My tour of 1907 is almost over, marking the fourth year I’ve chronicled in this blog. It seems that there’s always a few pieces that are interesting or add more detail to a previous story, yet don’t quite merit an independent journal entry. Here are the “leftovers” for 1907:

* SOME WILLING; OTHERS ARE NOT An overlooked article about the anti-vaccination fight of 1907

* BICYCLES LEFT IN ANY OLD PLACE Someone at the Press Democrat – probably editor Ernest Finley – viewed himself as the Bicycle Cop, prowling the mean streets of Santa Rosa at night in search of “wheels” left out overnight. When, o when will these trusting fools ever learn?!? Also: an item about the near-death experience of Miss Luetta McCombs, whose bicycle was destroyed as she tried to cross the railroad tracks ahead of a train. “It is believed that the railroad company will present Miss McCombs with a new bicycle,” reported the PD.

* THE ARCHITECT’S BRIDGE It was reported before the earthquake that noted architect William Willcox had designed a new bridge for E street, but there was no further mention in the following year. This City Council item shows that the city did use his plans, after all.
* NEW HOUSE REPAINTED A small item that the Lumsden house – now the Belvedere bar and restaurant – was being repainted. Why would they go to the trouble and expense for a fine house less than five years old?

* FIND THE HERITAGE TREES A year after the 1906 earthquake, the old courthouse was finally being demolished, and the first step was saving the valuable trees, which were taken to the grounds of the old County Hospital. Are these the trees at the Chanate Cemetery?

* COLORED VIEWS OF SANTA ROSA Postcard collectors, rejoice! Here’s a date for the series of post-quake photographs of Santa Rosa published by Rieder, one of the largest publishers in the country. The most famous early photo of Comstock House is probably from this photo shoot, but we’ll wait until we can verify that this card was indeed from his publishing house.

* STOP BOYS FROM JUMPING TRAINS More from the annals of stupid, near-death experiences of early 20th century children.

* THE FORTUNE TELLER’S LICENSE Both newspapers regularly had classified ads for spiritualists, palm readers, and fortune tellers, and apparently Santa Rosa didn’t care – as long as they had a business license to peddle their hokum. Here Mrs. M. A. Young asked the City Council to wave the fee so that she could practice “her art of astrology,” although the “revenue from her business would not justify her to pay the license imposed.”
Opposition to the Enforcing of the Vaccination of School Children is Being Manifested

“Some are taking to it kindly, and are preparing for vaccination; others are not and are raising many objections. I am afraid that there will be considerable trouble in some circumstances,” said County Superintendent Montgomery yesterday when asked concerning the enforcing of the vaccination law in the public schools of Sonoma county.

The matter is one of much interest for in November a report has to be made to the State Board of Health regarding the number of school children who are then unvaccinated and the number who have complied with the law.

Some of the trustees are already taking steps for the purchase of the virus for the inoculation of the children who have not been vaccinated. Others are visiting the office of the County Superintendent or are writing asking many questions concerning the method of procedure and are referred to the law which specifically sets forth the plan of procedure.

– Press Democrat, September 25, 1907


But for the watchfulness of the Police Department bicycle thieves could make a nice haul any night in Santa Rosa. It is really wonderful that more wheels are not stolen or ridden off thus causing the owners considerable inconvenience. And the owners in many instances would have nobody to blame but themselves.

The other morning, about 1 o’clock, when practically nobody was about, a Press Democrat representative counted within two blocks on Fourth street sixteen bicycles. Some of the wheels were standing up against buildings, others against the curbs or posts while several were left sprawling half across the sidewalk. And this is what one sees night after night.

The police usually gather in the wheels and let the owner pick [them up] for himself when he comes to report at police headquarters later in the day that some one has taken his bicycle. It is practically a safe bet that had the investigation been conducted further on this particular morning forty of fifty wheels would have been found.

– Press Democrat, September 25, 1907

Miss Luetta McCombs, the girl who narrowly escaped death at the Third street railroad crossing of the Northwestern Pacific railroad on Saturday morning when the rear wheel of the bicycle she was riding was mashed by a locomotive and she was thrown for a considerable distance, was able to go to school on Tuesday morning. In addition to receiving some bruises, her ankle was sprained slightly. That she was not killed is extremely miraculous.

According to a statement by her father, Mr. McCombs, the girl had jumped off her wheel at the crossing and a freight brakeman motioned her to come on saying that she had time to cross. He probably misjudged the distance of the train. It is believed that the railroad company will present Miss McCombs with a new bicycle. The accident has been reported at railroad headquarters.

– Press Democrat, September 4, 1907

The bill of architect W. H. Willcox for $300 for the preparation of plans and specifications for the proposed E street bridge, before the April disaster, was referred to City Attorney Geary.

– Santa Rosa City Council item, Press Democrat, May 22, 1907

Repainting Fine House–W. H. Lumsden is having his home at the corner of Mendocino avenue and Carrillo street repainted. The work makes a neat improvement in the appearance of the place.

– “The City in Brief” column item, Press Democrat, May 24, 1907

Removed Ornamental Trees–Louis Kearney, assisted by W. H. Schieffer, removed a number of the ornamental trees from the courthouse yard yesterday, and they wee taken to the County Farm where they will be set out in the hospital grounds.

– “The City in Brief” column item, Press Democrat, May 25, 1907

M. Rieder of Los Angeles has been spending a couple of days in Santa Rosa this week. While here he completed arrangements and will send a photographer here in May to take a large number of views of the city and surrounding country, to be made into colored post cards.

Mr. Rieder is one of the largest post card dealers in the country and at the present time has 6000 views in stock, besides those made for special towns and cities. He will make twenty views of Santa Rosa into cards at once and the order will consist of 60,000 cards, or 3,000 of each view. Later he will add other views to the collection, which will be handled by the local dealers as soon as they are ready to be placed on sale.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 25, 1907
Two Lads Are Arrested and Given Several Hours in Jail Here Yesterday Afternoon

There have been a number of complaints recently about boys jumping on and off trains at the North Western Pacific depot. Already the practice has cost the lives of several lads and others have been maimed for life. And yet this lesson is not sufficient.

Yesterday Police Officer John Boyes arrested two lads named Reed and locked them up at the police station for several hours by way of a lesson. He captured them when they were jumping on and off the southbound Sebastopol train.

Later the lads were taken before Police Judge Bagley and were given a severe reprimand and allowed to go home. The officers intend to arrest all boys jumping off and on trains, and parents can do much to put a stop to the practice by either knowing where their children go after leaving school or by warning them and punishing them if they hang about the depots and jump the trains.

– Press Democrat, September 14, 1907

Mrs. M. A. Young asked the council to grant her a free license to practice her art of astrology in this city. She said the revenue from her business would not justify her to pay the license imposed. She stated that telling fortunes was her only means of livelihood, and that she had been injured at the time of the earthquake.

– Press Democrat report on City Council session, November 6, 1907

Read More


Impossible to imagine today, but someone was hired to “compute the stumpage” of logging Armstrong Grove in 1907 in preparation of its upcoming sale to loggers. For more background, search the Press Democrat archives for the January 20, 2008 article by Gaye LeBaron (sorry, no permanent link available).

Forest Reservation of the Late Colonel J. B. Armstrong Said to be in Danger of Destruction

One of the only two groves of redwood trees in Sonoma county remaining unmarred by the woodman’s axe is now threatened with the fate of destruction. It is the Armstrong grove of twenty acres near Guerneville, not far from the famous Bohemian grove, famed throughout the world. It is now owned by Walter Armstrong and Mrs. Lizzie Jones, children of J. B. Armstrong.

It is said that men representing the “lumber interests” have been dealing with the present owners of this magnificent woodland, and that an agreement has been reached regarding the price that will be paid for the monarchs of the forest. F. W. Hoffman is now in the grove computing the stumpage.

The grove was reserved by the late Colonel J. B. Armstrong when he sold or cut the timber on the rest of his land, who declared that Armstrong grove should remain the heritage of seceding generations. The trees there are among the best in the state. Some of them were big trees when the pyramids of Egypt were built. They are the few remaining monuments of antiquity of California. Since the despoiler’s axe has cleared away nearly all their noble fellows, these giant redwoods have been one of the great sights of Sonoma county.

Their destruction will be deeply regretted by all who know them. To cut these towering trees into material to build bridges and barns seems an equal sacrilege to the tearing down of the Washington monument and using its stones to pave an alley. Even worse, for a new Washington monument could be built within a year or two; but a new grove of redwoods cannot be grown in less than four thousand years.

– Press Democrat, August 24, 1907
Armstrong Grove Likely To Be Sold At Once

The beautiful grove of redwood timber near Guerneville, known as Armstrong’s grove, is likely to be sold in the near future. It is probable that when the transfer has been made the many handsome trees in the grove will be cut down and made into timber. Men representing lumber interests have been negotiating for the purchase of the timber for some time…Professor Freedom W. Hoffman, in charge of the Sebastopol schools, has been engaged the past week in estimating the quantity of timber in the grove, and when this task has been completed, it is understood the sale of the grove will be consummated.


– Santa Rosa Republican, August 23, 1907

Read More


Pretend that you live in a town – say, 1906 Santa Rosa – that suffered a major disaster – say, an earthquake that killed scores of people and left the downtown in rubble. A few weeks pass and you’re worn down by mourning and stress and just plain bored. So what could you do for fun?

The town went roller skate crazy when a very nice skating rink opened that summer, and seemingly everyone in town turned out to whirl around the rink or to watch experts perform (there was a gallery that could seat a thousand, and professionals appeared regularly). But there’s not much variety to the sport, and Santa Rosans were accustomed to being entertained. Before the quake, there were two theaters: The cavernous Athenaeum, where plays and stage shows were performed, and the Novelty Theatre, which presented Gong-Show quality vaudeville acts. Both were destroyed in the disaster.

The first post-quake playhouse was The Hub Theatre, which apparently opened its doors in September with an address of simply, “Main st.” It’s difficult to determine where it was, because the two blocks of Main between Courthouse Square and Sonoma avenue were almost completely flattened; it was probably in a long, narrow building that had been used to store buggies, and is now part of the site of the Roxy Stadium 14 movie theater (quite a nice coincidence, that).

At first, The Hub offered more cheesy vaudeville acts such as “Marco the Boy Magician,” and “Flood and Hayes, Renowned Trick Jumpers.” But it wasn’t long before the shtick variety programs were replaced by plays performed by the Columbia Stock Company, Al Richter, manager. They offered a new play every week, with three evening shows and a matinee. By early 1907, the ensemble had become the Al Richter Stock Company, with performances seven evenings a week plus a Sunday matinee, which was probably more of a dress rehearsal.

It’s no small feat to assemble an acting troupe, and Mr. Richter must have been an interesting character with boundless energy. But Orson Welles he was not, and the plays he presented were hardly cutting edge Ibsen. The newest play I can find advertised was about 8 years old at the time, and the oldest predated the Civil War. These were farces and potboilers, with titles such as, “The Moonshiners”, “Wanted, A Baby!”, “Too Much Mother-In-Law”, and “Nugget Nell, or the Pet of Poker Flat.” These early-to-mid Victorian era plays often leaned heavily on ugly racial cliches; villains or comic characters might include a “drunken Indian,” a “giddy Celestial,” a “lazy Colored servant,” which meant that the Richter Stock Company made heavy use of burnt cork, yellow and red paint along with demeaning and crude dialect. One week Mr. Orrin Shear was playing “Johnson, Colored Gentlemen” in their production of “Little Alabama,” and a few weeks later portraying “Ratts, the slave auctioneer” in “The Octoroon.”

Entertainment options bloomed in 1907, with vaudeville acts at the new Empire Theatre on Third street, a few doors down from the ruined courthouse. There was also the Star Nickelodeon at 414 Fourth street showing continuous motion pictures. And just before Thanksgiving, Al Richter opened his new Richter Theatre on the northwest southwest corner of B and Third street (currently a pitiful grassy knoll outside the mall, across from Wells Fargo). On the first anniversary of the Richter Stock Company that autumn, Press Democrat editor Earnest Finley wrote an approving commentary: “Nearly all of [the productions] were good, and some indeed excellent. The players as well as the plays have been of superior character, and the prices have been much less than were formerly paid for entertainment not so good.”

But all was not sunny that year for Al Richter. Theodore (T. T.) Overton, brother and business partner of Santa Rosa’s mayor and one of the town’s movers and shakers, announced that he was going to build an even bigger theater and organize his own company of actors. The Press Democrat featured a drawing of “Santa Rosa’s New Theatre” (not reproduced here because of poor microfilm quality, but it can be found in the Feb. 26, 1907 edition) that would seat 700 and have a state-of-the-art design by architect Victor Dunkerley, who had just designed the jewel of the new Santa Rosa downtown, the Overton Hotel. The cathedral-like playhouse would have 10 exits that could be opened “with the throwing of a single lever in the box office, which would be a safeguard in case of fire or other cause which might induce a panic,” according to the announcement in The Republican. Surely the spectacle of ten doors flipping open at once would have been a powerful temptation for scalliwags to cry “fire” in a crowded theater.

That would have been intimidating competition for Richter, whose operation was showing signs it might be having money troubles. Attendance was apparently off; while still in the smaller Hub Theatre, the stage manager came out and urged the audience to patronize their homegrown productions because it was, after all, a local business, and everyone in town was doing their darndest to shop locally. Another hint at desperation was that Al Richter rented space for building and painting new sets “to give the people a new set of scenery each week as the bill changes at the theater.” Read between the lines and it appears that he was making copies of stage sets from a theatrical service in San Francisco in order to save rental costs.

It seems that this era of local theater ended in the spring of 1908, when it was announced that the Richter Theatre was henceforth a vaudeville house. “From the large and appreciative audience it would seem that the change was to the liking of the patrons,” The Press Democrat snarked on May 15. In the following months it would also serve as a movie house/nickelodeon and a week-long rental theater for traveling acting companies. Ads announced in September that there was a new manager at the theater, and it followed soon that it had been sold.

The new owner was Mr. Overton, who somehow had never gotten around to building his expensive and extravagant playhouse, although Santa Rosa was promised more than a year before that “the building [was] practically assured.” He hadn’t gotten around to founding his own acting company, either; maybe he was disappointed that he couldn’t get the Richter Stock Company as part of the deal.


Although Santa Rosa no longer has the good theater building that it had before the fire, the people who go to plays have been better entertained within the last year than ever before in the city’s history. Occasionally there was a good play at the Athenaeum; but, depending entirely upon road companies, that playhouse often billed shows that sounded the depths of inferiority. Since the Richter Stock Company has held the Hub theatre, to which little playhouse local theatre-goers have been compelled to journey by reason of the lack of a bigger and better one, fifty-two different productions have been presented, nearly all of which were good, and some indeed excellent. The players as well as the plays have been of superior character, and the prices have been much less than were formerly paid for entertainment not so good.

There have been no grand stage settings, no large orchestras, no spectacular extravaganzas. The entertainment has been chiefly light melodrama, considerably below the highest form of dramatic art, but far above the childish humor of the comedies so popular in even the “dramatic centers,” and even further still removed from the vulgar indecencies of suggestive pruriency idocy [sic] of the “slap-stick” variety.

The theatre is supposed to represent Art. The greatest critics lay down the law that poor art is also poor morals; and there can be no doubt that coon songs [sic], rag-time, slap-sticks and like abominations have an influence directly opposed to all that is best in both art and morals.

It is pleasing to know that before many months Santa Rosa will have a theatre better adapted to its purpose than is the Hub, and that the Hub’s company will tread the boards there with much better accessories for creditable productions. The old company in its new home should be one of the town’s “institutions.”

– Press Democrat editorial, October 29, 1907

Some time ago five pistols, part of the property of the stage manager of the Hub theatre, were stolen. Yesterday Chief of Police Rushmore and Police Officer Boyes placed a youth under arrest and charged with the theft. It seems that there is another youth concerned in the robbery, and he will be arrested today.

– Press Democrat, January 23, 1907
Will Have Seating Capacity of Seven Hundred And Be Modern

Santa Rosa is practically assured of a handsome theater in the near future. Arrangements are now being made for the structure, which is to be constructed on Fifth street, opposite the Republican office. The news that T. T. Overton was contemplating the matter of providing an up-to-date playhouse for the City of Roses was recently given to the public in the columns of this paper and was pleasing news. The necessity for an opera house here is apparent to the most casual observer and the long time that has elapsed since the traveling companies from the east have visited this city makes people hunger for the good old times gone by when theatrical attractions in large numbers visited the city.

The theater planned for Mr. Overton by Architect Victor Dunkerley will have a seating capacity of seven hundred and five. Of this number four hundred will be accommodated in the main auditorium and three hundred and five in the balcony which is included in the plan.

Ten exits have been provided for the structure and all can be opened with the throwing of a single lever in the box office, which would be a safeguard in case of fire or other cause which might induce a panic. In construction and appurtenances the new structure will be up-to-date in every respect and fire escapes will be provided for the outside of the structure. The perspective is quite a handsome one, and on one side of the building will be the work “Music,” and on the other “Drama.”

Mr. Overton is organizing a stock company at present to handle the project with him and there has been a liberal response to the invitation to invest in the enterprise. Estimates of the cost of the structure prove that a liberal interest can be gained on the amount of coin to be invested and the building is practically assured.

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 23, 1907

Another Good Attraction Being Presented at the Hub Theatre

“The Octoroon,” which constitutes the attraction at the Hub Theatre this week is a strong play, and in the hands of the Al Richter Stock Company furnishes a fine evening’s entertainment. Not many patrons of the house will be apt to miss this week’s bill.

In his curtain announcement Monday evening, Stage Manager Harries made a point that seemed to find much favor with the local business men present. He called attention to the fact that while a traveling company might at times take a good deal of money out of town, a stock company such as that playing at the Hub was an entirely different proposition, practically all the money remaining here, and being spent each week among the local merchants. He urged a liberal patronage upon the part of the Santa Rosa business men for this reason.

– Press Democrat, April 9, 1907

Carpenters are rapidly rushing the work on “The Richter,” Santa Rosa’s new theater, and Manager Al Richter declared he will have the prettiest and cozziest [sic] little playhouse that Santa Rosa has ever seen. It will be neat in the extreme, and seat about 550 people…

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 11, 1907

Opens Special Paintshop for Benefit of Local Theatre

Manager Al Richter of the Richter theater is going into the scenery painting business on a large scale for the next few months. He has leased the room formerly occupied by Davis drug store on Fifth street and has transferred the place into a veritable paint shop, where he can work on the scenery for the theater. He expects to be very busy for the next three months and until such time as he can get stocked up with scenery.

It is Mr. Richter’s plan to give the people a new set of scenery each week as the bill changes at the theater, and to do this he will have considerable of a task as well as heavy expense. In order to hasten matters for the present he sent to the metropolis, where he secured a number of exterior sets and these are already on hand. Mr. Richter is an enterprising man and is determined to make the productions at the Richter equal to the best there are.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 17, 1908

Read More