Petaluma State Historic Park
One of the best ways to understand Sonoma County’s rich history is with a visit to Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.
In the 1830s-1840s the Park’s adobe compound, situated on a beautiful site overlooking Petaluma Valley, was known as Rancho Petaluma. The largest privately-owned adobe building in the state (and a National Historic Landmark), the Rancho served as headquarters for a profitable working ranch ruled by the region’s most important early historic figure, Gen. Mariano Vallejo.
Depending on the season, Rancho Petaluma employed between 600-2,000 workers. About 25,000 head of long horn cattle, 3,000 Merino sheep, and large numbers of chickens, pigs and dogs roamed the Rancho’s 66,000 acres. Numerous crops — including wheat, barley, corn, beans, and many vegetables — were grown here.
Vallejo was born in 1807 to a prosperous family in Monterey, Calif., which in those days served as the capital of Alta California (a territory of what was then New Spain, and later Mexico). Smart, capable and ambitious, he rose through the ranks of California’s Mexican military. Among an endless list of accomplishments, Vallejo founded the city of Sonoma (the plaza, military barracks, and many other buildings he erected still stand). After the U.S. seized California from Mexico in 1846, Vallejo served as a member of the new state’s Constitutional Convention and was elected to the first State Senate in 1850.
On a visit to Petaluma Adobe SHP you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back to the days of California’s great rancho era. About 80 percent of the adobe bricks are original (and 20 percent of the redwood). Farm animals — a horse, donkey, and sheep — can be seen. Prickly pear cactus, used as a fence in the days before barbed wire, is plentiful.
Authentic period furniture and equipment fills the rooms. Cattle hides dry on racks, saddles stand ready on mounts, branding irons rest on a table. Lariats lay curled beside a powder horn, rope-soled shoes rest atop a sheepskin. Red-shouldered hawks fly overhead, and coyotes and foxes can be spotted in the grasslands.
If you happen to visit during a Living History Day, docents in period dress are busy doing chores in the old ways. Interpretive displays offer insight into the past.
The park is beautifully situated amidst quiet farmland and oak-studded hills. Shaded picnic areas practically beg you to bring a picnic and enjoy the view.
What you need to know:
- Location/Contact Info: Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, 3325 Adobe Road, Petaluma 94954, 707-762-4871. Directions to the Park.
- Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Monday, Thursday-Friday.
- Fee: $3/Adults, $2/children 6-16 (free for kids under 5). Same-day admission also good at Sonoma State Historic Park in Sonoma (includes the Barracks, Mission San Francisco Solano, and Gen. Vallejo’s home).