC Berkeley tell us more? At the very least the Environmental Design Archives should be made aware of this "find" so that they can update their cataloging notes to include reference to Bangs' work in Sonoma County. Speaking of cataloging, the Bangs' drawing can now be added to the Library's list of holdings. As stated earlier, an updated inventory is need. Until a dedicated funding source is identified, we will have to make do with the one item at a time approach.

  • Dagny Juell poses for a photo with her dog while seated in front of the Santa Rosa Carnegie Library circa 1949 photo

    Dagny Juell poses for a photo with her dog while seated in front of the Santa Rosa Carnegie Library circa 1949

Wednesdays are for Women: Dagny Juell

Dagny Juell joined the staff of the Santa Rosa Free Public Library in 1924, after working two years as a high school librarian. She was born in Minnesota in 1893 to Norwegian immigrants Niels and Petrea Juell. By 1905 Dagny had moved to Santa Rosa with her parents and brother and sister and was living on Monroe Street. Neils Juell was the proprietor of Juell’s Drug Store.

Miss Juell took charge of the newly created children’s room at Santa Rosa’s Carnegie Library in 1925. The room started with approximately 3,000 books, but quickly grew to 13,000 volumes.

In addition to her position as children’s librarian, Dagny Juell served as Assistant City Librarian and was one of the founders of the Association of Children’s Librarians in Northern California.

Dagny retired in 1959 before the Carnegie Library was demolished and died in 1964, two years before construction started on the “new” library. She is buried at Santa Rosa Memorial Park.

Three generations of Santa Rosans received books from Miss Juell and she was highly regarded among other children’s librarians throughout the state.

The children’s room at the Santa Rosa Central Library is named the Dagny Juell Library for Boys and Girls.


  • Lark & Warne Pharmacy, Guerneville, CA circa 1920 photo

    Lark & Warne Pharmacy, Guerneville, CA circa 1920

Post Card Identified Using Electronic as Well as Print Resources

Included with a nice donation of books, photos, and maps received last week, was this post card. The card had no identifying information and we were not sure that it was related to Sonoma County history. 

By using the Library’s subscription to Ancestry.com I found a U.S. Census entry for a Newton Allen Lark living in Guerneville in 1920. He was employed as a druggist. Now that I had a full name I was able to search the Sonoma County History Index, which is accessible through the Sonoma County Library’s online catalog. It was through this index that I found a reference to Mr. Larkin, as well his partner Fred L. Warne, in C. Raymond Clar’s book Out of the River Mist. 

C. Raymond Clar writes about a fire that occurred on Main Street, Guerneville in 1919. He includes a photo of the ruins which was the words Lark & Warne printed in the corner of the image. Clar states that “I remember the fire well. And I know why Newton Lark made the photograph. He was a local photographer as well as the town druggist. He was also a primary fire victim. He and his uncle Fred Warne were associated in business at the time.”

In another Clar publication, A Time and a Season of Incidents and Memories written in 1962, Fred Warne is described as a “brilliant cornetist.” 

A simple Google search for Lark & Warne led me to an article in the Sonoma County Gazette dated May 28, 2014, which stated that the “historic Lark Drugs in Guerneville is one of the oldest independent pharmacies in the state of California.” The name change occurred when Newton’s son, Warne Lark, purchased the business in 1948 by which time his great uncle Fred had been dead for 20 years and his father was 66 years of age – a good time retire.

 All this from one post card! Now if I could figure out who the man is seated in the car. Is it Newton, Fred or someone else?  I bet John Schubert of the Russian River Historical Society knows.

  • Fun Find Friday - One of Luther Burbank's Photographers photo

    Fun Find Friday - One of Luther Burbank's Photographers

One of Luther Burbank's Photographers

Sandy Wilkins, Photo Collection Aide, here at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library discovered an interesting bit of history today. Amongst the Library's large collection of historic images are many taken by professional photographers. Part of Sandy's job involves researching these individuals and writing up short biographies that we then include in the cataloging notes. Today she came across Theodore J. Nelson. Here is what she discovered.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin on July 4, 1882, Theodore was the son of Lars Peter and Nicoline Nielsen, Danish immigrants.  The family name was changed to Nelson when they moved to Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska by 1900.  Theodore married Edith M. Sterling (1880-1969) in 1908 in Hastings, Nebraska.  By 1910, he had opened a photography studio in Hastings located at 222 N. Lincoln Avenue.  Theodore moved to Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California sometime before 1918 where he resided at 900 Spring Street until his death at 92.  The Nelson Studio was located at various addresses over the years including 611 and 312 Mendocino Avenue, 438 Fourth Street and 539 Fifth Street.  According to an August 14, 1974, Press Democrat article written two days after Nelson’s death, Theodore was the official photographer of horticulturist Luther Burbank.  He was a long time member of the Santa Rosa Rotary Club, the Rose and Danish Brotherhood of Petaluma, the Odd Fellows Lodge 53 and Lodge 57 of the Free and Accepted Masons of Santa Rosa. Nelson retired in 1954 and lived with his second wife, Shirley, until his death on August 12, 1974.  He is buried at the Chapel of the Chimes Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California.

Sandy located a picture of Theodore J. Nelson on a public tree associated with "My Crazy Family" on the Library Edition of Ancestry.com. The photo is dated October 15, 1957, and was taken at the Palm's Inn, Sonoma at "Jerry & Charlene's wedding." The image was sharred by sorrellsclan4 on March 31, 2008.

Using a private subscription of Ancestry.com we should be able to contact sorrellsclan4 and share what Sandy's found. It might be news to her/him that their ancestor was associated with the "Plant Wizard."

  • Cyrus H. Bumpus - Santa Rosa Carpenter

    SCL post card view of 426 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa when occupied by the IOOF

Cyrus H. Bumpus - Santa Rosa Carpenter

A carpenter named Cyrus H. Bumpus arrived in Santa Rosa from Maine in 1868. Bumpus served as a contractor on many landmark structures including his own residence at 426 Mendocino Avenue which, when completed in 1872, was considered the first Santa Rosa structure to possess a mansard roof (Sonoma Democrat, Sept. 28, 1872, pg. 6).

According to city directories, Cyrus and his wife Dorcas, lived in this house for a few years followed by Amos W. and Elizabeth Riley. Amos Riley was a cattleman who, at the time of his death in March of 1908, had been indicted on a charge of illegally fencing in government land in Nevada (Los Angeles Herald, March 28, 1908, pg. 3).

In 1908, 436 Mendocino Avenue was converted to the Hotel Lebanon by B. C. Cosgrove (Ukiah Dispatch Democrat, Dec. 11, 1908, page 1).

The International Order of Odd Fellow No. 53 may have been the last to occupy the building. Historic maps and city directory research suggests that the house was demolished in the mid-1950s.

A great then and now photo opportunity. If the house were still standing it would be directly across the street from the Press Democrat where today a sad collection of commercial storefronts currently sits.

Pages