Last updated: 09/26/2023
Discover Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, a historic park home to the largest adobe structure on private property built in California.
PETALUMA ADOBE STATE HISTORIC PARK
Located in the city of Petaluma, in Sonoma Valley, California, the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park was born as Rancho Petaluma Adobe, a historic ranch made of adobe bricks built between 1834 and 1837 at the request of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, an American general and statesman. He performed military duties as an officer for the Republic of Mexico and shaped Alta California's transition from a Mexican territory to the U.S. state of California.
Petaluma Adobe was the largest adobe structure on a privately built property in California and it's the largest example of the Monterey Colonial style of architecture in the United States. At 66,000 acres in size, the Petaluma Adobe Ranch was one of the largest and most prosperous private ranches in the region and was also used as a summer home for the Vallejo family, as they lived on Lachryma Montis in the city of Sonoma, which is now part of of Sonoma State Historic Park. A part of the old ranch became this historic park that can be visited to this day. Furthermore, about 80% of the adobe bricks and 20% of the woodwork are original.
BEGINNING AND OPERATION OF THE RANCH
In 1834, California Governor José Figueroa ordered General Vallejo and his soldiers to move from the Presidio of San Francisco to the north of the bay, granting the land for Rancho Petaluma. In 1836, Vallejo began construction of the farmhouse, although his plans were never fully completed. It was at least 2,000 Native Americans (they were usually paid with food, clothing and other goods) who built most of the building's structures. They later began working on the ranch, which became one of the largest farms north of San Francisco Bay.
The ranch also had a tannery, a forge, and a grist mill powered by Adobe Creek. He also had 3,000 sheep and more than 12,000 head of cattle, whose skins and tallow were the farm's main source of income. Products such as candles, soaps, thousands of wool blankets, boots and shoes for military troops under Vallejo's command, and saddles were made by indigenous artisans in ranch workshops.
DECLINE OF THE RANCH AND HISTORICAL PARK
Between 1846 and 1848, the United States, seeking to expand its borders, went to war with Mexico. General Vallejo was arrested for his position in the Mexican army, taken to the Sutter's Fort and then the ranch began to decline in value and profitability. Around 1857, the rancho was sold and the new owner was unable to pay for all of the necessary repairs to the rancho, causing the southeast half of the adobe to deteriorate greatly.
In 1910, Native Sons of the Golden West purchased the remaining half, and after years of work and fundraising, the fully restored site was turned over to the state of California in 1951, which opened it as a historic park. About 80% of the adobe brick is original, although most of the wood has been replaced.
WHAT IS PETALUMA ADOBE PARK LIKE
Petaluma Ranch covers an area of about 2 acres bisected by Adobe Creek. The property's highlight is the two-story adobe house. There are also picnic tables and some green wooded areas, as can be seen on the official map below.
Next to the parking lot, there is a sign marking the attraction as a historic landmark, as well as a bust of Mariano Vallejo. Access from the parking area to the ranch is via a small pedestrian bridge under Adobe Creek and a path with different types of cactus.
The Petaluma Adobe Ranch was built with the aim of functioning as a ranch (rural property) and also as a defensive structure against the attack of the Russians who lived on the California coast (Read more at: Fort Ross: A Russian Fort on the California Coast) and frontier Native American tribes. It consisted of two two-story buildings surrounding an open courtyard and was constructed of adobe bricks and hand-hewn redwood boards and timbers. The second floor's wide covered balcony enclosed and protected the adobe walls from extreme weather conditions and provided advantageous firing positions in case of attack.
In the southwest part of the building was the Vallejo family's living area. The outdoor kitchen and dining room were on the ground floor. The second floor housed the family bedrooms, Vallejo's office, the farm administrator's bedroom, guest rooms, and communal dormitories for the more privileged workers. The downstairs dining room and family and manager's bedrooms had indoor fireplaces. The building to the northwest was never completely finished and currently no longer exists. The walls were built, but neither the floors nor the roof were completed.
WHAT TO SEE AT PETALUMA ADOBE PARK
Below, check out the map showing the location of the rooms at the Petaluma Adobe Historic Park. Next, check out more details about each of these locations and their respective purposes.
* (between #1 and #4): This is the park's ticket office and office. Pay for tickets or show the purchased ticket at Sonoma Historic Historic Park and take out a laminated guide with information about each of the rooms (it needs to be returned at the end of the tour).
1. EXHIBIT ROOM: The main entrance to the Adobe gives access to a small museum that briefly tells the history of the region and the Petaluma Adobe, highlighting the importance of Mariano Vallejo and the economic activities carried out on the ranch during the period.
2. WEAVING ROOM AND PANTRY: The women who worked at Adobe were responsible for cooking and doing other domestic work, including producing some weaving items. The ranch had around 3,000 sheep and their wool was used to produce clothes, blankets and carpets. This space was also used to store vegetables, grains and fruits.
3. COURTYARD: The ranch was formed by a rectangle complete with a central courtyard. The current Adobe courtyard reminds us of what the place was like before the Spanish. The area was very busy with dishes being made in the ovens, as well as other activities such as candle making, tallow and wool dyeing.
4. STORE, WORKROOM AND GRANARY: The ranch's large grain production (corn, barley, wheat) created the need for a room to store it. This room included the mill, storage space, and a store where clothing and food could be purchased. The carpenter and blacksmith also had work stations in this area.
5. HIDES STOREROOM AND LEATHER WORKING ROOM: The ranch's main economic activity was based on the trade in animal skins and cattle tallow, used to produce candles, explosives and soap. Furs were traded to Europeans, Americans, and other foreign traders in exchange for manufactured goods.
>> UPPER FLOOR
6. MARRIED SERVANTS' QUARTERS: This accommodation for married workers was used by those who had a higher status but had to share a room with many others. Some had beds divided by curtains for more privacy.
7. SINGLE SERVANTS' AND ARTISANS' QUARTERS: This accommodation for single people and artisans did not have any beds, meaning they had to sleep on the floor on mats and straw. The room doesn't have many windows and so it was quite dark.
8. FANDANGO AREA: Next door was an area that was also used for sleeping, but before that, there was a lot of music and dancing. Carpets were rolled up, food was brought to this space and musical instruments were played to cheer everyone up.
9. MAJORDOMO'S ROOM: The Mayordomo, that is, the supervisor of the ranch, lived in this room. Since Vallejo had a busy schedule as Commandant of the Northern Frontier, he delegated responsibility for the operation of the ranch to Mayordomo. Among the activities were barter trade, daily activities of the ranch and workers.
10. DINING ROOM AND PARLOR OR SALA: The Vallejo family used this room from a dining room to an entertainment area for friends and guests. Unlike other rooms, the walls here have decorations and are partially colored. The mirrors played an important role in reflecting the light from the chandelier, making the room livelier.
11. VALLEJO FAMILY BEDROOM: Finally, the Vallejo family room with several beds and curtains. There are mirrors and paintings on the walls, which shows a different status from the other rooms in the ranch. We imagine how challenging it must be for the whole family to share a single room!
- Address: 3325 Adobe Rd, Petaluma, CA 94954, United States of America
- Schedules: daily from 10am to 5pm (buildings close at 4:30pm)
- Entrance: US$ 3 (over 17 years old) | US$ 2 (from 6 to 17 years old) | free for children under 5 | i ticket that gives access to Sonoma State Historic Park can be used in this park on the same day
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