Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is located at the intersection of Adobe Road and Casa Grande Avenue, approximately 3.6 miles east-by-northeast of the city of Petaluma, in Sonoma County, California. This 41.4 acre park features the main residence and center of activity for the Rancho Petaluma - the fertile, sprawling 66,000 acre owned by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. The main economic activity of the ranch revolved around the hide and tallow trade that helped make the general one of the richest, most powerful men in the Mexican Province of Alta California, 1834-1846. Now the Main house is furnished with authentic furniture and interpretive displays that make it possible to visualize many aspects of life on Vallejo's rancho. Today the building is listed as state historical landmark number 18. In 1952, the California park system began an ambitious, long range program of restoration, historical interpretation and archaeological investigations. Now this building hosts special events that bring to life an adobe ranch of the Mexican period in California.

Rancho Petaluma
In 1823, Padre Jos‚ Altimira visited los llanos de Petaluma, in search of a site for Mission San Francisco Solano, but at the end he preferred to establish the mission in the Valley of Sonoma. Ten years later, in April 1833, Lieutenant Vallejo was ordered by Governor Figueroa to examine the country north of Mission San Rafael, and to visit Fort Ross and Bodega Bay. On his way to Fort Ross, Vallejo crossed the fertile valley of Petaluma and fell in love with the place. Later, he built a small house and a corral, and in the spring he was ready to petition for a grant of land where he could place his livestock. The landgrant was approved by Governor Jose Maria Figueroa in June of 1834. This grant of approximately 44, 000 acres, was confirmed by Governor Manuel Micheltorena and increased in 1843 by 22, 000 acres. Rancho Petaluma then stretched eastward from Petaluma Creek over the hills and down to Sonoma Creek, including all land that lay between these two waterways from the edge of San Francisco Bay to approximately the present site of Glen Ellen.

In 1834, Vallejo started building houses, corrals, and other needed improvements. A commanding site on a knoll overlooking Petaluma Valley was chosen for the rancho's main building. Construction of the massive adobe began in April 1836 and continued steadily over the years, but was still not complete in 1846 when California's Mexican era abruptly ended with the conquest of the Mexican territory of California by the United States of America.

All of the original lumber used in the building was redwood, most of it handhewn, although some was processed by Stephen Smith's sawmill at Bodega Bay--the first steampowered sawmill on the Pacific coast. Only part of the walls were ever plastered and whitewashed, but the wide, covered verandas that completely encircle the house gave the adobe walls adequate protection from the weather. The original thatched roof was replaced in the early 1840s when an American immigrant by the name of George Yount was commissioned to provide handsplit shingles and put a new, all-wood roof on the adobe building. The house, was originally planned as a great quadrangle two story building, with a large, covered balcony encompassing all the sides of the second story, and surrounding a square, with large gates facing the south and north. The southwest section of the building contained the Vallejo family living area when they visited the ranch. Here were the kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, and sleeping and office quarters on the second floor. Communication was both by internal and external doors. The rest of the "fort", as it was known, housed supervisory staff, guest rooms, and the numerous manufacturing and business rooms "...hides, tallow, lard, dried meats, blankets, carpets, shoes, saddles, bridles." The ranch was never finished, leaving the east wing only partially built.

Rancho Petaluma was far more than just a cattle ranch. Hundreds of Indians laborers lived on the ranch and worked at the trades they had learned at Sonoma Mission. They tended large herds of horses, sheep, and cattle. They also planted and cared for large crops of wheat, barley, and corn, which they harvested and stored in the adobe both for local use and for trade purposes. Other crops such as beans, peas, lentils, and other vegetables were grown in abundance for daily use on the ranch.

The "Bear Flag Revolt" brought a sudden end to the rancho's period of prosperity under General Vallejo. In 1850, Vallejo leased the ranch to a group of French colonists and later he made other arrangements, but in 1857, Vallejo faced an increasing number of "squatters" and plagued by other legal and financial problems, decided to sell the adobe and 1, 600 acres to William H. Whiteside of Petaluma, for $25, 000. Twenty-nine months later, Whiteside sold the property to William D. Bliss and the east wing was floored, roofed, and used as a stable and barn. No more improvement were made and the adobe was neglected, By the 1880s, the east wing was in ruins, and the west wing shabby ghost of itself. Vallejo went to visit the ranch in 1880, when he was 72 years old and told to one of his sons "...I compare that old relic with myself and the comparison is an exact one; ruins and dilapidation. What a difference between then and now. Then youth, strength, and riches; now age, weakness, and poverty."


Petaluma Adobe State Historical Park.
Department of Parks and Recreation. Sacramento, California.

Petaluma Adobe State Historical Park. General Plan.
Department of Parks and Recreation. Sacramento, California.