Valley was inhabited by Native American tribes long before the Spanish influence
began. Those tribes included the Coastal Miwoks, the Pomos and the Wintuns and
interesting artifacts of are on display in local museums today. Many paths and
trails once led here showing the significance the area once held for the native
town of Sonoma began in 1823 when missionary Jose Altimira declared Sonoma Valley
as the best site he had seen for a new mission. Everything he was looking for
was here: fertile land, mineral springs, creeks, abundant game and adobe soil
for building materials. And the near perfect climate we all continue to enjoy
This section contains information about the Sonoma landmarks listed below:
Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, or Sonoma
Mission for short, was founded on July 4, 1823 under the direction of Padre Jose Altimira
of Spain. It is the last and most northern of the 21 Franciscan missions along
the California Coast.
Mexican regime dubbed the mission natives "Neophytes", or "Mission Indians". When
Altimira's neophytes rebelled and burned the new mission's wooden buildings during
an uprising, he became discouraged and returned to Spain. Fr. Buenaventura Fortuny
from Mission San Jose replaced Altimira and the building of the mission was completed.
By 1832 it had 27 rooms in the priest's quarters, a great adobe church at the
east end, and a wooden storehouse at the west end. In the courtyard were workshops
where the local natives learned crafts and farming skills. There were also orchards,
gardens, vineyards, fields of grain, a gristmill, housing for the soldiers, the
natives, and their families, a jail, a cemetery and an infirmary. In
1834 the Mexican Congress decided to halt the mission projects. Under orders from
M. G. Vallejo, the Sonoma Mission became a parish church serving Sonoma Valley
until it was sold in 1881. The church and padres' quarters were then used as a
hay barn, winery and blacksmith shop. In 1903 the Historic Landmarks League purchased
and rescued the mission. Full restoration began in 1911.
The Sonoma Mission
is now a part of the California State Parks and is well worth a visit to view
the displays and artifacts. The staff are helpful and there are books and postcards to purchase. Open from 10:00am to 5:00pm daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
The beautiful chapel and historic courtyard is available for rent at select times
for special events and weddings up to 200 people.
Call 707-939-6188 for event planning information and
For School Tour Reservations please call ReserveAmerica at 1-866-240-4655.
Sonoma Plaza is the old town square and the largest of its kind in California.
The Plaza's eight acres and the surrounding street grid were laid out by General
Mariano Guadelupe Vallejo in 1836, turning Sonoma from a mission town to a Mexican
style pueblo. He built the barracks for Mexican army troops at the northeast corner
of the plaza across the street from the Sonoma Mission, and his family's first
Sonoma home, La Casa Grande, on the west side. For a short time, Sonoma was the
center of traffic and trade north of San Francisco. Today the Plaza is lined with
charming shops, popular restaurants and Sonoma Valley agricultural specialties,
including world-renowned cheeses and wines. Enjoy one of the many events held in
the Plaza or relax for a picnic and visit the friendliest ducks in town.
M. G. Vallejo built the Sonoma Barracks in 1836 to house Mexican soldiers.
Over one hundred military expeditions sought to subdue the Wappos, Cainameros,
or Satisyomis natives who attempted to throw off Mexican domination of the Sonoma
area. Actual construction of the adobe barracks building most likely took place
in stages and was more or less completed in 1841.
In 1846 the Sonoma Barracks became the headquarters of the
Bear Flag Party, which in June 1846 proclaimed a 'California Republic' and raised
the Bear Flag in revolt. Today you can visit the Barracks
dormitory which is furnished just as it would have been in the 1840's. It's right
across the street from the Mission on the northeast corner of the Plaza.
off the Sonoma Plaza across the street from the Mission is the Blue Wing Inn,
the oldest adobe structure visible to the public north of the San Francisco Bay. This long,
low adobe building was allegedly the first hotel north of San Francisco. It was
built by General M. G. Vallejo circa 1840 to accommodate newcomers and travelers.
During the California Gold Rush, the Blue
Wing Inn was purchased by two retired sailors, Cooper and Spriggs, who ran it
as a hotel and store. The guest list included John C. Fremont, U. S. Grant, Kit
Carson, Fighting Joe Hooker, William T. Sherman, Phil Sheridan, and members of
the Bear Flag party. The place was known by the locals as the Sonoma House. The
second floor was built in 1849 and the name "Blue Wing" became legal
record by July, 1853. It was well known by travelers on their way up the Sonoma
Trail to the Trinity Mountains and the northern mining districts. The Blue Wing
Inn today is a private home to those local residents who are fortunate to live
with the history and an occasional ghost.
La Casa Grande
On the west side of the plaza is the adobe building
that once housed Captain Salvador Vallejo, brother of General Mariano G. Vallejo.
Construction, using Native American labor, began in 1836. Salvador and his family
lived here until the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846. In 1858 to 1864, Cumberland College,
a Presbyterian co-educational boarding school was located here. It is now home
to several local businesses.
middle of First Street West, next to the Salvador Vallejo Adobe, is General Vallejo's
first home, La Casa Grande.
Construction began around 1836 and completed in 1840. Eleven Vallejo children
were born in the house. Over the years, La Casa Grande's constant stream of distinguished
visitors made it the center of social and political life north of San Francisco
Bay.After the Bear Flag
revolt, the ground floor of La Casa Grande was used as a retail store, city council
chamber, and other purposes until 1854 when the entire house was turned over to
the Reverend John L. Ver Mehr for use as a girls' school. The main wing of the
house was destroyed by fire on February 12, 1867, leaving only the low two-story
servants' wing on Spain Street which is still standing today.
north side of the Plaza, next to the Sonoma Barracks, is the Toscano Hotel.
Built in the 1850s it was first home to a retail store and rental library. Later
the building was used as an inexpensive hotel, dubbed the "Eureka Hotel". Around
1890, many patrons were Italian immigrants, and the name of the hotel changed
from "Eureka" to "Toscano." Today, the Toscano is furnished with period furniture
and looks much the way it did around the turn of the century. The kitchen and
dining room are located in a separate building behind the main hotel.( In the
picture above it is the yellow building in the background.) Both are open to the
public Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from
1pm to 4pm and guided tours are hosted by docents in period costume.
Mariano Guadelupe Vallejo Home
home of General Mariano Guadelupe Vallejo, Sonoma's founder, is Lachryma
Montis. In the midst of the sixty acre estate
was a beautiful spring that the local Native Americans had called Chiucuyem ("crying
mountain"). Vallejo translated the name into Latin, "Lachryma Montis" ("mountain
In 1851-52, the two story, wood frame
house was designed and built on United States east coast, shipped by sail around
Cape Horn and then assembled at the present site the following Spring. The style
is Gothic Victorian, with a large Gothic window in the master bedroom, twin porches,
dormer windows, and ornate carved wooden trim along the eaves. Bricks were placed
inside the walls of the house for insulation, and each room had its own white
marble fireplace. The crystal chandeliers, lace curtains, the handsome rosewood
grand piano and many other furnishings were imported from Europe. Vallejo's
home once included a large barn and several houses for the working staff, several
pavilions and various outbuildings. Grape vines and fruit trees were planted.
The quarter-mile long driveway entrance was lined with cottonwood trees and Castilian
1908, Sonoma's City Hall in the center of
the Plaza was originally designed with four identical facades so that merchants
from any side of the square could say the City Hall faced their businesses. Made of basalt
stone from local quarries, the City of Sonoma government offices still remain
in this central landmark of the valley.
General Joseph Hooker House
General Joseph Hooker House (formerly the Vasquez House) was built in the early 1850s for General "Fighting" Joe
Hooker of Civil War fame. Joe Hooker sold the house, originally located on First
Street West, and the many acres of adjoining land to Catherine Vasquez and her
husband, Pedro, with the deed registered in Catherine's name. The Vasquez family
occupied the house until 1901, and it is believed that at least two of their children
were born in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Located at 414 First Street East through the alleyway off of First St. East. Open to the public Thursday-Saturday from 2pm to 4:30pm., with the Tea Room offering homemade pastries
and other refreshments. The Library features books on Sonoma history, architecture,
and preservation, as well as vintage exhibits.
London State Historic Park
About 40 acres of famous author, Jack London's original
1,400-acre Beauty Ranch was acquired by the
state. The original park included London's grave, the ruins of Wolf House, and
Charmian London's House of Happy Walls. Over the years additional acreage has
been added. Today the park contains more than 800 acres, including several of
the ranch buildings and the cottage where London produced much of his later work. A three-quarter mile walk takes visitors to a dam, lake, and bathhouse
built by London. Other hikes lead up through fir and oak woodlands to views of
the Valley of the Moon. Another trail leads to Jack Londons grave and to
the ruins of the "Wolf House," Londons dream house, which was
destroyed by fire in 1913.
thanks to the Sonoma Valley Historical Society for the use of their historic black
and white images. See more information about The Depot Park and Museum on the Parks page. General Joseph Hooker House photo courtesy of the Sonoma League of Historic