The History of Petaluma California
Petaluma was founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1858. Its first inhabitants
probably arrived between 6 and 10,000 years ago and they were likely
hunters and gathers. It is believed the word 'Petaluma' is from the
language of the Coast Miwok Indians and translates into 'hill backside".
Likely, this was referred to the Sonoma Mountain which is within close
proximity to Petaluma.
General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo
The Petaluma River has a early and long history. Those who prospered
from the river include the Petaluma Native Americans, Spanish Explorers
and Mexican vaqueros. The River played an integral part in the success
of the city and at one time, it was the third busiest commercial wateway
in all of California.
Produce, people, products and perhaps most notably, eggs, were transported
between the northern counties and San Francisco. In the 19th Century,
Petaluma became not only the largest -but- the wealthiest town in
Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties.
Petaluma’s poultry industry dates back to 1858, however, it
wasn't until 1875 that business soared. Canadian born, Petaluman Lyman
C. Byce invented the first practical chicken incubator and Petaluma
became rich. From the late 1800s and through the 1940s, hundreds of
chicken farms were established in the Petaluma Valley and profits
from the egg business poured into the town.
The combination of Byce’s incubator and the city’s ideal
shipping location on the Petaluma River enabled the city to flourish
and an incredible building boom ensued - most of which is still standing
today. At one time, Petaluma was known as the "Chicken Capital
of the World" or the "World's Egg Basket". It was also
known as the home of the world's first and only chicken pharmacy and
featured in National Geographic and in Ripley's Believe
A National Egg Day was launched on August 13, 1918 and was celebrated
each year until 1926. Festivities included a parade led by the Egg
Queen with her court of attendant chicks, a Chicken Rodeo and an egg
By mid-century, Petaluma's predominant industry became dairy farming
and remains so today. However, tourism and high-tech industries also
share this title.
The Petaluma Adobe
The Petaluma Adobe is a National Historic Landmark and it is the
largest domestic adobe building remaining in the United States.
Adobe, an ancient product, is a sun-dried brick made of clay and
straw and generally used in hot, dry climates. Between the years
1836 and 1846, the Petaluma Adobe was onstructed by General Mariano
G. Vallejo (1807-1890), commandant of the Sonoma pueblo. General
Vallejo was the founder of the town of Petaluma and Santa Rosa.
Vallejo had a vast agricultural enterprise where more than 2000
Indians labored and the Adobe served as his headquarters. Vallejo
owned 10,000 head of cattle, 24,000 sheep, and several large herds
of horses making him the wealthiest, and one of the most politically
powerful men in California by 1845.
Several of Vallejo's land titles were challenged and tied up in
litigation for several years following the occupation of California
by the Americans and Vallejo was forced to sell the Adobe by 1857.
Throughout many years, ownerhip had chanaged several times and the
Adobe eventually fell into disrepair. In 1951, the State of California
acquired it along with five acres of surrounding land. The Petaluma
Adobe was restored to the year 1840 and today is a California State
The Great Petaluma Mill which was built in 1854 is one of the oldest
buildings in town. In the latter half of the 19th Century, it served
as a food locker for most of the game used by San Francisco restaurants.
Today it has been renovated and this riverfront landmark features
specialty shops and restaurants. Throughout the building, one can
find relics and antique photographs which tell the history of the
Great Petaluma Mill.
Historic Downtown Petaluma
Petaluma survived the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake
miraculously unscathed and its Spanish Colonial, Queen Anne, Victorian,
Neo-classical, Gothic-revival, and Italianate architecture are beautifully
preserved. Petaluma has been fortunate and Petalumans have have
worked hard to protect their city's history. They won their right
from the Federal Ninth Circuit Cout of Appeals to implement an aggressive
program of preserving older homes, commercial buildings and the
Historic Riverfront. Petaluma was the first city which was able
to protect its individuality. Their efforts paid off and in 1995,
the Victorian Historic Downtown earned the recognition as one of
the best preserved Historic Downtown areas and was added to the
National Register Of Historic Places.
Petaluma has an "Americana" visual appeal which has attracted
Hollywood filmmakers for more than 50 years. In 1911, the first
movie was filmed in Petaluma. Additional movies followed such as
American Graffiti, Peggy Sue Got Married,
Inventing the Abbotts, Pleasantville, and Mumford.
All have used Petaluma's historic downtown streets, shops, residential
homes and unique collection of architecture and landscapes as movie
Petaluma was the site of the world's first airmail run, to Santa
Rosa, on February 17, 1911
Petaluma is home of the World's Wrist Wrestling Championships.
Petaluma's Historical Museum and Library features the only free-standing
stained glass dome in the state.
Today the quaint riverfront city with Victorian charm is home
to more than 600 businesses and 65 historical properties. Annual
events include the Butter & Egg Days Parade, Victorian Holiday
events, Semi-Annual Antique Faires, the Great Petaluma Quilt Show
and the Arts & Garden Festival.
Petaluma is located just 32 miles north of San Francisco in the gorgeous
Sonoma Valley Wine Country. Its ideal location can easily serve as
a base for those exploring numerous romantic wineries, lush California
Redwoods, and the breathtaking Point Reyes National Seashore.
The Petaluma River
Visitors have the opportunity to combine shopping with history in
Petaluma. One can leisurely stroll through the downtown district of
graceful Iron Front buildings of the 1800s while dropping in on many
of the antique stores, clothing boutiques, gift shops and art galleries
which are housed in historic buildings.