Local History and Genealogy Notes

  • Carnegie Library Santa Rosa, Calif before the disaster of April 1908 donated by Kay Voliva

Recent Donation to the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library

Carnegie Library Santa Rosa, Calif before the disaster of April 1908 donated by Kay Voliva. May be the centerpiece in a future Library exhibit.

  • After the flood--Bohemian Bridge photo

    After the flood--Bohemian Bridge (Monte Rio), 1907 (SCL photo # 3595)

The Ghosts of Floods Past


The recent storms that took Foss Creek through downtown Healdsburg and put the Russian River just above flood stage at Guerneville were nothing to sneeze at for anyone living or working in low-lying areas, but...for anyone who's lived in Sonoma County for a while, floods have always been a recurring adventure. And while not a major theme in the Library's collection, we do have a good sampling that show the effects of our big storms.

We've typically experienced major flooding every ten to 15 years (though sometimes more often), with really big ones roughly every twenty years, including the 1986 flood on the Russian River that crested at 48.7 feet in Guerneville. 

Record flood at Guerneville 1986
Record flood at Guerneville, 1986 (SCL photo # 7741)

60 years earlier, Petaluma was inundated.

California Garage, Petaluma
California Garage at 10 Washington Street in Petaluma under floodwaters, 1912 (SCL photo # 13693)

Floods during the late 1930s and early 1940s affected towns up and down the Russian River watershed, leaving piles of debris everywhere once the water receded.

Flood debris at Hilton
Debris piled against Hacienda Bridge near Forestville, 1937 (SCL photo # 16409)


Flood damage at River View Lodge
Flood damage at Riverview Lodge, Guerneville, California, 1940 (SCL photo # 16415)


In the flood of 1955, an airlift was necessary to get stranded Guerneville residents out to drier land.

Helicopter in the parking lot
Helicopter in the Safeway parking lot to air lift people during a flood, Guerneville, California, 1955 (SCL photo # 20164)

The 1964 flood wreaked havoc throughout Northern California, hitting the Eel River watershed particularly hard, but doing a lot of damage in Sonoma County as well. This flood, following the 1955 flood, was one of the main factors behind the push for flood control efforts throughout the county, including Warm Springs Dam (Lake Sonoma).

Flood waters at Barlow Co
Flood waters surround the Barlow Company buildings on McKinley Street, Sebastopol, 1964 (SCL photo # 3078)

 Despite flood control, the 1986 flood was nearly as bad as the 1964 floods. Even Spring Lake filled higher than ever before.

Flood at Spring Lake
Flood at Spring Lake, 1986 (SCL photo # 3936)

 If you have good photos from this year's Healdsburg flood and would like to contribute them to the Library's collection, please let us know!


  • Public Library, Santa Rosa photo

    Public Library, Santa Rosa (1910 -- SCL photo 4833)

Santa Rosa's Carnegie Library

Santa Rosa's Carnegie library served the citizens of Santa Rosa well for almost 60 years--although not without challenges, including the 1906 earthquake. Deferred maintenance and a growing population eventually doomed the magnificent building, leading to construction of the current Central Library in 1960s. This week's post offers glimpses into the Carnegie era.
Petaluman Lucy Kortum compiled a history of Carnegie libraries across California. Her entry on Santa Rosa's library (from the Carnegie Libraries of California website) notes:
Santa Rosa's library history includes several short-lived libraries between 1859 and formation of the Santa Rosa Library Association in 1875. An 1878 offer of this library to the city under the Rogers Act was declined; it was 1884 before the combined efforts of women's organizations and the newspaper editor succeeded in the city taking over the library and providing space in City Hall. In 1890 Santa Rosa hired the county's first professional librarian, Bertha Kumli, who guided the Carnegie project through from the application for $35,000 and acceptance of the offered $20,000 in March, 1902. Community leaders purchased a lot and Sacramento architect E. M. Hoen designed the building in the Romanesque style. The builder was William Peacock of San Francisco. The cornerstone was laid on April 14, 1903 and the building opened on March 10, 1904. Miss Kumli next joined the State Library and achieved a statewide reputation for her work for the county library system and in helping small communities establish public libraries. The Carnegie building was extensively damaged in the 1906 earthquake, and Carnegie provided $6,900 in additional funding for repairs. The building then served as library until 1960 when it was condemned as unsafe. The books were moved to temporary quarters, the old building was demolished in 1964. A new library on the same site was completed in 1967.

Carnegie Library 1902
The new library before landscaping, 1903/04 (SCL photo 1847)

The new Santa Rosa Public Library on Fourth Street at E Street -- the same location as the current Central Santa Rosa Library -- opened to great fanfare in 1904...


Fourth Street entrance after the 1906 earthquake (Photo no. 4792)
Fourth Street entrance after the 1906 earthquake (SCL photo 4792)

...and Just two years later, crumbled in the great 1906 earthquake


Storytime, 1959 (SCL photo 5273)
Cat in the Hat Reading Club awards, 1959 (SCL photo 5273)

The rebuilt library served the citizens, including the children, of Santa Rosa well for many years. Toward the end, Children's Librarian Dagney Jewell and her staff could barely squeeze their young patrons into the children's room.


Entrance to the Santa Free Public Library on 4th Street, 1959 (Photo no. 3826)
Entrance to the Santa Free Public Library on 4th Street, 1959 (SCL photo 3826)

From the outside, the library still looked magnificent...


Interior of the crumbling library, 1960 (Photo no. 5168)
Interior of the crumbling library, 1960 (SCL photo 5168) 

...but on the inside, deferred maintenance had taken its toll and in 1960, the building was condemned.

Patrons at work tables in the library on Exchange Avenue (SCL photo 5251)
Patrons at work tables in the library on Exchange Avenue (SCL photo 5251)

The library moved to (very tight) temporary quarters in rented second floor space opposite Courthouse Square on Exchange Street and a successful campaign was launched to build a new--and larger--public library for Santa Rosa (see the video at the top of this post). 


The last remaining wall, 1964 (SCL photo 4983)
The last remaining wall, 1964 (SCL photo 4983)

Meanwhile the old Carnegie library was reduced to rubble for the last time and the site prepared for the new library that serves Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to this day.

Check out many more images of Santa Rosa's library history in the Sonoma County Local History & Culture.

  • Unidentified chapel -- possibly on the Coast Guard Training Center, Petaluma (SCL Photo 18273)

    SCL Photo 18273

Going to Church--but Where?

This week's batch of unknowns are a collection of unidentified churches and chapels in Sonoma County, photographed between the late 19th and mid-20th century. Most are likely to be Petaluma-area buildings since they are in the Petaluma History Room's collection and perhaps only of them is still standing.

SCL Photo 28181

I suspect the chapel shown in SCL Photos 18273 and 28181 may be the old chapel on the U.S. Coast Guard Training Base near Two Rock, west of Petaluma. Note the cinderblock building to the right of the chapel in the Photo 28181


SCL Photo 9736

This modest country church building in the Petaluma area, photographed around 1935 is probably long gone. This shot shows the rear of the church.


SCL Photo 10817

A more recent unidentifed church, again in the Petaluma area, around 1970

SCL Photo 14910

A Sonoma County church, most likely pre-1906 -- by far the grandest of all our unidentified churches.


SCL Photo 6426

An unidentified Sonoma County church from the 1890s or early 1900s. 


SCL Photo 9793

This rural Petaluma area church was photographed sometime between 1960 and 1980. The building appears to be unused at the time of the photograph.

Unidentified Industrial Building Under Construction, 1975

Continuing with the commercial industrial theme, this week's set shows various stages of construction of a single, large -- and unidentified -- industrial building.The photos date from 1975 and the building may be in north Santa Rosa or Windsor, judging from the glimpses of hills in the background. Note the large pipes entering the building in Photo 2691 and the conveyor/elevator visible in both photos 2691 and 3181.

  1. Photo 2506

    Photo 2506 -- click to view larger image

  2. Photo 2519

    Photo 2519 -- click to view larger image

  3. Photo 2519

    Photo 2512 -- click to view larger image

  4. Photo 2600

    Photo 2600 -- click to view larger image

  5. Photo 2691

    Photo 2691 -- click to view larger image

  6. Photo 3181

    Photo 3181 -- click to view larger image