1906courthouse

THE BITTER VICTORY OF COURTHOUSE SQUARE

In the summer of 1883 most West Coast newspapers were complaining about the unusually hot weather; but here in Sonoma county, we were too busy complaining about each other. For months the air was heavy with angst and acrimony and there was no telling how long it would be before the winds changed.

The Board of Supervisors were determined to build a county courthouse in the middle of Santa Rosa’s plaza. Petaluma wanted the new courthouse in their town – which would make them the county seat. Factions from Petaluma were circulating a petition demanding a vote on the issue while also threatening to split off and form a new county. Meanwhile, the rest of the county was upset at both Santa Rosa and Petaluma for dragging them into their fuss. All of that melodrama was covered in part one, “HOW COURTHOUSE SQUARE TORE SONOMA COUNTY APART.”

Our story resumes in the third week of July 1883, when there was something of a lull in the fighting. There had been no mention of the Petaluma petition since early June, when it was said they were about ready to present it to the Board. Having already contracted with architects, the Supervisors now requested construction bids; it would be another ten weeks before they chose a contractor, and hopefully by then the petition matter would be settled.

Amid all that hostility and uncertainty, the Petaluma Courier published a terrific parody which describes a fanciful Supervisors meeting where Mark McDonald and (Santa Rosa Bank president) Elijah Farmer squabble over the Board choosing one of their properties for the courthouse instead of the plaza.

“…the stalwart form of McDonald appeared. He has done much to beautify and adorn the city, laying out an addition thereto and connecting it with Donahue’s road by a street railroad [horse-drawn trolley cars]…He demanded that the Court House should be on his addition and he swore by all the gods and goddesses of Olympus that he would ‘shoot down the man on the spot who should haul down’ one of the grand old trees on the plaza, and he strode up and down the hall like a viking.”

Farmer, “who owns a large part of Santa Rosa and has a mortgage on the balance,” then accused McDonald of being “…only governed by selfish motives to get the Court House on your addition and fleece the people by carrying them to and fro on your railroad…What do you care for the county,’ said Farmer, ‘so you fill your pockets.’ ‘Fill my pockets,’ sneered Mark; ‘much I’ve filled my pockets trying to help your d—d old town that is too niggardly to help itself…'”

At that point in the parody a letter from railroad baron Peter Donahue was read, offering land between the railroad depot and the creek “reserving a strip along the bank for the usual Gypsy camps.” The Supervisors unite in cursing the railroad; “During this storm the mingled expressions of awe, anger, fear and credulity upon the faces of the Supervisors was a study.”

There’s more, including District Attorney Thomas Geary “twirling his chair around and swinging it like a love-sick girl” as he shot down arguments from the quarrelsome lawyers. Read the whole thing below – it’s fun Victorian-era humor.

The Petaluma petition was finally delivered to the Board on July 23, where it was placed on the table while they adjourned for two weeks. “Would you could see the citizens as they passed in and out while it was thus ‘lying in state,'” wrote the Courier’s humorist.

When the Board members returned from break that troublesome petition was still sitting on their table like an unexploded bomb.

The Supervisor’s efforts at the next meeting to avoid dealing with the petition were almost comic. One of them suggested organizing a committee to transcribe the names alphabetically. George Allen, Petaluma’s Supervisor, argued they couldn’t do that because they had not yet accepted the petition to read it, so they didn’t officially know what was inside. (Never mind that everyone already knew its contents because the Democrat newspaper had picked it apart in great detail.) After some debate they voted to read the petition and consider the matter the next day, but not before Allen made an unusual speech in which he distanced himself from his constituents:

…Mr. Allen in reply stated that he was not personally interested in the petition, but he would represent the interests of his section. The petition would not interfere with the building of the Court House at all; he wanted to see the petition disposed of, and if it was consigned to the waste basket he would be glad, while he would not vote for it. It was troublesome and he would rejoice to see it disposed of. (Petaluma Courier)

After looking over the petition, the Board of Supervisors voted 5:1 to deny it (Allen voting to accept). Petaluma needed more than half the number of votes cast at the last general election, which was apparently around 5,100 (papers at the time printed only the number of votes per candidate, not overall totals). The petition had 2,591 signatures, which might have sneaked it past the goalpost – but then the Supervisors threw out 310 names for being unregistered voters, followed by 169 signatures of those who signed another petition asking their names to be removed.

Even worse, Petaluma screwed up bigly before submitting the petition. There were several copies circulating the county and someone helpfully pasted them all together to create one long document – after snipping off the header of some, because, hey, redundant. That legally invalidated the entire petition, even if every damned person in the county had signed it. As the Democrat helpfully pointed out, in 1874 the state Supreme Court had decided against petitioners in San Mateo for making the exact same mistake. Once a petition’s proposition is chopped off it’s impossible to claim what the voters had really signed.

Unwilling to accept the Board had acted fairly, Petaluma held a public meeting to discuss what should be done next. And unable to be a gracious winner, Santa Rosa’s Democrat called the decision a “cause of rejoicing” and charged that the petition was only a ruse to create a Petaluma real estate bubble. The Argus and Courier were outraged by the insinuation and repeated earlier accusations there was a “Court House Ring” suspiciously rushing the deal through. This editorial dueling went on for months; they all took to beginning columns by quoting some choice bit of idiocy from the paper on the other side which was a riposte to something they had written themselves, so the whole exchange reads like a tangled internet flame war. Around and around and around they went. Oh, if only they had Twitter back then, they would have been so happy.

To be sure, this was like no other building project anyone had ever seen; the same Board meeting where the Supervisors voted against the petition saw them debating whether it even would be legal to construct the courthouse on Santa Rosa plaza, much less how they could hire contractors without any money yet collected to pay for the work. (Those details are covered in part one.) But plunge ahead they did, and in early October gave a Sacramento firm, Carle & Crowley, a $80,000 contract to build the place. (For some reason the Democrat could never get the latter name right, calling him “Croly” and “Cooly”)

courthousefromathenaeum

 

Two days later, Petaluma obtained permission from the state Attorney General to file a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors on behalf of the people of Sonoma county, requiring a vote on moving the county seat to Petaluma – to be held during the following year’s general election.

This was quite the large monkey wrench in the works. The Democrat bemoaned that fighting the lawsuit would be expensive and take years; “…suit will also be brought in the name of the people, by parties in Petaluma, to test the validity of the title to the Plaza, and it seems us though there will be an endless amount of litigation brought about by those who oppose the erection of a new Court House.”

The Argus reacted with all the glee of a French revolutionary waving a flag atop a Paris street barricade: “The will of the people may be thwarted for a time by chicanery and sharp practice, but in the end the people always triumph! The Court House Ring was afraid to trust the people to vote on the question of re-locating the county seat, and, whether they have prevented it or not, they must face the music on the same question…”

But the Attorney General also said Petaluma had a weak case – the Board absolutely had power to rule on whether petition signatures were valid or not. Meanwhile, the Supervisors had sold the property with the existing courthouse and the contractor had started grading the site and started work on the new courthouse foundation.

In other words, the Attorney General had given Petaluma a Pyrrhic victory. Sure, place the question on the 1884 ballot if you really want to – but there was no motion to enjoin the county and stop plaza construction or block the temporary 21 percent hike in property taxes that was going to pay for the courthouse.

By the time the next election day came around the courthouse would be almost finished, so voters would be deciding on…what? To abandon a year’s worth of construction work in Santa Rosa and start anew in Petaluma? To demand the state legislature split Sonoma county into two (or three) parts? None of the possible ballot items likely would have passed.

The fight was over except for a little wrap-up heckling and fibbing. The Democrat lied that the town founders in 1854 always intended to put a courthouse in the plaza (no). The Courier lied that the surviving town founders were planning to halt construction with a lawsuit (no).

Although Petaluma’s legal challenges were quashed, the courthouse project controversies were still not over. Santa Rosa had mixed feelings about the old plaza; the town didn’t take care of it except for the occasional spring cleanup. Still, it was the only park in Santa Rosa and the rare times when it wasn’t a disgrace the Democrat beamed with pride. (Visit Healdsburg to see how nice it could have looked – their plaza is almost exactly the same size and is quite nice.)

As construction began the Democrat cautioned, “…The utmost care should be taken of the trees in the Plaza, it not being at all necessary to disturb the two outside rows, and perhaps many others might be preserved.” A week later: “All the oaks on the plaza will have to be removed, and about sixteen of the other trees.” Soon after the Supervisors approved of removing all remaining trees except the palm. The rancor this stirred can be found in a letter from a former Santa Rosa resident who turned down an invitation to the big 1884 celebration for laying the cornerstone:

I received your complimentary card to be present at the laying of the corner stone of the Court-house, but it was too late for me to accept. It would have been a mixed pleasure had I been present, for I must have groaned when I witnessed the despoliation of the plaza and the destruction of the old trees, for the preservation of which we so long fought. A tree and a bit of grass is worth more than a Court-house. But I won’t indulge in any sentiment. I hope every ___ _____ who has a law suit in the new Court-house will lose it.

The new courthouse was formally accepted March 6, 1885 and opened for business April 3. The final cost was almost $85k, most of the cost overruns because they added iron plates on the floor and ceiling of the jail.

ludwigad1Within weeks, however, problems began to appear.

The paint on the four statues of the Goddess of Justice outside was checking badly; the paneling inside was splitting because the wood was unseasoned. But the worst was that the stairway was unsafe because the floor joists were too small to support the weight. Poking fun at the woes of his rival contractor, T. J. Ludwig – who did not bid on the courthouse contract – placed a joke ad in the Democrat offering to sell bolts “good for holding up weak court houses.” Workmen made a fix by placing a pillar in the basement to prevent further bowing of the joists but this proved to be an ongoing problem, with more emergency repairs three years later.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a travel piece on Santa Rosa in the summer of 1885 and praised the town’s prosperity, elegant homes, Athenaeum and the business district. The traveler had nothing good to say about the courthouse, however. “This extraordinary pile – sooner or later to be piled in a heap of its own tumble – is already showing signs of internal weakness and external shabbiness…The granite steps outside, front and rear, are narrow, steep and dangerous; the whole structure of Cheap John order. If it tumbles down in five years the county will not be much loser, in case there shall be no sacrifice of life.” The writer added the public is not to blame, because they were “hoodwinked into the adoption of the plan.”

Problems continued into the next year when the cesspool overflowed and flooded the equipment room. Santa Rosa didn’t then have a sewer system (as discussed here earlier) and when construction was underway the options were either digging a cesspool or building a private wooden sewer to Santa Rosa Creek. The Supervisors chose the cesspool because “sewers into the creek at this point were getting rather numerous,” by which they meant the part of the creek next to downtown – they were perfectly okay with dumping effluent into the waterway farther west past the railroad tracks, as they would start doing in 1886. That it overflowed was another example of bad engineering by the contractor, like the stairway.

Flawed though it may be, the courthouse was still the most picturesque thing to see in Santa Rosa – as shown by the number of photos and postcards which still survive – and it’s a shame that it was irreparably damaged in the 1906 earthquake. And here’s the Believe-it-or-not! twist: You can still visit it today if you pop in your car and drive for a couple of hours. A (nearly) identical twin can be found in Auburn. See more photos.

ABOVE: 1883 Sonoma county courthouse sketch by Bennett & Curtis BELOW: 1891 Placer county courthouse design by John M. Curtis
ABOVE: 1883 Sonoma county courthouse sketch by Bennett & Curtis
BELOW: 1891 Placer county courthouse design by John M. Curtis

Bennett & Curtis were the architects here, and this appears to be the only thing built under the firm’s name. Their next project was to be the Humboldt county courthouse but the partnership dissolved in 1885 after Curtis accused Bennett of cheating him out of his share of the contract. Now demolished, that courthouse in Eureka also strongly resembled the one in Santa Rosa although the dome there was much more imposing.

The senior partner was Albert Bennett, who had been the State Architect and superintendent for building part of the state capitol. John M. Curtis is mistakenly credited with several projects because there were a couple of other Bay Area architects named Curtis in that era, but this 1892 bio lists his work to that date including the Mutual Relief Building in Petaluma, still there at 27 Western Avenue. His Placer county clone of our courthouse was designed in 1891, but construction wasn’t completed until 1898.

Curtis has numerous other ties to Sonoma county. In 1898 he partnered with William H. Willcox who has been often mentioned here, primarily for his ambitious 1906 plans to build a convention center and water park in Santa Rosa which would have transformed the town. As a partner with an architect named Rowell in 1905 he offered plans for Santa Rosa’s Masonic hall and in 1906, Rowell, Curtis & Armitage presented a design for the courthouse to replace the one that fell down in the earthquake. Too bad he didn’t get that contract; it would have been a neat symmetry to have him design two Sonoma county courthouses, 23 years apart.

 

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

On Friday it was ordered that in the matter of advertising for proposals for the erection of a Court House at the County seat of Sonoma County, that the Clerk is hereby instructed to have the notice to contractors published in the Daily Examiner a news paper published at San Francisco, for the next three weeks…On motion of Mr. Allen it was ordered that the communication and protest of B. Hoen against building a Court House on the Plaza, and claiming an interest in said Plaza, was read, and laid on the table.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 21 1883

 

The Court House

EDITOR COURIER: The Board of Supervisors had another field day on the Court House question to-day – on the location of the Court House. All the attorneys of the county were invited to be present to enlighten the Board as to whether they could get title to the plaza. There were claimants to the title and doubt as to the county’s interest. Geary opened the fight against the plaza and was immediately attacked by all the plaza lawyers – each talking at once and each observing that his view was axiomatic and he was a simpleton who thought otherwise. But Geary, twirling his chair around and swinging it like a love-sick girl, kept, like Apollo of old, shooting his arrows at them. Just then the stalwart form of McDonald appeared. He has done much to beautify and adorn the city, laying out an addition thereto and connecting it with Donahue’s road by a street railroad. He also locate the line of railroad to Benicia, sold the bonds in Europe at a premium, and is about to commence the running of the road. He demanded that the Court House should be on his addition and he swore by all the gods and goddesses of Olympus that he would “shoot down the man on the spot who should haul down” one of the grand old trees on the plaza, and he strode up and down the hall like a viking. Then Farmer, who had been an eager listener to the matter, he of the Santa Rosa Bank, who owns a large part of Santa Rosa and has a mortgage on the balance, came to their aid. “Why take the plaza? He had a lot on which a Court House could be erected near to the center of the city which he would donate.” “Donate!” said Mark, with flashing eye and curled lip, “yes, you would donate a strip on three sides of a block so narrow that a Court House could only be built in the shape of a tape worm.” “And you,” cried Farmer, “are only governed by selfish motives to get the Court House on your addition and fleece the people by carrying them to and fro on your railroad.” (In the meantime Allen seized a volume of law, strode inside the bar, pulled off his coat, spit on his hands and declared he would make the matter so plain that a wayfaring man, though he was a —- District Attorney, need not err therein). “What do you care for the county,” said Farmer,” so you fill your pockets.” “Fill my pockets,” sneered Mark; “much I’ve filled my pockets trying to help your d—d old town that is to niggardly to help itself. If I had spent the same money in Petaluma I should have doubled it.” “You had better go down and help them now,” rejoined Farmer, (Here Judge Johnson, with the gravity of a Roman Senator, stepped inside the bar and desired to make a few remarks. He was proud to say that he had been appointed Judge in Indiana by that illustrious Democrat, Governor Hendricks, That the fruits and flowers of –) “I would” shouted McDonald, “if I could sell at fifty cents on the dollar of cost.”

Midst the confusion, Judge Lippitt, with that bland expression and silver voice with which he is accustomed to rouse the Irish of Bodega to the highest entusiasm, begged to present a communication to the Board which the Clerk read as follows:

“Office of the SF&NPRR Company, 30 Montgomery street, San Francisco.

“To the Honorable, the Board of Supervisors of Sonoma county: The San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad Company hereby tender to your honorable body, and through you to the county of Sonoma for the purposes of a Court House, the lot of ground lying between the railroad depot at Santa Rosa and the creek, containing about seven acres and in addition will haul brick, lumber and lime for building the same free of cost, and will lay out and plot the ground in a suitable manner, reserving a strip along the bank for the usual Gypsy camps.
PETER DONAHUE.”

A dogged silence ensued and then the pent up wrath of years of forbearance broke forth. It was a vile attack upon the county by a bloated monopoly. The road had already crushed the county, depreciated the value of property and set back the prosperity of the county fifty years. “Yes,” said Proctor, “Santa Rosa, like San Jose, if it had not been for the Railroad, would have been the seaport of the county.” McGee would throw the rails into the Laguna and Allen would tear down the bridges. (Behold McGee with a bundle of rails and Allen with a bridge, Sampson, like, trudging toward the Laguna.) By and by Donahue would want his offices in the Court House and fill all the county offices with his minions. Before the rising storm, Lippitt, the tool of the railroad, fled. Henley then suggested that they make up a case and enjoin Donahue from controlling the location of the Court House. During this storm the mingled expressions of awe, anger, fear and credulity upon the faces of the Supervisors was a study. Finally, Allen seized the road law, his Cyclopian spear, and with extended hand and bent form shook it at the District Attorney in a triumphant manner and then sat down, while his face was illuminated with a rosy light such as gilded the face of the old man at the top of the ladder while the old woman and the bear fought it out below.

At this awe-inspiring moment Lawyer Thompson, with the air of Minos, entered the arena and, in a voice termpling with emotion, begged to present to the Chairman the petition of a majority of the voters of the county to change the county seat and there, overcome at the remembrance of the honors conferred on him and other lawyers of the county by Santa Rosa, as in vision he saw the Court House rise on the plaza at Petaluma, he sat down crushed and wept. The Clerk blew his nose, wiped his eyes and prepared to read when I folded my tent and escaped as became an ARAB.
SANTA ROSA, July 23, 1883.

– Petaluma Courier, July 25, 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.
On Monday afternoon on motion of Mr. Allen, in the matter of the petition of the citizens of Petaluma, praying the Board to submit the question of the removal of the county seat to a vote of the citizens of Sonoma County, it is hereby the order of this Board that the petition be received and placed on file, and that a day be set for its hearing. Mr. Houser moved as an amendment to the above resolution, the following: In the matter of the petition presented by A. W. Thompson of Petaluma asking the question to be submitted to the people to change the location of the County Seat, it is now the or[der] of this Board that the petition be received and laid on the table for future consideration. The amendment was put to a vote and carried James H. McGee Esq., presented a protest signed by him, and certain papers sent to him protesting against the removal of the County Seat to Petaluma and on motion the Board received the papers and laid them on the table for consideration when the Petaluma petition is considered. The Board then adjourned until August 6th 1883.

– Daily Democrat, July 25, 1883

 

NOT TOO FAST.

Our neighbor of the Courier, is rather premature in “throwing in the sponge,” on the County Seat question. He says: “Our petition having been placed quietly to sleep on the Supervisor’s table, will know no waking.” As we understand the proposition, it was merely placed upon the table till the Supervisors could find time, or felt an inclination, to consider it…

– Petaluma Argus, July 28, 1883

 

The Court House.

EDITOR COURIER: This week has been a sad week indeed for our city. The Board adjourned but left the petition of Petaluma on the table. Would you could see the citizens as they passed in and out while it was thus “lying in state.” Some with baited breath and hesitating step and a charmed look, as if looking for what they did not want to find but expected to find it. Others with set teeth and clenched hands with a kind of kick-a-dead lion, fear of a-live-dog look. Others with white lips and a vacant stare. All the attorneys are busy preparing briefs on the case…ARAB. Santa Rosa, July 28, 1883.

– Petaluma Courier, August 1, 1883

 

THE PETALUMA PETITION.

The so-called petition, presented to the Board of Supervisors praying that an election be ordered for the removal of the county-seat, is radically defective in more than one particular. It is not such a petition at all as the law contemplates, and hence, for the purposes intended, is not worth the paper it is written upon. It is not a petition at all, but several pasted together. Different pieces of paper with printed or written petitions upon them, identical in language, were circulated and more or less signatures were attached to each. These separate pieces of paper were then taken by some unauthorized person, or persons, and pasted together, in some instances the headings being preserved, while in others they were cut off and only so much as contained the names were used. The roll of paper presented to the Board, therefore, shows upon its face that it was not a petition, but several pasted together, while many names have been added that were not put there by the signers to the identical petition to which they are now attached. This is not a compliance with the law, which reads as follows:

Whenever there shall be presented to the Board of Supervisors of any county a petition, signed by the qualified electors of such county, in number equal to a majority of the votes cast at the preceding general election, praying for the submission of the question of the removal of the county-seat of such county, it shall be the duty of the Board of Supervisors, by due proclamation, to submit the question of such removal of the county-seat at the next general election to the qualified electors of such county.

It will be observed that the a petition shall be signed by the qualified electors, etc. The document before the Board consists of different petitions attached together. It may be contended that, since they are all for identically the same purpose, the law has been substantially complied with. This is not true however, as will be shown presently; and it will further be shown that the attaching, by unauthorized persons, of names signed to one petition, to another, is fatal.

We have before us a decision of the Supreme Court in a case that arose in San Mateo county, that is directly to the point. It can be found in California Reports, No. 49.

On the 4th day of May, 1874, a petition was presented to the Board of Supervisors of San Mateo county, asking the Board to order an election to decide the question of the removal of the county-seat. Two petitions had been circulated and signed. They were identical in language and, although neither of them contained signatures enough to comply with the law, yet, by attaching them together, there were more than sufficient…

…It is clear from an examination of the so-called Petaluma petition that it is made up substantially as was the one passed upon by the Court, and that, therefore, it does not meet the requirements of the law. It is invalid for three reasons; first, because it is illegal for the reason given by the Court in the case cited; secondly, because it is not a petition, but two or more attached together, no one of which contains the requisite number of signatures; and thirdly, because it is not signed by the qualified electors of the county, in number equal to a majority of the votes cast at the last general election, many of those whose names are attached not being qualified electors.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 4 1883

 

PETALUMA’S PETITION.

[illegible microfilm – many names were not on the Great Register – Allen proposed to withdraw the petition to end the controversy] …the Board very properly refused to allow the petition to be withdrawn, as the end of the present controversy might be made thereby the beginning of another. If instead of attempting to get possession of the petition again, Mr. Allen had proposed to indefinitely postpone the consideration of it, he would have shown a disposition to end the controversy; but, had the Board allowed the petition to be withdrawn, it might have been presented again at any time. The proper way to end the controversy effectually is to consider the petition now, pass upon its validity, and dispose of it. There is no question of its invalidity for the reasons stated by us a few days ago, and none know this better than our Petaluma friends; and, if the truth were known, we have no doubt, many of them are very well satisfied with the result, particularly those who subscribed large sums without any expectation of being called upon for the money. Our neighbors have operated upon our fears and had their fun at our expense, and will no doubt admit now that this was all they intended from the beginning, or expected. We are sure that none of them ever seriously contemplated a division of the county, if they did bait their hook for Healdsburg with that idea, nor do we believe that the people of the latter place had any idea that the proposition would be favored by the people of the county.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 11 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

…Mr. Proctor offered the following: In the matter of the petition of citizens of Petaluma and elsewhere for the removal of the county seat presented at the last meeting of the Board and by its order received to lie on the table for further consideration, it is now ordered that a committee of three be appointed to transcribe the names on said petition and arrange them lexicographically for the convenience of this Board…Mr. Allen opposed the motion on the ground that it was out of order as the petition was on the table, laid there without being accepted and read, and was there and must remain there until it was taken from the table by the Board. The Board does not know what there is in that petition; if the Board desires to act on the petition it must be taken from the table by a majority vote and after it is read, then it may be referred to a committee…

[after some debate, they voted to read the petition. Supervisor McConnell said “a number of those signing the petition were not qualified electors.” Allen stated it was not required that a voter’s name be listed on the Great Register.]

…Mr. Allen in reply stated that he was not personally interested in the petition, but he would represent the interests of his section. The petition would not interfere with the building of the Court House at all; he wanted to see the petition disposed of, and if it was consigned to the waste basket he would be glad, while he would not vote for it. It was troublesome and he would rejoice to see it disposed of.

– Petaluma Courier, August 15, 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

On Tuesday, the Board passed all the forenoon and most of the afternoon in examining the Petaluma petition, 310 names were stricken off…

…The examination of the remonstrance was then taken up. It reads as follows: The undersigned were induced to sign a petition asking that a vote be taken upon the question of removing the county-seat to Petaluma, partly by representations that the new buildings would cost a large sum and add to our county debt; and inasmuch as your Honorable Body has declared by resolution that the outside cost of said building shall not exceed $80,000, and the citizens of Santa Rosa have offered a site for the new buildings without cost to the county, and are willing to guarantee $50,000 for the present county buildings, now therefore, we, in consideration of these facts, and the fact that the County Farm and Hospital are located at Santa Rosa, and the equities of those who have invested their money there, and that Santa Rosa is the geographical center of the county, hereby withdraw our names from said petition, and ask that we be not counted as subscribers thereto. The remonstrance contains 169 names…

…Supervisor Houser introduced the following: Whereas, a paper purporting to be a petition has been presented to this Board, praying for the submission of the question of the removal of the county-seat of this county to the qualified voters thereof at the next general election, and it appearing to this Board that the said petition does not comply with the provisions of law in such cases made and provided and does not contain the names of qualified electors equal in number to a majority of the votes cast in this county at the last general election and that said paper purporting to be a petition is in fact several separate petitions, separately signed and fastened together by some person or persons unknown, and whereas a very large number of the names appearing thereon are signed by the same person.it is therefore resolved by this Board that the prayer of said petition be, and the same is hereby denied and rejected. The ayes and noes were called and stood as follows: Ayes, Gannon, Houser, Pool, Proctor and Morse. No, Allen. The motion was declared carried…

…Judge Rutledge stated that he had had no doubts that the Board had the right to let the contract, and that the only thing that made him doubt it now was the fact that Mr. Geary and other attorneys doubted it. There is no doubt that the Board cannot create a debt for the payment of which they will have to draw on the revenues of any succeeding year, but if a contract was let, the contractor could mandamus the Board and compel them to make a levy to meet the indebtedness…

…The question as to the title of the Plaza was referred to again by Mr. Allen, and Mr. Geary stated that while he did not doubt that the title to the Plaza laid in the county, the county had no more right to put a building there than they had on the county road. Mr. Gannon’s motion was then put carried… Mr. Geary renewed his suggestion in relation to securing an opinion from Judge Rutledge in relation to the title to the Plaza, and it was discussed at length. The Clerk was instructed to furnish the Board at the next meeting all that there is on the minutes in relation to the Plaza…

… On motion of Supervisor Proctor, it is hereby ordered that this Board now proceed to count and ascertain the number of names on the petition for the removal of the county-seat of Sonoma county.

The names were then counted, and it was ascertained that there were 2,591 signatures attached. The Board then proceeded with their investigation, comparing the names signed with the Great Register in the Clerk’s office. Printed Registers being excluded.

…Mr. Houser stated that Judge Rutledge was present and he could throw some light on the question as to whether they had a right to build on the Plaza or not.

Mr. Allen stated that before the contract was let, there were two questions to be disposed of. The first was the right to the Plaza, and the second was as to the letting of the contract, as he understood that before the county could enter into an obligation they must provide means to meet those obligations, and as the specifications stated the work must be commenced some time in September, and if the contract was let, the specifications should be modified. There being a question raised as to the language of the specifications, a copy was sent for. While this was being done, Judge Rutledge stated that he had not examined the specifications, and was not prepared to give an opinion as to letting the contract. In the matter of the occupancy of the Plaza he had arrived at a conclusion that was satisfactory to him, and that was that the County had a right to the occupancy of the Plaza. He does not think that Santa Rosa, as a town, has acquired any right to the Plaza.

A lengthy discussion followed, in which several members of the Board, the District Attorney and Judge Rutledge participated, as to the question of letting the contract before the tax was levied. No decision was arrived at, the Judge stating that he had not studied the matter sufficiently to give a satisfactory opinion.

Mr. Allen considered the questions of location and of the power of the Board to enter into the contract should be settled before it was awarded.

Mr. Curtis asked that the Board pay them something, that they were out considerable money coming and going, and they wanted the use of it. Mr. Allen stated that if the building was constructed the architects were to receive 5 per cent., and if it is not built, 2½ per cent. And that must be paid when the work progresses, but now it was not possible for the Board to pay anything until the question is disposed of…

– Sonoma Democrat, August 18 1883

 

Petaluma In Mourning.

Editor Democrat: Woe hath come upon us, and all is sadness on “our city by Salt Creek.” How our hopes were centered on the time when Petaluma would be the county-seat of Petaluma county, and all to ourselves, we would be watching the Healdsburgers collecting taxes to build a court house for their end of the county and the innocent residents outside of the two towns paying double taxes for the fun of going it alone, and benefiting us and Healdsburg only. Now our fond anticipations are rudely blasted —- not a vestige is left.

It happened thus: The Committee sent their petition with signers amounting to more than the required number. It was held back, and numerous feints at presenting it were made just to make yon Santa Rosa people feel good and to keep up the boom for Petaluma at the expense of the rest of the county, for we knew that property in many parts could not be sold if there was a prospect of heavy taxation to divide the county, keep up two sets of officers, transcribe the records, etc., but it helped this end of the county. Well, the petition was sent up and we thought the Board would receive it and place it on file and then they would have the Board solid for they would have virtually acknowledged by this that the petition was a legal one. But they didn’t. This was a stunner. Wiswell, Gwinn and Ellsworth were running the business, and they were flabbergasted. “They ain’t as green as they said they was,” said one. “Not much they ain’t” was the chorused reply. Then deep and earnest were the consultations. “If they investigate that petition they’ll find all them Marin county names,” said another. “Oh, we must get Allen to bluff them,” said a third, “He will tell them that everybody has a right to sign a petition,” and on this hope they rested. It didn’t work. Gloom and chagrin was depicted on the faces of the Committee, and of those capitalists and real estate agents that had not unloaded their lots.

There was mourning on Main street when Pearce and Tuttle came back on Wednesday, their banners trailing in the dust. Ellsworth elevated his voice and wept; Gwinn groaned; Lippitt lamented; Scudder shrieked; Hill howled and the mournful procession stood on the steps of the Bank, while Meacham mourned and Wiswell wept. They were grieved when they heard how Petaluma’s pet Lamb Geary successfully stood up for Pearce on the Constitution, and backed McConnell in his Legislative definition. Early in the day it had been determined to withdraw the petition. You have seen in the Courier that John Van Doren has a duplicate of 150 names that he forgot to attach. Well if they could have gotten hold of the original petition, and padded it out, the thing could have gone back with 3,000 names, and the fight maintained still longer, but even that hope flickered and died. “Never could get a lot of these fellows to sign another petition,” said one, and all hands agreed. Do yon wonder that they are blue?

Now obstruction is the order of the day, Allen will insist on every name being examined closely and if the remonstrances are brought in he will insist on every man whose name is attached thereto being summoned to show why he signed both documents. Time must be gained at all hazards. The Board must be worried and worn out. More than this, when the question of bids comes up, the same policy will prevail and if possible letting of the contract will be prevented. Every reason under the sun, moon and seven stars will be argued. You will see this sooner than I will. This controversy that can amount to nothing if it is brought to a vote, of the people, will be maintaintained as long as possible. I can see how the land lays if I am a

Bedouin. Petaluma, August 9th, 1883.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 18 1883

 

CAUSE OF REJOICING.

The final collapse of the movement for the removal of the county-seat must be very gratifying to the people of Sonoma county. That Santa Rosa was deeply interested we do not deny, but it was a matter that concerned every portion of the county. The mere opening of the question of removal and division had its effect upon the prosperity of the county, unsettling values and creating uneasiness. Many strangers who were pleased with the climate, soil and productions, and would have preferred to make their homes among us, were deterred from purchasing property, by the fear that taxes would be high. We hear this report from different sections, and of its truth there can be no doubt. The only spot that has been benefited is Petaluma. Upon the strength of the petition they were circulating and the rose-colored statements made concerning the prospect of removing the county-seat, a boom was engineered that caused many pieces of property to change hands at good round figures. The sellers have been enriched thereby, and the purchasers impoverished in the same ratio. We do not say that the movement had this end in view at the beginning, or that any of Petaluma’s long-headed capitalists saw a chance to make something out of it. We do not say that any of them availed themselves of the opportunity to unload. We simply state what has happened. The collapse of the removal scheme pricks the bubble and values will drop back to a solid basis again. We will take occasion here, while on this subject, to say that we cherish no animosity against our sister city, but come out of this contest without the slightest degree of ill-will. We wish her unbounded prosperity. We know she will prosper, for she is in the midst of a magnificent country, is full of enterprising and intelligent people and possesses advantages, the utilization of which will enrich her. But it cannot be denied that in stirring up the removal question she was controlled solely by selfish considerations and that, while she profited by the useless agitation, other portions of the county have suffered. The collapse of the scheme and the end of the controversy is, therefore, a source of rejoicing to the people of the county. It is dead forever, and out of the way. The county-seat will remain where it is and Sonoma county will never be divided. We shall have here a great a prosperous county, of which all its citizens will be proud. Taxation will be low, and many strangers will be drawn hither by the attractions which the advantages of good soil, varied productions, a fine and healthful climate, good schools, churches, etc., afford, to make their homes among us.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 18 1883

 

Misrepresentation.

[section of above article suggesting the petition created a Petaluma real estate bubble]

The above is simply not true. If a single piece of property has been sold here upon the strength of a possibility of the county seat coming to Petaluma, we have not heard of it. There is and has been a boom in real estate, but it is a healthy boom, founded upon a good, solid basis. A genial and healthy climate, rich, productive soil, good and abundant water, the best of school facilities, a country market that cannot be beaten in this or any other State, cheap fares and freights, pleasant surroundings and a community of God-fearing, liberty-loving, generous-hearted people, were the inducements for strangers seeking homes to settle among us. The county seat question cut no figure in the matter at all. In fact, many of our citizens would not give six and a quarter cents for the whole business – the shaky old Court House and all.

– Petaluma Courier, August 15, 1883

 

Petaluma’s Petition

The Board of Supervisors, by a vote of 5 to 1, having rejected the petition for an election for the removal of the County Seat to this place, at their last meeting, and our citizens feeling that the petition had not been justly and fairly dealt with, a meeting was held last Friday evening in Derby’s Hall, to consider the matter and determine whether the citizens had any redress in the matter, or any rights that the Board were bound to respect…Considerable discussion was indulged in, which resulted in the general belief that a sufficient number of qualified electors had signed the petition to call an election, and that the Board had acted in an unfair and partisan manner in dealing with same. It was finally resolved that a committee of three lawyers be appointed to investigate the matter and report their conclusions at a called meeting of citizens…

– Petaluma Argus, August 25, 1883

 

PETALUMA COMPLAINS.

A complaint comes from Petaluma that the petition for the removal of the county-seat, was not justly and fairly dealt with by the Board of Supervisors. We do not know of any proper grounds upon which to base such a complaint. It was found, upon examination, that there was not a number of names of qualified electors on the petition equal to a majority of the votes cast at the last general election. One of the qualifications of an elector, as defined by statute, is that he shall be registered on the Great Register of the county…The Board found that the petition did not comply with the terms of the law and so declared very properly. But there were other irregularities that ought to have been fatal to the petition. It was not a petition as required by the law and determined by the Supreme Court, but two or more petitions attached together by some unauthorized person or persons, and many of the signatures were written by the same hand and are not the signatures of the persons whose names they represent, nor is there any evidence that the person signing them was authorized to do so by the persons whose names they attached. The right of petition is one of the fundamental principles of our government, as the Argus declares, but when the manner of petitioning is prescribed by law, the conditions imposed must be complied with.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 1 1883

 

The Board of Supervisors, on Saturday, let the contract for building the new Court House at Santa Rosa, to Carle & Cooly of Sacramento, whose bid was $80,000 — the building to be erected in the plaza. They also accepted the bid of $26,000 offered by Wm. Hill and Matt Doyle of Petaluma, for the old buildings and grounds. The special tax levy for Court House purposes will aggregate between $50,000 and $60,000.

The Court House matter is again assuming a serious aspect. On Monday the Attorney-General granted to A. W. Thompson, attorney for citizens of Sonoma county, to bring suit in the name of the people to compel the Board of Supervisors to submit the question of the removal of the county seat to the people at the next general election.

– Russian River Flag, October 11 1883

 

The Leading Topic.

District Attorney Geary informs us that the petitioners were represented by A. W. Thompson of Petaluma, before E. C. Marshall, Attorney General, on Monday, while Judge Rutledge and himself represented the Board of Supervisors. The suit will be brought here, and a writ of review will be the first step taken. The entire ground was gone over in the argument before the Attorney General. On the question as to the construction placed upon the law by the Board of Supervisors relative to a qualified elector, Mr. Marshall held that that the Board were right, that the Legislature has as good a right to qualify petitioners as they have to qualify electors, and informed Mr. Thompson that it that was the point on which their action was based, it was not a very strong one. A qualified elector was undoubtedly one whose name appeared upon the great register, and such only could petition for an election for the removal of the county-seat.

From a general conversation among a group of Attorneys, it seemed to be the opinion generally that our Superior Judges would be disqualified to try the case, as they as well as most of the residents of the county, are interested in keeping the rate of taxation low, and this suit, if carried out, will put the county to a great deal of expense, and as it will undoubtedly go to the Supreme Court, it will be several years before it is decided. Suit will also be brought in the name of the people, by parties in Petaluma, to test the validity of the title to the Plaza, and it seems us though there will be an endless amount of litigation brought about by those who oppose the erection of a new Court House.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 13 1883

 

Suit to be Brought.

The following dispatch, received just before we go to press, is self explanatory: San Francisco, Oct. 8, 1883, Democrat, Santa Rosa:—Attorney General permitted suit to be brought in the name of the People.

T. J. Geary, T. J. Rutledge

– Sonoma Democrat, October 13 1883

 

COUNTY SEAT.
PETALUMA’S PETITION POTENT.
The Attorney-General Rebukes the Supervisors and Decides that the Petitioners Must Have an Honest Hearing.
Supervisors May Possible Defeat a Vote on the Petition
But There is a Vote of the People Behind That Which They Cannot Prevent or Influence!
The People are Indignant Over the Action of the Supervisors in Levying a Tax of 25c on the $100 to Build a Court House when They were Offered a Better One for Nothing.
Our Correspondent, “Lex,” Foreshadows the True Business! – What the Santa Rosa Papers Say on the Situation.

On Monday last, T. J. Geary and Judge Rutledge, on the part of the Supervisors, and A. W. Thompson, on the part of the petitioners for the removal of the county seat, appeared before the Attorney-General and presented arguments on the preliminary steps in the suit to be brought against the Supervisors to compel them to submit the question to the people. The motion by Mr. Thompson, which was opposed by Messrs. Geary and Rutledge, was for the privilege of using the name of the people of the State and its Attorney-General in legal proceedings against the Board of Supervisors. After a patient hearing of the able arguments of counsel the Attorney-General decided in favor of petitioners. We give below the opinions of the Santa Rosa papers on this point.

“THE LEADING TOPIC.”

Under this head the Democrat bewails the situation, and thinks the county will be put to great expense, “as it will undoubtedly go to the Supreme Court.” It has nothing, however, to say against levying a useless tax of 25 cents on each $100, for years to come, before it is ascertained whether the people want it or not – especially when a Court House is offered free. The following is its article in full:

[see previous transcript above]

“THE PETALUMA PETITION”

Under this head the Republican has a good-tempered article. It knows too much about the case to say that the county will be put to expense if the suit is prosecuted, and says as follows:

“…when a party believes he has a right to a hearing in Court, it is not the province, fairly, of the law officer of the state to restrain him from, or deny him, that right…Petaluma has really no case, no leg, figuratively, to stand upon. This is the opinion which the Attorney-General Marshall himself unhesitatingly expressed, after he had announced his decision, in private conversation upon the subject…”

THE PUBLIC PULSE

There is a deep feeling of indignation among the petitioners for a vote on the question of removal against the Supervisors. They went to considerable trouble and expense to secure a majority of the voters, and when their petition was presented in due form and in good faith it was treated with the utmost contempt. The Supervisors may possibly stave off a vote of the people on the naked question of the removal of the county seat at the next election – which the petitioners clearly had a right to ask for – but they cannot possibly prevent an expression of the people on the subject of the division of the county. That will be the absorbing question, and it will not down at the bidding of the Supervisors or the Court House Ring. The will of the people may be thwarted for a time by chicanery and sharp practice, but in the end the people always triumph! The Court House Ring was afraid to trust the people to vote on the question of re-locating the county seat, and, whether they have prevented it or not, they must face the music on the same question, though presented in another form. The representatives to the Legislature will be elected on the square and simple issue of a division of the county. The people surely feel sufficient interest in this question to vote upon it, and if division carries the day the question of locating the county seats will become a matter of easy and quick solution…

THE COUNTY SEAT MATTER.

…[The Supervisors] did all in their power to induce the Attorney-General to refuse us the use of his name and that of the State, without which we were powerless to act; employed leading counsel to make that opposition, who certainly made the best possible showing and argument to deprive us of the right of being heard in the Court at all. The reason of this course and of the entire conduct of the Board is patent. The majority of it is devoted to the interests of Santa Rosa, and it is that town which is making the fight, using the Board as its weapon.

The major proposition involved the division of the county; the minor, the change of County Seat. Unavoidably this minor proposition had to be advanced first and our opponents naturally seek to wear us out fighting that; hence they contest every inch, using the Board as their tools…

…Counties are divided and new ones formed only by the Legislature, no direct vote of the people as to that is enjoined by law, but the Legislature should be advised of the fact that the majority of the people desire the change before it would make it. How should we show that fact? Manifestly by expression of the popular will in some way the best of which seems to be to form, as to the next legislative ticket alone, a party to be called “The County Division party” or some such…
LEX.

– Petaluma Argus, October 13, 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

[..]

At 2:10, the Chairman stated that the time had come for the awarding of the contract for the erection of a new Court House. S. Carle, of the firm of Carle & Croly, being present, stated that he was ready to enter into a contract for the erection of a Court House in accordance with his bid now on file. From some little talk that was indulged in by the members of the Board, it seems that Mr. Babcock, the lowest bidder, had made an additional bid in connection with his bid which brought it to a figure higher than Messrs. Carle & Croly’s bid, and they were the lowest bidders, their offer being for just $80,000. A discussion took place on the feasibility of changing the wooden girders proposed in the original plan to iron. On motion of Mr. Ellis the change was made. The original bid of the firm was $78,853, abd this change being made increases this $1,117, making the total cost of the new Court House $80,000. After the specifications were changed, Mr. Proctor moved that the contract be awarded to Messrs. Carle A Croly for the erection of a Court House in the central portion of the Plaza, in the city of Santa Rosa, for the sum of $80,000. Carried unanimously.

The New Court House.

The terms of the contract signed on Saturday, require Messrs. Carle & Croly to commence work on the new Court House November 1st, but Mr. Carle expressed a willingness to commence at once, so it is likely that the stone for the foundation will be got out immediately. This building is to be 110 feet two inches in length and 104 feet six inches in width, and will be built on the Plaza facing Third and Fourth streets. There will be a passage way running through it on the ground floor. The Plaza is 300 feet long by 280 feet wide, so that there will be a space of ninety-two feet on either end, and of ninety-seven feet on either side. The utmost care should be taken of the trees in the Plaza, it not being at all necessary to disturb the two outside rows, and perhaps many others might be preserved. It is expected that the building will be ready for occupation by November 1,1884…

Who They Are. — The firm of Carle & Croly, to whom the contract for the erection of a new Court House was let on Saturday, are located in Sacramento, at 1111 Second street. They built the County Hospital for that county four years ago, and two years since, built the new Hall of Records. They are now building a Masonic Hall in Stockton, which will cost $60,000, and are putting an $180,000 addition to the Insane Asylum at the same place. They have also in the course of construction at Sacramento, a Granger’s Hall, to cost $16,500, and a brick building for Waterhouse & Lester to cost $20,000.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 13 1883

 

THE ARGUS AND ITS CORRESPONDENT.

A very one-sided and unfair article on the County seat question appears in the Argus this week: also a communication from a correspondent that is no better. Concerning “Petaluma’s petition” the Argus proclaims in glaring head lines that “The Attorney-General rebukes the Supervisors and decides that the petitioners must have an honest hearing.” The simple facts in the case are that the Attorney-General decided to allow the Petaluma people to use the name of the State in bringing suit. He did not pass upon the merits of the question involved in his official capacity, but after hearing Petaluma’s statement of its case, and listening to the arguments of its attorney, he did, as an individual, say that in his opinion they had no case…Petaluma knows that it has no case, and does not dare to test it. It would rather hold this matter in abeyance and, while claiming that the petitioners were not fairly treated by the Board of Supervisors, talk up a division of the county. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Petaluma will find, if it heed the advice of the Argus and its correspondent, that it has made a fatal mistake. Santa Rosa is not afraid to go to the people on the question of division. They will never consent to the division of Sonoma, and if there are any political aspirants who think they can get office by stirring up a contest over the proposition, we advise our Petaluma friends to turn their backs upon them.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 20 1883

 

LOCAL NOTES.
All the oaks on the plaza will have to be removed, and about sixteen of the other trees.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 20 1883

 

In 1854, it was the intention of the Board of Supervisors to build a Court House on the plaza, just where the foundation of the new one is now being arranged, but they thought that, as the building they would erect would be a temporary structure, they would purchase the lots on which the old Court House stands, so that in the future the more pretentious structure would grace the Plaza. Their design is now being carried out.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 20 1883

 

THEY ARE AFRAID OF THE COURTS.

Commence your action at once, and win if you can. The Board of Supervisors, we dare say, are more than willing to meet you, and have the matter passed upon and settled. The people of Santa Rosa invite you to a judicial investigation. -Democrat.

Why this haste, gentle neighbor? The questions of re-location and division can not reach the people for a year yet, and we will be ready long before that time. You seem to be as anxious to get into the courts now as we were a short time since to have the Supervisors submit the question to the people. It may be now that we can get along without the aid of the Courts or Supervisors—and if so we will not give them any unnecessary trouble.— Argus.

The impression prevails that the threatened suit is only for effect and that there is no intention on the part of those concerned, to go any further with it than they have gone already. Being lawyers they know they have no case. They knew it, no doubt, before the Attorney-General kindly told them so. They propose to keep the matter in suspense, and make all the capital out of the fact that they were granted permission to bring suit in the name of the State, while they continue to tell a pitiful story of their wrongs and work up a feeling against Santa Rosa and for a division of the county. The game is too transparent and too well understood to succed. They have threatened to appeal to the courts for redress of pretended grievances, and Santa Rosa and the Board of Supervisors accept the challenge. If there is anything wrong, let it be shown. A failure to do so now, will be accepted by every unprejudiced person as a confession of weakness. People will say that Petaluma is afraid to appeal to the courts because she knows that the charges made by her against the Board Supervisors are without foundation.

We don’t intend to allow signatures to be obtained to a petition to the Legislature for a division of the county, or for a few men hungry for offices to get them, by playing Petaluma in the role of a martyr. We understand the game thoroughly and intend that the people shall, if they do not already, and when we say “the people,” we mean the people of Petaluma as well as other portions of the county. Many of the good citizens of that place understand the motives which prompt this last movement and have no sympathy with it. They don’t propose to be made cats’ paws of to draw the chestnuts from the fire for a few office seekers.

We repeat that Santa Rosa is not afraid to go to the people on the question of division. In the recent contest over the petition for removal, Santa Rosa did no more than correct the misrepresentations which were made to the people for the purpose of obtaining their signatures, and give those who had signed under false impressions an opportunity to withdraw. This was done not because she was afraid of the people when properly informed, but because of the misrepresentations with which they were assailed, Petaluma failed to present such a petition as is required by law and is now trying to make capital but of the fact that the prayer of that petition was not granted. When we say Petaluma we refer of course only to those who have put themselves forward as her representatives. It is a clear case now that they are doubly afraid – first of an investigation in court and secondly of a popular verdict — and hence they have changed their tactics and propose to go to the Legislature and ask it to divide the county.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 27 1883

 

[quote of paragraph 4 above: “We don’t intend to allow signatures to be obtained to a petition…”]

Now, neighbor, it would be really unkind in you not to allow signatures to be obtained to a petition if the people wanted to sign one – but they don’t. We will divide the county just as soon as the interests of the inhabitants require it, and we will not trouble you with any more petitions. You will be kind enough to allow the people to vote for or against candidates who are favorable or unfavorable to a division, when the time comes, won’t you? …

– Petaluma Argus, October 27, 1883

 

The tax rate in Sonoma county is $1.45 on each $100, but 25 cents of this is a special and extraordinary tax, levied to psy for the new Court House. Deduct this and the tax rate is but $1.20 on the $100.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 3 1883

 

We find the following in the Sacramento Record-Union of Tuesday: Silas Carle returned from Santa Rosa yesterday, where he is engaged in the construction of a new Court House. He says never in the history of the State was there as much or extensive building improvements going on as at present. The past year seems to have been one of unparalleled prosperity, and nothing gives better proof of this state of affairs than the permanent improvements everywhere being made.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 1 1883

 

Courierlets

It is rumored here that further work on the new Court House now building at Santa Rosa has been enjoined by the heirs of the Harmon [sic] estate. These heirs with Barney Hoen and Julio Carrillo claim title to, or some interest in the plaza upon which the new Court House is being erected.

– Petaluma Courier, January 2 1884

 

The Court House. — We caught sight of Supervisor Proctor inspecting the foundation of the new Court House on Friday morning and at once joined him. A report that nearly all the ornamental trees in the Plaza will be removed was denied. Four trees at the south entrance, and one at the north are all that will be taken out, and these are in the way of the steps. The foundation for the steps will extend to within ten feet of the north and south entrances, and perhaps three more will have to be added to those provided for in the plans. Mr. Proctor has devoted considerable time to the study of the details of the building. The chain gang is now engaged in placing the earth against the foundation and fixing the grade. This will cause it to be thoroughly packed and beaten down by the workmen engaged in building, so that when the Court House is completed, walks can be laid without any delay.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 8 1884

 

Amid a discussion relative to the new Court House and grounds, it transpired that a majority of the Board are in favor of removing all the trees in the Plaza except the palm. Supervisor Proctor objected, declaring that they were ornamental. Supervisor Pool also demurred. Supervisor Allen said that they would conceal the new building, and low ornamental shrubbery would cause the new Court House yard to present a much neater appearance.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 8 1884

 

The New Court House.

In January, 1883, Mr. T. J. Proctor, Supervisor for Santa Rosa township, took his seat in the Board, and immediately commenced a movement for the construction of a new Court-house… At the March meeting, the Mayor of Santa Rosa appeared before the Board, and offered to surrender any title the city mignt have to the Plaza, to the county, for the purpose of building a Court-house there, or to give any other location the Board might determine upon. A time was then set for hearing the numerous parties making propositions at the following meeting in April. The hearing of the Petaluma proposition having been fixed for the fifth of April, and that time having arrived, and they having failed to appear, on motion of Supervisor Allen the further consideration of that proposition was indefinitely postponed. Supervisor Proctor then offered a resolution that, whereas it appeared to be the general wish of the citizens of Santa Rosa and the people of Sonoma county that the new Court-house be erected on the Plaza in the city of Santa Rosa, therefore resolved that the location of said new Court-house shall be on the Plaza of Santa Rosa, the city having dedicated the same for Court-house purposes…

…in the constructon of this Edifice, it will require eight hundred thousand bricks (800,000) two hundred and forty ton (240) of dressed granite; one hundred and thirty-seven (137) tons of wrought iron, thirty (30) tons of cast iron, three thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two (3,922) feet of corrugated iron, — besides lumber and other materials. The foundation alone will require eight hundred and fifty (850) perch of basalt rock. The building when completed will be second to none in the State.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 29 1884

 

The following letter was received from an ex-attorney of Santa Rosa…

Sacramento, May 8, 1884

I received your complimentary card to be present at the laying of the corner stone of the Court-house, but it was too late for me to accept. It would have been a mixed pleasure had I been present, for I must have groaned when I witnessed the despoliation of the plaza and the destruction of the old trees, for the preservation of which we so long fought. A tree and a bit of grass is worth more than a Court-house.” But I won’t indulge in any sentiment. I hope every ___ _____ who has a law suit in the new Court-house will lose it.

Central Sonoma by Robert Allan Thompson

 

DENUDED OF TREES.- The Court House square at Santa Rosa has been denuded of all its trees which will be replaced by ornate shrubs.

– Petaluma Argus, February 28, 1885

 

The floor of the main corridor in the new Court House has settled somewhat in consequence of the floor joists not being heavy enough to support the weight of the stairs when filled with people. A pillar will be placed in the lower corridor to prevent the joists from springing at all.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 23 1885

 

The figures of Justice on the Court House are checking badly.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 13, 1885

 

SANTA ROSA.
Progress During the Past Year.
FINE BUILDINGS ERECTED.
Handsome Residences – A Complete Theater – The New Courthouse.

Santa Rosa is prospering and improving beyond the measure of any year in the past and her increase of population consequent upon the constant growth and prosperity of the county justifies this improvement in every form. It is not at all in the nature of a “boom.” It is warranted by every reasonable calculation of the future, based upon the soundness of present condition, and is substantial. During the year a total of over half a million dollars has been expended in buildings in the city, elegant residences, comfortable homes and stores and business structures, and nearly as much more will be similarly appropriated the coming year. The number of buildings completed is close to 100 and those in progress or under contract will swell the total to fully 140. This in a city of 5000 inhabitants can be accounted remarkable. Most of these improvements have been made by long-time residents, who have here accumulated wealth and have greater confidence than ever in the future of the city and the county, but with these must be reckoned a number of late-comers, who were attracted hither and made this place their home after having visited other portions of the state.

ELEGANT HOMES.

Among the dwellings are several which would be an ornament even to San Francisco in respect to architecture and elegance of finish and adornment inside and out. There are the stately mansions of A. W. Riley, one of the cattle kings of California, formerly a very successful merchant here, and the beautiful cottage homes of Messrs. Carothers, [sic] Ludwig, Byington, Grosse, Allen and Brooks, and the neat, less pretentious dwellings of other well-known citizens. In the business portions of the city the improvement is more significant of the increasing prosperity. On the site of the old Courthouse Judge Overton and M. Doyle are putting up a block of brick, for stores, with iron pillars, and the facings, front and side, of fine San Jose pressed brick. Down Fourth street – the principal business street – between B and the railroad depot, are the stores of Charles G. Ames and J. H. Glenn and others, and Captain H. W. Byington is building a capacious brick market and stores upon the site of his large stable, which was lately burned down. Those adjoin the Ames block, and the Glenn block is opposite, below the Occidental Hotel. On the corner of Main and Third streets, across from the plaza and the Grand Hotel, another brick, owned by Mr. Brown, a pioneer settler, and intended for stores, is going up, and on Mendocino street three handsome brick stores have been lately completed. Every one of these stores, finished or under way, is already occupied or rented.

A HANDSOME THEATER.

Further up Fourth street is the grand edifice of the city, the largest and finest of its order in the State outside of San Francisco – the Athenaeum. It is of brick, with a frontage of eighty feet and 190 feet depth, three stories high. The lower floor will be occupied by stores. Above is the theater, with a large concert or meeting hall in front, eighty by forty feet, and upon the third floor a banqueting hall of the same dimensions. The theater is very handsomely fitted up. The auditorium is commodious, and arranged after the most approved model, with capacious lobbies. The seating capacity is 1500, but 2000 can be placed without discomfort, and all assured a good view of the stage. Below are the dress circle, the parquet and orchestra seats, and the stage boxes. Above is the family circle, and at the stage end, on either side, are roomy boxes, to accommodate parties of from twenty to thirty, as circumstances require. The stage is broad and deep, with ample drawing-rooms at the sides for stars, and underneath are large similar rooms for the performers, ladies and gentlemen on opposite sides, with other rooms for the supernumeraries. The lighting and ventilation are of the best approved order, and the ornamentation and appointments up to the latest styles. The building will be in readiness for the theater opening on the Fourth of July, when it will be used for the literary exercises of the celebration and ready for theatrical performances. The architect and builder, T. J. Ludwig, is determined that there shall be no disappointment on this score. Ample care has been observed in the matter of speedy egress from the building in case of fire or panic. The front entrance is by broad vestibule, and an easy stairway of fourteen feet width on Fourth street, and rear stairways on each side of the stage, on Fifth street, so that the densest crowd that can cram into the building can escape in less than two minutes. The want of a building such as the Athenaeum has been a drawback to Santa Rosa in past years, and now that the city has the largest, best adapted and most suitable edifice of the kind in the State, except in San Francisco, the improvement will be appreciated at home and by the theatrical profession generally. The company who have had the public spirit to erect the building have performed their share of the enterprise in most commendable manner, and they deserve commensurate reward, as well as general praise, for what they have done.

THE NEW COURTHOUSE

It is unfortunate that the same praise cannot be given to the Supervisors who are responsible for the building of the new courthouse. This extraordinary pile – sooner or later to be piled in a heap of its own tumble – is already showing signs of internal weakness and external shabbiness. Not yet occupied six months, the main stairway inside is going away in places where it cannot be soundly repaired, and the panneling [sic] in the upper story is splitting, owing to the green and unseasoned wood. The granite steps outside, front and rear, are narrow, steep and dangerous; the whole structure of Cheap John order. If it tumbles down in five years the county will not be much loser, in case there shall be no sacrifice of life. It is possible that in some remote county of the State there is a courthouse as shameful and as shabby, but the proof is lacking. Of mean design, unhandsome architecture, indifferent construction and botched in essentials, the whole pile, from foundation to dome-top, is an unhappy compound of odious taste and wretched proportions. But the contractors have got their money, and the county must pay the bills for repairs. Sonoma is a rich county, however, and can stand the expense. A fine plaza was spoiled to make room for the offensive fabric. In a few years the people of the county will be ashamed of it, and it will in good time be replaced by a courthouse of befitting appearance and duration. It is just to state that although Santa Rosa bears the odium of possessing this deformity, because this is the county seat, her citizens should not be held responsible for the misshappen [sic] and offensive structure. In twas put upon her by those in authority at the time, who were hoodwinked into the adoption of the plan. As an awful example only is it a success.

– San Francisco Chronicle, June 23 1885

 

THE COURT HOUSE.

The San Francisco Chronicle of the 23d instant had a letter from Santa Rosa which contained certain statements concerning the new Court House that are disgraceful to the writer because they have scarcely an atom of truth to stand upon. If he is to be believed the building was miserably constructed and is liable to tumble down at any time. The truth is that the building is an excellent one in every essential particular and, although not perfect as a specimen of architecture, presents an imposing appearance and is an ornament to the town. The materials of which it is composed are first-class, and the work upon it exceptionally good. There was a slight defect in the stairway referred to by the Chronicle’s veracious correspondent, but it was easily and effectually remedied and at a very slight cost. The walls are intact, without the slightest imperfection, and, while it is possible that there may be a crack found in the panneling owing to an imperfectly seasoned piece of wood, or a strain of some kind, the correspondent has intentionally exaggerated the matter. These statements of ours will be sustained by every disinterested citizen, and now the question presents itself: What could have been the motive of the person who furnished the otrociously incorrect statement to the Chronicle? Who could have been interested in sending it abroad, and what could have been his object? Whatever the motive may have been, it was certainly discreditable and unworthy of any one having regard for the truth, or with a decent sense of self respect or of the respect of others; for there stands the Court House, a standing proof of the falsity of the correspondent’s statement.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 27, 1885

 

The drainage of the Court House is reported by the Superintendent to be in a very bad condition. The cesspool is full, and during rainy weather the surplus of drainage is backed up and overflows into the engine room.

– Sonoma Democrat, 9 January 1886

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1886courthouse

HOW COURTHOUSE SQUARE TORE SONOMA COUNTY APART

Next time you’re in Courthouse Square, notice the grassy area in the center is a cross. That’s a nod to the old historic courthouse which was there (albeit with a larger footprint) before it was wrecked by the 1906 earthquake. It was a such a pretty building; it looked like an ornate Victorian music box. And it was quite a popular attraction in the years around turn-of-the-century – there are more postcards and snapshots of it than any other place in Santa Rosa. But in 1883 Sonoma county was so bitterly divided over constructing it that Petaluma wanted to break away to form a new county rather than have anything to do with the project.

This happened at the start of Santa Rosa’s boom times, although the big changes really didn’t begin until the following year. Still, there was plenty for them to cheer about in 1883. There was a new city hall/library/firehouse, new homes and commercial buildings were going up all over town and property values were up almost 25 percent from the previous year. T. J. Ludwig, Santa Rosa’s busiest contractor, had a weekly payroll equivalent to about a quarter million dollars today, plus he also owned a lumber yard and co-owned a planing mill. Then in November the Colton trial began (see link above) and the town found itself awash in big-spending lawyers.

With all that progress in the air it’s not too surprising the Board of Supervisors brought up the issue of a new county courthouse. The existing one dated to 1855 and was so poorly constructed the Supervisors initially refused to pay the contractor. The roof leaked, the walls cracked; ongoing repairs and do-overs tripled the original cost. Grand juries repeatedly denounced it as unsafe as well as a “public nuisance.” Lacking any dispute that a replacement was needed, the only issues were how to pay for it – and more critically, where to put it.

Rebuilding on the existing location was never considered – another old complaint was that the space was too cramped. But there were not a lot of other options in 1883; the core town was already pretty built out by then, with the few remaining large parcels being east of E street or west of the railroad tracks. Only the big, empty plaza smack in the heart of the downtown remained.

Santa Rosa had a love/hate relationship with its public square going back to the Civil War. It was simply a small park criss-crossed by footpaths; there was originally a small grove of heritage oaks on the east side but by 1883 photos shows a haphazard mix of spindly trees, evergreens, pampas grass and century plants. Two years earlier a stray pig rooted up the grass and the newspaper bemoaned the soil was so sun-baked it would be best to plow it up and pray the place wouldn’t look so craptastic next season.

At that first 1883 meeting of the Board, it was Supervisor George Allen of Petaluma who suggested putting a new courthouse on the plaza. The Petaluma Courier agreed it was a good idea, but said so without conviction. Santa Rosa’s daily and weekly Democrat insisted it shouldn’t be done. “Our neighbor does not understand the situation,” wrote editor Linthicum.* “However much the City Trustees might desire to donate the plaza for that purpose, it could not be done. The plaza was deeded to the people of Sonoma county for a public plaza.” As we’ll learn it a moment, that issue was very much in question.

Then at the Board meeting three weeks later, Supervisor Allen made a new proposal: Build the new courthouse in Petaluma and the town will donate Hill Plaza Park (now called Penry Park) for the purpose – and locals will throw in $100,000 to sweeten the deal.

Which, of course, would also make Petaluma the Sonoma county seat.

Everyone’s positions flipped faster than a politician being handed a blank check. The Petaluma paper discovered a new urgency in having the courthouse built; the Santa Rosa paper decided “…the new Court House question has developed one fact, we think, pretty clearly, and that is that the plaza is the only place for a site upon which there can be anything like a substantial agreement.” The Santa Rosa City Council rushed through a resolution that the county could build it on the plaza or any other place it wanted as long as it was in the town.

And so began another bout in the Santa Rosa and Petaluma newspaper prizefight. As editorial MMA fighters Cassiday and Thompson were not available to slug it out this time, it was mainly just sparring with peppery insults and snark.

The Democrat sneered “the people of Sonoma county will never vote to place the county seat in an off corner of the county,” even though Petaluma offered a bribe and would “smile a Santa Rosa man out of his boots.” Since Petaluma’s park is on a small hill, a correspondent wrote the Democrat that a step ladder would be needed to reach a courthouse there. The Courier snapped back, “When the gentleman was here he tried to walk up the five steps from Main street to the plaza above the wall, but his legs were so infernally tired that he couldn’t make the landing.” Round one goes to the Democrat for a parody written in backwoods dialect. “Petalumar” stank and looked “as if Natur had spewed up the town site sumtime when mity sick at the stumick, and then tried to hide it by scratchin a litter of houses on it.”

I suspect most folks at the time thought it was all big talk and the topic would soon be dropped. What was the urgency, anyway? There was nothing actually wrong with the existing courthouse and jail (at least, at that moment), aside from its long-standing problems. But come spring and the Board of Supervisors were still pushing ahead and not considering any location other than the plaza. They solicited architectural bids with a $80 thousand budget – more money than the county had ever spent on a project.

It was around this time that factions in Petaluma began circulating petitions. It’s not clear if there were two separate petitions, but the issues at hand were both a vote to move the county seat to Petaluma and to split Sonoma county in half. This was the third time such attempts was made; in 1870 there was a similar call to make Petaluma the county seat for a new county and there was an 1861 effort to move the Sonoma county seat to Petaluma (that same year there was also a proposal to make it part of Marin).

Moving the county seat could be done by a two-thirds popular vote (which is how Santa Rosa snatched it away from Sonoma City, remember) but creating a new county was a far more difficult legal and political maneuver; a split could only be done by the state legislature. It would also entail Brexit-like negotiations to untangle the new county from the old in terms of deeds and other legal records, bond debt and laws.

Quixotic or no, both Santa Rosa and Petaluma took the petition seriously. “The petition has been circulated and runners sent out over the county to build up a prejudice against Santa Rosa,” complained the Democrat. Santa Rosa had an agent in Healdsburg (and probably other towns) discouraging voters from signing it – there was even a story that he was paying signers to remove their name, although that may be apocryphal.

The Petaluma Argus also began sewing doubt that the county might not even own the plaza property:

…would it not be well for the Supervisors to ascertain to a certainty about the title before they expend the first installment of $80,000. The claimants to the plaza would, as a matter of course, remain very quiet while a big, fine building was going up on their property – or, in other words, upon property they claim will revert to them when used for any purpose other than that of a plaza.  Of course, we very much desire to have the Court House down here, but if we can’t get it Santa Rosa will do pretty well, but we protest against building even an $80,000 house on somebody’s land, who will want it just as soon as the last coat of paint is put on.

The paper was referring to events fifteen years earlier. Gentle Reader surely recalls when Santa Rosa was founded back in 1853 that half of the new town belonged to Hoen & Co. (Barney Hoen, Feodore Hahman and J. H. Hartman) and the other half was Julio Carrillo’s. The acre composing the east side of the plaza was donated by the company with Carrillo giving the western acre. Then in 1868 Julio found himself destitute and unable to feed his large family (12 kids!) and sold his side of the plaza for $300, saying he hadn’t formally granted a deed to the county or city or anyone else back in the day. The three local men who made the deal with him tried twice to establish their claim to the plaza by constructing a shanty, only to see the shacks quickly knocked down. The city then passed a new ordinance making it illegal to put up any sort building in the plaza – a law which was still in effect in 1883, as far as I can tell. All those events are hashed out here in “COURTHOUSE SQUARE FOR SALE, CHEAP.”

Despite the risk those three claimants (whom I suspect had sold silent partnerships to pay for their San Francisco lawyers) might resurface, the Board of Supervisors kept plowing ahead. Let’s step back for a moment and gape in amazement at all the balls that were in the air:

 

*
WAS IT LEGAL?   Besides Julio’s buyers, everything about the title to the plaza land was unclear. Had the founders given it to the town, or the “people of Sonoma,” viz. the county? Apparently Julio was right in saying there was no deed or other paperwork. And even if that question could be waived, it still had been gifted with the clear intent of it remaining a park – founders Hahman and Hoen had already objected to the courthouse plan. In agreement, District Attorney Thomas Geary opined “the county had no more right to put a building there than they had on the county road.”
*
WAS THERE FUNDING?   The Board of Supervisors had no serious discussions on how to pay for the expensive new courthouse aside from the expectation they could get around $30 thousand for the parcel with the existing courthouse/jail and create a special tax levy to collect the rest. The best offer came in on the low end: $26,000. (The bidder was Matt Doyle and his partner, who used the land to build the Exchange Bank, which is at the same location today.) Because of this shortfall, the Supervisors raised county property taxes by 21 percent for two years.
*
WOULD PETALUMA GIVE UP?   It was never revealed who was behind the Petaluma petitions, but it was clear they had money and were persistent. Should the Supervisors not allow the vote, the Democrat voiced fears they would sue the county, and the matter would “undoubtedly go to the Supreme Court, [and] it will be several years before it is decided…Suit will also be brought in the name of the people, by parties in Petaluma, to test the validity of the title to the Plaza, and it seems us though there will be an endless amount of litigation brought about by those who oppose the erection of a new Court House.”
*
WILL THE PROJECT BE ABANDONED?   Besides all the above, there was the question of whether the Supervisors should be signing contracts before there was a single penny in funding from either the property tax increase or selloff of the old courthouse land. This became an issue when the architects showed up three months after the contract and requested a partial payment to cover their expenses. The Board said it could not pay them anything at all – and conceded there was a chance the courthouse might not even be built: “if the building was constructed the architects were to receive 5 per cent., and if it is not built, 2½ per cent.”
*
CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?   Not since the Civil War had Sonoma county been so torn apart by an issue. Although the Supervisors who were making all the decisions represented the entire county, it was clearly seen as a Petaluma vs. Santa Rosa battle. The Argus charged there was a Santa Rosa “Court House Ring” behind the push for the plaza courthouse; the Democrat saw the Petaluma petition as something like an extortion threat. Other towns apparently were wishing a plague on both their houses. Should the Petaluma vote get on the ballot, the Russian River Flag warned readers to vote against separation, and that Petaluma was just making a “cats-paw of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma, to rake Petaluma’s chestnuts out of the fire” (i. e. playing them for suckers). The Flag also claimed “there are dark hints about ‘jobbery,'” (a fine old word for political graft) “which should be explained in full or all proceedings stopped.”

And that’s how matters stood in the midsummer of 1883. Probably everyone in the county had strong opinions concerning not only the courthouse and the petition and actions by the Supervisors, but all the deceptions and machinations – and before it was all over, Santa Rosa would be divided as well. Some of these wounds would be salved over by the time the cornerstone was laid about a year later, but before then it would get even worse. And that expensive new courthouse would soon prove to be as much of a white elephant as the rickety building it replaced.

 

* Thomas L. Thompson was elected California Secretary of State in November, 1882 and moved to Sacramento until he stepped down in 1886. He remained on the masthead as manager of both newspapers, but they were edited and published by veteran journalist John F. Linthicum.

 

 

Sonoma County Courthouse c. 1904 from the same view as the 1888 drawing above. (Photo: Sonoma County Library)

 

A New Court House.

The new Board of Supervisors, at their first meeting last week, brought up and discussed the question of a new Court House. All the members were in favor of a new building, but its location created some little discussion. Our Supervisor, Allen, was in favor of building a new Court House, provided the citizens of Santa Rosa would donate the plaza in front of the present Court House for the purpose. We coincide with the views of Supervisor Allen…

– Petaluma Courier, January 17 1883

A New Court House.

There was an informal discussion before the Board of Supervisors on Saturday of exceeding interest to the people of Santa Rosa. As soon as the pressing business of the Board was over the newly elected Supervisor, from this district, Mr. T. J. Proctor, brought up for the purpose of getting an expression of opinion from his colleagues, the matter of the building of a new Court House. He stated briefly, but forcibly, the necessity for action in this matter at once. There could he said, be no difference of opinion as to the necessity of a new Court House; that was admitted by all. Laying aside the unsightly appearance and inadequacy of the Court House to the increasing business of the county, there was necessity for a new building to protect the records which were liable to destruction at any time from fire, having more than once narrowly escaped that calamity. Judge Morse, the Chairmen of the Board, thought that there was a necessity for a new Court House. Supervisor Allen took the floor and expressed his views at some length. He said, in substance, he would favor the project if the building could be erected on a portion of the plaza. He said that, if a new Court House was built on the plaza, the present county property could be sold for a good price and that the Hall of Records would be close at hand and would be as useful to the county as it now is. If the Court House was removed from near its present site, it would necessitate the abandonment of that structure and would greatly depreciate its value and the value of the property on which the present Court House stands, which would, of course, have to be placed on the market. His idea, if it was correctly understood by your reporter, seemed to be to build on the north-easterly half of the Plaza, leaving the south-westerly half for a Plaza or grounds which would be useful and ornamental. Mr. Proctor expressed no opinion on the question of location of the building, but reiterated his formerly expressed views of the necessity for a new building, and his desire that the matter be at once considered. There was then a general discussion on the probable cost of a new Court House and the best means of paying for its construction, if determined on. Mr. Proctor stated that he would bring the matter before the Board at the next meeting, when he hoped some definite action would be taken. From the above it will be seen that the matter of a new Court House is now a live issue and it stands our citizens in hand to supplement Supervisor Proctor in every way in their power. An active, intelligent and immediate co-operation with him is of vital importance.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

The New Court House Proposition.

Editor Democrat: I see in your paper of yesterday, under the head “New Court House,” an article in which it seems to be generally conceded by the Honorable Board, that the County is much needing a new building, a fact which is apparent to everybody. One of the members expressed himself ready to build, provided the City would give up a portion of the Plaza for a building site. Now, Mr. Editor, I don’t think that the member meant what he said. If so, the remark was evidently made without first having duly considered it. Santa Rosa has no more interest in the question of a “New Court House,” than Petaluma. Healdsburg, or any other part of the county. Then why ask Santa Rosa to donate that which is the pride of our City? and should our City obtain that size [sic] which it bids fair to in the next decade of years, it will be of more advantage than the County buildings. There seems to be an economic view also taken by the Board. They say they can sell the present location for a good figure. I would ask the Honorable Board who made the present location valuable? The people of this city who have spent their hundreds of thousands, while the County has not so much as placed a decent sidewalk in front of its property; and now comes the cool proposition: “If we will give them part of our Plaza, the pride of our City, they will sell the land that was given to the County and build a new building.” I wonder if they will give us a guarantee not to sell the other after the city has built up and made it more valuable? Mr. Editor, permit me to say that if there is never a new building for the County until it is placed on the public Plaza, by the consent of the citizens of Santa Rosa, I doubt if many of the present generation lives to see the long wished for new building.

Justice to All.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

The local press, we are glad to observe, is unanimously in favor of the erection of a new Court House. The Flag says, “Serious attention seems about to be given by the Supervisors to the subject of a new Court House. In the Flag’s humble opinion the present structure is unsafe and unsightly. It should be demolished and a pile erected suitable to so prosperous and so great a county as this — a county of the first class.” The Courier heartily endorses the proposition to build, but thinks the new structure should be located in the public plaza. Our neighbor does not understand the situation. However much the City Trustees might desire to donate the plaza for that purpose, it could not be done. The plaza was deeded to the people of Sonoma county for a public plaza, the northerly half by F. G. Hahman and —– Hahman; and the southerly half by Julio Carrillo. Julio Carrillo afterward sold his half to some one else, claiming that he never delivered the deed to it, that it was surreptitiously obtained and placed on record, and the party to whom he sold has not abandoned his claim. We are also informed that Mr. Hahman will not consent to the use of the part deeded by him for any other purpose than a public square. The title to the plaza is, in short, in a complete tangle, and it would be folly for the county to think of erecting a building there, for it would simply be an invitation for half a dozen law suits.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

The agitation of the question of building a new Court House, by the Board of Supervisors, on Monday, has been the general topic of conversation since the facts were made known through the columns of the Democrat. The necessity of a new building is conceded by every one. On this subject there is no diversity of opinion, but the proposition to appropriate a part of the public Plaza as a site for it, does not meet with favor. A correspondent in this issue of the Democrat discusses the proposition quite fully, and perhaps at greater length than would be necessary but for the fact that it is best to have a clear understanding at the outset. The proposition emanated from a single Supervisor, and he had evidently given the subject a very superficial examination. The project is impracticable. The Plaza was set apart and given the city for the purpose to which it is applied at present, and neither the city, if so inclined, can authorize its use for another purpose, nor can the county appropriate it. But fortunately the county has ample ground, very desirably located, for all requisite purposes, — ground given it for that specific purpose if we are not mistaken. If this be true, is it not doubtful whether the county could sell it, or use it for any other purpose?

But since there is so general an agreement as to the necessity of a new Court House, our citizens should do everything in their power to sustain our Supervisor in pushing the matter to a successful issue. There ought not to be any opposition to the measure from any source, and it is possible that there will be none except as to details.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

A Bid from Petaluma

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) a communication was received and read from prominent citizens of Petaluma, offering to donate their city plaza, valued at $50,000, together with the sum of $100,000 in cash, to the county on condition of the Court House being removed thither. A long list of subscribers to the $100,000 fund was read, the various amounts aggregating the sum mentioned. On motion of Supervisor Allen the communication was ordered received and placed on file.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 10 1883

The New Court House Question.

Almost every grand jury that has met at Santa Rosa for years past has condemned the “old Court House” as unsafe and a disgrace to the county. The reports of the grand jury were generally approved throughout the county, and in Santa Rosa public opinion against such an unsightly pile of brick and mortar, was almost unanimous…

– Petaluma Courier, February 14 1883

How about that unsightly, rickety old tumble-down concern called a Court House at Santa Rosa. The people are getting tired of looking at it, and besides that, it is considered unsafe! Let’s have a new one. Why has this agitation ceased?

– Petaluma Argus, March 3, 1883

CITY COUNCIL.

…In view of the necessity of steps being taken by the Honorable Board of Supervisors soon for the erection of suitable public buildings for the county of Sonoma and a location for its erection being the first thing in order, it is hereby resolved by the Honorable Board of Councilmen of the City of Santa Rosa, that the public Plaza of said city of Santa Rosa, or any other place they may choose to select in the city of Santa Rosa, be, and the same is, hereby tendered to said County of Sonoma for the purpose of erecting thereon suitable public buildings for said County of Sonoma.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 10 1883

THE PLAZA FOR THE COURTHOUSE.

The City Council, at its meeting Tuesday evening, adopted a resolution tendering to the County the use of the public plaza as a site for a new Court House, or any other place that the Board of Supervisors may choose to select. This tender of “any other place,” we presume, means any place over which the city has control, as it cannot present to the county the property of private citizens without their co-operation. In considering the question of location, there has been some clashing of private interests. Every owner of real estate is quite naturally alive to the importance of enhancing the value of his property. No doubt, there are citizens who would be glad to sell their property to the county at a good figure; others would be glad to have the Court House near, while perhaps others would be willing to donate sufficient ground with the expectation that the increased value of other property would repay them. This is selfish, it is true, but it is selfishness that moves the world and paves the way to Heaven. It becomes a fault only when it opposes itself unreasonably to the public welfare, and we trust there is no citizen of Santa Rosa who would allow himself to become amenable to a charge of that kind. The agitation of the new Court House question has developed one fact, we think, pretty clearly, and that is that the plaza is the only place for a site upon which there can be anything like a substantial agreement. The Board of Supervisors, we are informed desire to make that the location. The people outside of the town seem to want it there, and apart from some interested real estate owners, the people of the city appear to be favorable to it. If the selection of a site were left to those who want it elsewhere, they could not agree. One would be in favor of this location and another of that, and hence we believe to locate the Court House in the plaza would give more general satisfaction to that class even than if put somewhere else. In view of all the circumstances, therefore, we believe the City Council has acted wisely in tendering to the county the use of the plaza, and, after all that has been said, we do not believe the objections to it are as serious as some of our citizens have been inclined to believe.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 10 1883

REMOVING THE COUNTY SEAT.

There is a little army of capitalists in our neighboring town of Petaluma, that are bent on having a Court House. Nothing will satisfy their cravings but a new Court House with an iron dog on the step and a weather sign on top. They sign any subscription that comes along and in amount of hundreds of thousands if necessary. They hold a full hand and would sooner bet on a new Court House coming to Petaluma than on four aces. They will subscribe any amount, sign any petition, and smile a Santa Rosa man out of his boots. Now that this fuss and flurry is going on, it is just as well to say right here that the people of Sonoma county will never vote to place the county seat in an off corner of the county, and outside of the immediate vicinity of Petaluma, nobody wants it there. The people of Petaluma propose to pay tor the new buildings necessary. This is a bribe offered the voters as an inducement to make them vote the county seat from Santa Rosa to Petaluma. If an election were held, and two-thirds of the people should vote to change the county seat on this proposition the election would be null and void on the grounds of this offer. This is against public policy. The Courts have decided this question. The result is that Petaluma can never get the county seat – no matter how much they offer. Another agreement proposed is to divide the county, giving Healdsburg also a Court House. Now it is just as well to say that dividing the county is simply out of the question. It can’t be done. There is no law provided for it. Then there is the bonded debt that would have to be apportioned, the records would have to be transcribed anew — one set going to one county and the other to the other. A thousand other difficulties will arise. There is no machinery of law to carry out the details; so the best thing for the people of Sonoma county to do is to set down on this changing the county seat business.
JONITA.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 31 1883

A CANDID STATEMENT.

For some years it has been well known that the present Court House building was not adequate to the business demands of a rapidly increasing population, and still more rapidly multiplying Court records. Greater safety is demanded, especially for the records of the former Probate Court and its successor, the probate department of the Superior Court which form a link in the chain of title to almost every piece of property in the county. It cannot be denied that these important records, and others scarcely less so, are in a very exposed condition. In case of a fire in or near the Court House their loss would be almost certain. In view of these facts and the successive recommendations of several grand juries, the subject of a new Court House was brought before the Board of Supervisors. Santa Rosa, as a city, was not especially interested in bringing up the question. It came about in furtherance of the often expressed wishes of citizens from all parts of the county. When the matter was brought up the people of this city very naturally took interest in it and endeavored, by all means in their power, to conform to the wishes of the Board of Supervisors who represent the people at large. The City Council and our citizens generally considered that the members of the Board were unbiased judges of the question of location and in that spirit offered any building site the Board might select, without regard to their own views or wishes. The matter was brought up informally before the Board and a general expression of opinion was made by the members, each one expressing himself in favor of building a new Court House in Santa Rosa provided the city would donate for that purpose the public plaza. Supervisor Allen, of Petaluma, committing himself as fully to this as any other member of the Board. This took place at the February term of the Board. The Mayor of Santa Rosa, J. P. Clark, was present at the time of this expression of opinion, and said in effect that he would at once take steps to convene the Council, and that he would do what he could to satisfy the expressed wish of the Board, and would give them a definite answer as soon as he could get it from his colleagues. With this understanding the matter was laid over until the March meeting. At that meeting Mayor Clark appeared before the Board with the written consent of the City Council giving by unanimous vote all right, title and interest the city might have to the plaza for the erection of the proposed building. Supervisor Allen, notwithstanding his public declaration that he only asked the city to surrender her title to the plaza, made, as Mayor Clark and others supposed, in good faith and carried out on the part of the city in good faith, at once introduced a series of dilatory and evasive motions, one of which was that a day should be set at the April meeting of the Board when the citizens of Petaluma could be heard on a proposition which they had made to donate their plaza and a certain sum of money to build a Court House in that city. This motion was an idle one as the Board had no power to build a Court House any where else than at the county seat, no matter what sum was contributed, and it was simply a waste of time and money to set down for hearing by the Board a matter over which it had no jurisdiction. A county seat can only be changed by a two thirds vote of all the voters of the county, and until so removed, to entertain a proposition of building a Court House elsewhere than at the County seat is a legislative absurdity. The motion of the Supervisor from Petaluma accomplished its object, not, however, without a sacrifice of honesty of purpose in the minds of all candid persons who heard his open and unsolicited declaration at the February meeting of the Board. The hidden object of the Supervisor was delay, that a petition might be circulated calling for a vote on a removal of the county seat to the town that gentleman represents Petaluma. The petition has been circulated and runners sent out over the county to build up a prejudice against Santa Rosa, with a promise at the extreme ends of the county of its ultimate division and two county seats and two sets of county officers, which means double taxation and more debt. In this equivocal manner the scheme for a division of the county was set afloat, it started with bad faith on the part of its originators and it will end in their entire confusion.

In the local jealousy, if such exists, between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, the people of the county at large have no part or parcel. If one populous county with a greater subdivision of the expense of government is better than two small ones with increased taxation, they will, of course decide in favor of one county, and no sophistical reasoning can induce them to do otherwise, whether they vote on the proposition next week, next month or next year, or in the next five years.

So far as this city is concerned it has the friendliest feelings toward Petaluma. For our part we are proud of its growth and prosperity. As for Santa Rosa, we have no fear of its future. In 1870 it was an insignificant village of less than 900 inhabitants; in 1880 it had nearly 4,000 and at this time the number is nearer five than four thousand. It is the geographical center of the county, the agricultural and manufacturing center and its growth could not be impeded by the local jealousy of Petaluma, even if such a feeling existed. We are far from believing it does exist in a majority of the people of that city, but there are a few persons there who are never so happy as when they can make themselves conspicuous. To their love of notoriety is due the bringing up at this time of the question of a division of the county.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 31 1883

A Santa Rosian [sic] who visited Petaluma last week on his return home reported to the Democrat that it would require a step-ladder to reach our court-house plaza. When the gentleman was here he tried to walk up the five steps from Main street to the plaza above the wall, but his legs were so infernally tired that he couldn’t make the landing. He had been floundering around that sink hole in the center of his own town so long, that he couldn’t appreciate an elevation of a few feet.

– Petaluma Courier, April 4, 1883

Division of the County!

PETALUMA AND HEALDSBURG TO BECOME COUNTY SEATS —WHOOP !
THE REQUISITE NUMBER OF SIGNATURES SURE TO BE OBTAINED.

A correspondent in the Petaluma Courier says :

“There is not much doubt but that a petition with the requisite number of names for the submission of the County-Seat question to the people will be presented to the Board of Supervisors.”

With regard to the necessary cost of a court-house, it is seated that the imposing structure at San Rafael a building in every way suitable to the purpose, cost but $75,000; and referring to the expenses of fitting up new county-seats, the Courier has the following: Petaluma will donate her plaza, and furthermore offers $150,000 besides, which will build a magnificent court house, combining a splendid jail, hall of records and all the offices complete. And Petaluma will do more, and in order to comprehend every possible expense, will defray her part of the few thousands of dollars it will cost to copy the records. And Healdsburg proposes and will do the same…Each distinct county government could actually be run cheaper than half the total cost annually of the present county government: and it can be demonstrated by comparison with a dozen other counties in the State — some smaller and others less compact, and all having smaller population than either of the two proposed counties, many of which were blessed with a smaller tax rate than Sonoma last year.

Just think of it! Healdsburg to become a county-seat. What shall we call the new counties? Where shall we locate all the lawyers’ offices? The Bank of Healdsburg building will have to be run up another story or two and a patent Hinckley elevator put in. We presume we shall have to run the Flag building up some and put in a steam elevator, and steam engine and presses, at the same time. The court-house must have four fronts, you know, because the four sides of the plaza, all filled with beautiful stores, will demand it: one front must face our way, sure. Won’t the building look fine, with a dome like the State Capitol, and the stars and stripes floating from the loftiest pinnacle; of course!

– Russian River Flag, April 5 1883

After all, perhaps we’d better let Petaluma have the county seat. A gentleman who claims to know states that the Sheriff’s records prove that more criminals come from our southern neighbor than any other three towns in the county. They all have to be transported here at the public expense, and it would perhaps be cheaper to move the Court House and jail thither. Then there wouldn’t be such a decrease in Petaluma’s population every time the court meets.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 7 1883

THE DIVISION. – It is only a question of time when the county of Sonoma will be divided. It would be cheaper to divide it now while we can get a new Court House in each county without cost to the tax-payers.

– Petaluma Argus, April 14, 1883

SANTA ROSA’S GENEROSITY

The city of Santa Rosa has very generously offered to donate her fine plaza to the county if the Supervisors will erect a suitable Court House thereon. We are informed by Major James Singley, of this city, that the plaza already belonged to the county, and that he was present when Julio Carrillo donated it to the county. The city of Santa Rosa has been taking care of the plaza for some years past, and has taken good care of it, too, for it is one of the finest little parks in the county. We have also heard it stated, on what we consider reliable authority, that when the plaza was donated by the successors in interest of Mr. Carrillo, it was done with the understanding that it was to be used as a public plaza, or park, and not for any other purpose. In view of this, would it not be well for the Supervisors to ascertain to a certainty about the title before they expend the first installment of $80,000. The claimants to the plaza would, as a matter of course, remain very quiet while a big, fine building was going up on their property – or, in other words, upon property they claim will revert to them when used for any purpose other than that of a plaza. Of course, we very much desire to have the Court House down here, but if we can’t get it Santa Rosa will do pretty well, but we protest against building even an $80,000 house on somebody’s land, who will want it just as soon as the last coat of paint is put on.

– Petaluma Argus, April 14, 1883

ON THE WAR PATH.

It is now perfectly evident that the Court House Ring in Santa Rosa is afraid to trust the people with a vote on the county seat question. An agent from that town appeared in Healdsburg this week and “opened the sack,” but found no takers. He offered the signers of the petition one dollar each if they would take their names off! The proposition was indignantly spurned by the signers…They have started in too late. Our petition is out of the woods! Save your “sack” for the election. You will need it then. We will give that “boss” at Santa Rosa a chance to bleed, who says he has nothing to give for a Court House, but has $10,000 to put up to beat Petaluma…

– Petaluma Argus, April 21, 1883

Petaluma is making the county-seat question hotter than ever. It says the recent action of the Board in ordering a new Court House had no force whatever, and that at the next meeting the requisite number of names will be had and a petition presented, praying the Board to grant an election for selection of site for the Court-House, which it will he bound to respect. In and about Healdsburg the petition is being generally signed, and the protest from Santa Rosa, in the hands of solicitors, is a failure. We do not know of their obtaining a single signature. The protest we saw certainly had none upon it, although the solicitor had been around some time. We have one word of advice to offer, and it is this; Before our people finally vote for division, let them be certain that Healdsburg will become the county-seat of the new county. The present agitation is a perfectly selfish one in all respects, and unless Healdsburg and northern Sonoma can be benefitted by it, we urge every voter to emphatically set down on all efforts to involve us all in the interminable confusion, in general, and entire wreckage of Santa Rosa in particular, to follow the removal of the county-seat to Petaluma. Thus far, the whole aspect of the affair seems to be to make a cats-paw of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma, to rake Petaluma’s chestnuts out of the fire; and unless our leading citizens organize and take steps to direct public sentiment aright, we advise here and now, that when the matter comes to a vote, the removal matter be absolutely and unanimously sat down upon. We have had our fun and put forth our chaff in this matter heretofore, but now that it is assuming a serious aspect, we venture this paragraph of warning.

– Russian River Flag, April 26 1883

The Petaluma Court House.

Mo and our Samantha went to Petalumar in sarch of the keounty-seat. When we drove down thru Healdsburg we stopped at the post orifice, wich is tended by Jurdan, to ask the way. He’s a shinin lite and a very Sivil Sarvice Reformer. He reformed Wright out of his plais, and is actin’ as a finger bored pintin’ to Washinton and Petalumar. Suckses to Jurdan and Reform — as long as he stays reformed.

Wen we ambled across the crick approchin the new keounty-seat the plase, like some other korporate dignitaries, sort of presented its wust aspect to the view. Thar wuz skattered, permisquous like, sum mity mean looking tenamints along the mud fiats; and Samantha sez to me, sez she: “What Butchertown is this, Dad?”

Sez I; This is one of the scrubs of the sitty, and they call it “Upper Hog Thief.”

By’m by we jolted along over the stones so we culd see part way down Mane street, to the first crook. There wuz several tomb stone shops on each side, and a cheerful view of the salt mash to be seen in the near future. Perceeding along karefuly we found Mane street the wust piece of road on the jurney. Big bowlders clogged it and the ground was sidelin and sticky as if Natur had spewed up the town site sumtime when mity sick at the stumick, and then tried to hide it by scratchin a litter of houses on it.

Sez I: “That’s the plaza, Samantha.”

Says she: “That high bluff of bed rock the plaza? Well, I should snicker right out. Ugh!”

Skudder, Dinwiddie & Co., and all the real estate benefactors an’ offis hunters stood round, expectant like, on the korners wearin’ a be9 smile of welkum. For it is the day of small things.

“Yes,” says I to Samantha, “that’s the plaza; but I don’t see the Kourt House. I feel like I smelled suthin, though.”

Sez she: “Fox the finder, Daddy.”

Sez I: “It’s net kolone, Samantha. It’s that blarsted crick. Don’t you smell the brine and the mud flats?”

“You bet,” sez she. Kounty seat! Why the sight aint fit for it. The laziest thief would break jail to get away from Petalumar.”

Sez I: “Korrect, Samantha.”

Specs. Cloverdale.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 28 1883

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

[..]

At 11:20 it was determined to consider the plans of such architects as were present. Among them are Kenitzer & Raum, William Patton, Newsom & Gash, Thos. D. Newsom, R. H. Daley, S. and J. C. Newsom, McDougall & Son, and Curtis & Bennett. R. H. Daley was the first one called upon, and he exhibited plans of a building three stories in height, 120 feet in length and breadth, and 120 feet from the base to the top of the dome…

…B. McDougall & Son presented one of the general plans of those preceding, with two stories and a basement. Sheriff’s office, cells and apartments for various purposes in the basement…Kenitzer & Raum next presented their plan…T. D. Newsom presented a plan of the Court House at Oakland on a smaller scale. He placed the Sheriff’s office and jail on the basement floor and proposed to heat the entire building by steam. Had plans for an elevator in the rear for the purpose of conveying prisoners to the court room in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of escape…S. and J. C. Newsom presented plans… Messrs. Newsom & Gash presented their plan next. It provides for a passage way on a level with the ground all the way through the basement, and for a floor two feet in height on either side. The basement story is provided with cells and the Sheriff’s office, and is very completely divided off into apartments for females, insane persons, etc…Wm. Patton was the last architect that presented a plan at this session…Messrs. Bennett & Curtis having shipped their plans by express, and they having failed to come to hand, the Board decided to defer the further consideration of this matter until to-morrow morning.

[..]

On Wednesday morning the gavel of the chairman fell at 9:20. The Supervisors’ room presented the appearance of a cross between a school of design and an art gallery. On every available space on the walls the competing architects had spread their designs, plans, outlines, in pencil, ink, or in crayon, in frames, without frames, and the atmosphere was filled with a confused sound of “outline,” “cell-rooms,” “designs.” A number of well executed outlines in frames hung back of chairman’s desk, and from the criticisms we heard, our citizens have developed intb art and architectural critics of no mean talent. Messrs. Bennett & Curtis of San Francisco, presented a set of elaborate plans, and explained them fully. Like all those that proceeded it, it is for two stories and a basement, and differs from some others in the fact that the Surveyor’s, Treasurer’s and Sheriff’s offices are all in the basement. Supervisors’ room, the offices of the Assessor, Clerk, District Attorney, School Superintendent and the Judges’ chambers on the second floor, third floor is occupied by the two Court rooms, one of which is 87×57 and the other 33×39, the jury rooms and the Hall of Records, The length of building is about 100 feet.

The designs all being in, Supervisor Allen suggested that the best plan to pursue would be to select a committee of disinterested persons and in conference decide upon the merits of the plans. That considerable had been said in relation to the opposition s»f the section that he represented to the erection of a Court House here, but that this feeling woald not affect the action of the Board at all, and that the plan or some plan would be adopted, that the location of the Court House was an after consideration but that a plan that would be a credit to the county wherever erected should be selected, and that to do this the Board should not act hastily but select only after mature deliberation. Mr. Proctor thought that the idea of having a conference committee an excellent ene, and thought that they could select the plan before to-morrow night.

Mr. Allen thought that one day was not sufficient time for such deliberation, that one week or two weeks might be well occupied with such deliberation. That it would be a good idea for the Board to visit the new court houses erected in neighboring counties add inspect their workings. That it had been rumored on the street that himself and the District Attorney intended to obstruct the adoption of plans, and he would take this occasion to deny this… This gave Mr. Allen the opportunity to remark that that was his principles; that on this committee there should be no interested parties, no one from Petaluma, Santa Rosa, or from any other part of the county, so that when the plans were finally adopted no one could say that some one bad an axe to grind in the matter…

… Mr. Morse responded, in other words to get some one outside the county to tell us what we want.

Mr. Houser said the people had sufficient confidence in the seven men constituting the Board to allow them to decide this question, and that the architects could explain the plans better than anyone else.

Mr. Proctor would just as lief take the architects statements as anyones, let them come in one at a time and explain their designs. Mr. Houser felt the same about the matter. Mr. Allen thought that to bar the architects from explaining would be an unjust discrimination. After a little more informal discussion, Mr. Proctor moved that at 1PM they commence with the architects as they did before and let them come in in the same order and each one fully explain his plan.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 12 1883

THE PLAN ADOPTED. — We hare already referred briefly to the plans proposed in our report of the proceedings of the Board of Supervisors, and now that they have made a selection, a more completely detailed description will not be out of place. The original plan will be modified in some respects, and we will note all the changes as they occur. The plan offered in competition by Messrs. Curtis & Bennett was similar to the others in that it provided for a building consisting of two stories and a basement, but differing materially from all the others in the location of the offices, and this difference was most marked in the fact that it placed the Judges’ chambers on a different floor to that on which the Superior Court rooms were located. In their plans, the following are located in the basement…

On the first floor…

On the second floor …

Col. A. A. Bennett, the senior member of the successful firm, has resided on this coast since 1849, and has always held a prominent place in his profession, and has drawn the plans for, and superintended the erection of a large number of public buildings. Among them are the following court houses: Woodland, Yolo county, Modesto, Stanislaus county, Merced City, Merced county, Fresno, Fresno county, Bakersfield, Kern county, Visalia, Tulare county. He superintended the work and drew the plans when the old State Capitol building at Sacramento was changed into the County court house, planned and superintended the changes made in the Tehama county court house at Red Bluff; was associate architect at the time the present State Capitol building was erected at Sacramento; drew the plans for the proposed Governor’s mansion, which is now used as the State Printing office; the plans of the Golden Eagle, Capitol, Arcade and International Hotels at Sacramento were executed by him; the Mechanics Art College at Berkeley, the workshops and iron cells at San Quentin were also planned by him, and be also superintended the completion of the Folsom prison, making numerous changes and alterations in the original plans.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 19 1883

The Court House Excitement.

The Court House question is still very important, and the following from the Petaluma Courier is not without interest:

Parties here, knowing something of architecture, make serious objections to the plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors for the new Court House. It is entirely too small for the purposes of a large county like Sonoma, and rooms for the different departments are not conveniently located for the public’s use. Notwithstanding the fact that our petition for a vote on the county seat relocation subject still circulates with a fair prospect of soon having upon it more than a majority of the electors of the county. Our citizens feel an interest in the new Court House wherever it is located and don’t want a bad or unsatisfactory job made of it. Seventy-five or eighty thousand dollars will not be sufficient to construct a building suitable for the wants of this county. It will take a hundred thousand dollars at least. The offer of the people of Petaluma was to put up a hundred-thousand-dollar building and they will do it if it will bring the county seat here. Santa Rosa will be largely benefited by retaining the county seat and under the circumstances should do something towards building the new capitol. They have offered as we understand, to give the plaza and pay $50,000 for the old Court House, the Hall of Records and the lots upon which they stand. Leading citizens here, with whom we have conversed, will oppose with energy any sale of the Hall of Records property. It is well adapted for the purposes intended, cost a large sum of money and is more convenient of access and roomy in every respect than any hall that could be set apart for record purposes in the new building. The old Court House property is worth from $25,000 to $35,000. If the citizens of Santa Rosa will guarantee to the county to take it at a fair figure, this added to seventy or eighty thousand dollars to be raised by taxation would, properly expended, be sufficient to construct a building worthy of the county. Our petition will be ready for presentation at the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and whatever the good people of Santa Rosa propose to do, if anything, had better be made known before that time.

– Russian River Flag, May 31 1883

On motion of Mr. Ellis, in the matter of percentage to be allowed to the architects, Messrs. Curtis & Bennett, (whose plans for a Court House for Sonoma county have been adopted) it is now therefore the expression of this Board that they will not allow the architects as superintendent of construction of said building, if the same shall be constructed, a percentage greater than five per cent, on the cost of said building, and said percentage shall include the cost for plans and specifications and detail drawings necessary for the completion of said building.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 6 1883

The Court House question has progressed as far as the examination of the specifications. There are dark hints about “jobbery” already in the matter, which should be explained in full or all proceedings stopped. The Petaluma petition is quiet.

– Russian River Flag, July 12 1883

 

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1885nw

GOOD TIMES, BAD, BAD CHOICES: 1884

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” sayeth Dickens, and that sums up the year 1884 in Santa Rosa. Those were days giddy with celebrations, easy money and wonderful progress; it was also a time when our ancestors made some awful decisions which would come to haunt the town years later.

First there was an event that brought a windfall to the town along with publicity that boosters craved. Then old dreams suddenly came true; telephone service began and the train line finally reached the ferries on San Francisco Bay directly – go to the city after breakfast, be back before suppertime. Santa Rosa’s 24-carat destiny seemed inevitable and our ancestors invested in that future with wild abandon. A kind of madness seized them, as often happens when people are surprised to find happy days suddenly no longer around the corner.

The city twisted the arms of other towns to agree on a new county courthouse. They used local tax revenue to build a luxe firehouse and city hall/library as well as taking the first steps toward installing a sewer system. (Sure, it would dump everything into Santa Rosa Creek at the west side of Fourth street, but hey, baby steps still count.)1

Private investors also raced to build. The most expensive of these projects was the Athenaeum, which was the second largest theater in the state. Most of the original wooden  stores along Fourth street were torn down and replaced by new two and three story brick buildings.

But that money was not particularly well spent. They went on the cheap for the sewer system, which was ridiculously undersized and became a stinking problem in just a few years. The pretty courthouse was so poorly constructed there were safety issues (article to follow shortly). No one questioned why Santa Rosa needed a theater big enough to hold half the town and as a result the place was rarely filled. And because everything mentioned here (except the sewer) was made out of bricks held together with weak mortar, all of it would tumble down in the 1906 earthquake.

Our story begins in late 1883 with the Colton trial. Details can be found in the footnote below but all that we need to know is that the widow of a Central/Southern Pacific executive sued the railroad, charging she had been swindled out of millions. The trial was held in Santa Rosa because it was such a political hot potato no court in San Francisco would touch it, deciding it was best assigned to the Sonoma County Superior Court judge – the esteemed Jackson Temple, a former California Supreme Court justice. The doings lasted almost two years and received considerable national attention, particularly after evidence revealed the corporation routinely bribed judges and members of Congress. Widow Colton lost.2

Writing in the summer of 1884 while the trial was underway, local historian Robert Thompson predicted “…it will cut a considerable figure in any future history of Santa Rosa. It has brought hundreds of persons to this city who would not otherwise have come, and its results will reach in directions not now anticipated.”

It certainly brought in lots of money – legal fees and court costs for the 23 month bench trial exceeded $200k, equal to about $7 million today. There were some thirty lawyers involved; the railroad’s attorneys stayed at the Grand Hotel (“in honor of its distinguished guests, [it] has discarded all the traditions of country hotels and has gone in for a French cook and finger bowls” -Alta California). While Mrs. Colton’s troops were at the Occidental she had rented a house for herself on McDonald avenue, and the carriage company that was usually only in demand at weddings and funerals found itself constantly busy. Their driver even upgraded his old sombrero to a beaver hat.

The Alta California reporter poked fun at provincial Santa Rosa with its “canals of mud, miscalled streets” and that court sessions would begin with the bailiff standing on the balcony outside while barking that Justice Temple had arrived, so the temple of justice was now in session. This was a weary local joke, particularly silly because the bailiff would follow by announcing details of the Sheriff’s livestock auction at noon.

And while the Democrat newspaper had an army of 21 court reporters and printers producing an astonishing eleven thousand pages of court transcripts, the Alta reporter was puzzled why locals seemed indifferent about the case which was mesmerizing others across the country:

The trial of the Colton case is now reaching a point where it is liable to be very interesting. Yet, strangely enough, though Santa Rosa is not suffering from a plethora of dissipation or amusement, the people here leave the trial severely alone. They don’t go the Courtroom, and don’t even discuss the case in bar-rooms, or read the reports, which come up fresh in the San Francisco papers, for the local press never has a word to say about the case, except that the Court is or is not in session.

(In its defense, the Democrat DID offer readers a single column wrapup of the case when the verdict was rendered – although the paper was more interested in boasting of their transcript printing prowess, which the publisher brought up repeatedly over the following years.)

While the trial flooded the town with cash (and nobody certainly expected the gravy train would chug on for two years) it was the railroad that teased the brightest possible future.

The train arrived in Santa Rosa in 1871 but the southern terminus was Donahue Landing, about eight miles south of Petaluma on Lakeville Highway (more background). From there passengers boarded a steamer that paddled down the meandering Petaluma River/Creek until it eventually reached the San Francisco Bay. But starting in May 1884, the train went all the way to the ferry dock at Tiburon, cutting a one-way trip from about four hours to around 2:15 – maybe a few minutes less, if the ferry captains were racing that day.3

That thirteen years passed before the rail line actually connected to the Bay had left many fearing it would never happen, particularly because there were gaps when no construction was underway at all. The train reached San Rafael in 1878, but from that point south it was hard going, with three tunnels needing to be engineered. Towards the end there were steam drills boring away 24/7 while a new invention called a steam shovel was brought in to create a railroad yard in Tiburon, with gawkers flocking to the scene to see this hi-tech “Steam Paddy”. It’s all quite an interesting story but this is SantaRosaHistory.com, not ReallyCoolMarinRailroadHistory.com – visit the webpage of the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society for some historic photos.

The premiere trip was May 1, 1884 and was well described in the Sonoma Democrat. A special train left Cloverdale at 5AM, picking up more passengers at Healdsburg before arriving in Santa Rosa. More clambered aboard at Petaluma and San Rafael. Everyone took the ferry to San Francisco, only to turn around half an hour later with a large delegation of San Franciscans. Back in San Rafael there were speeches and a brass band and ceremonial artillery salvos and sandwiches and wine and everyone apparently had a swell time. Still, it was an anticlimax after over a dozen years of anticipation.

All the advantages one might expect from having easier, faster access to San Francisco were reflected in the Santa Rosa newspapers almost immediately. There were more ads from SF doctors, dentists, and other professionals; there were notices about someone going down there or coming up here just for the day; there were items about church groups and societies from the city holding picnics and tourists prowling for something scenic. A downside was that some of the attorneys in the Colton trial began commuting from San Francisco, which probably meant fewer portions of escargots à la bourguignonne and saumon très chauds were being ordered in the hotel dining rooms.

Round-trip fares were initially $3 from Santa Rosa and $2 for Sunday excursion trips, but there were frequent pricing deals. Before long the excursion trains were bringing a thousand or more visitors to Santa Rosa on some Sundays – which turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Looking ahead a couple of years, a commercial park opened where Fourth st. meets College avenue (today it’s the apartment complex at 1130 Fourth street). The park owner made a deal with the railroad for discount tickets, and soon “hoodlums and roughs” were showing up in Santa Rosa, as described here earlier. Local cops were hard pressed to combat the violent drunks from the city who were brawling, stealing, vandalizing and attacking residents. One evening several dozen of them missed the return train and spent the night raising havoc in our streets.

None of these problems had to happen. Petaluma refused to subsidize excursion trains even while they were being encouraged in Santa Rosa; besides the park, realtors had sales promotions that underwrote half of the already discounted excursion ticket price. That Santa Rosa business interests liked the excursions despite the trouble is shown by it taking four years for the City Council to crack down on the riotous scene, and then just canceling the park’s liquor license and not addressing the larger problem. To the article mentioned above I’ll only add my suspicions that it was such leniency to the excursion traffic which led to our town turning into the Bay Area’s “Sin City,” with the largest red light district between San Francisco and Reno (MORE on that).

Of course, Santa Rosans in the spring of 1884 wouldn’t have believed any ol’ Cassandra who warned their bricky downtown would collapse in a few years or that the train service would lead to their town becoming a haven for prostitution and illegal gambling. It was now time to celebrate all the goodness that was happening – including the opening of the new city hall and starting construction on the new courthouse! They were so excited about the latter that a week after the first train arrived from Tiburon they threw a big party for the laying of the cornerstone – and everyone was invited! The ad here appeared in Petaluma, Marin county and San Francisco newspapers.

The Democrat estimated ten thousand were at the ceremony: “…streets were thronged, and groups of people could be found every where, every available window, veranda and awning along the line of march was filled, and the sidewalks were crowded.”

Out-of-town newspapers also covered the doings, and none better than the Alta California – which, Gentle Reader recalls, had a reporter who earlier described Santa Rosa as the city of roses and yokels. Now their anonymous reporter spent a paragraph describing some volunteer fireman from Healdsburg in prose that is the closest thing to erotica I’ve ever seen in a 19th century news article. I imagine more than a few subscribers choked on their coddled egg breakfasts while reading about a guy who was “if not a joy forever, is at least a thing of beauty:”

…He is immense, all-pervading, superb, gorgeous, resplendent, effulgent, altogether too utterly much. His uniform consists of a blue shirt…dark pants, and a smile of the most comprehensive self-satisfaction that it was ever given to man to wear. As his little heeled boots delicately tamped the Santa Rosa sidewalks and he attracted the furtive notice of the Santa Rosa girls, he was too splendidly conscious of his own beauty for anything…Even Mark McDonald, who is six feet four, owns the gas and water works, besides an Indian bungalow, and has a whole avenue named after him, shrank to small proportions when the beautiful uniform of Rescue Company hove in sight.

Give the Alta due respect, however, for being the only paper which mentioned Julio Carrillo’s presence at the ceremonies – although they badly misspelled his name as “Hullio Carrillio.” The reporter touches on how painful it must have been for old Julio to see the land he donated for a public plaza be (probably illegally) redeveloped as the grounds for a county courthouse:

As the bands began playing, the figure of poor old Hullio Carrillio could be seen leaning from a carriage in the procession. Poor old Hullio. He is one of the last vestiges of the Spanish occupation of Sonoma. His was once the Santa Rosa grant, and far as the eye could reach from where the poor old man stood every inch of the land, every lovely shrub and tree on the hillsides, were once his. He played the role of a Spanish grandee in a lordly fashion; so lordly in fact that one by one his acres slipped away, and as he stood and looked at the gay throng to-day he could not forget that he was poor and landless. In the flush old times, when Santa Rosa first began to be a town, poor Hullio had donated from his possessions two score choice acres for a town plaza, the very plaza on which the Court House was built, and it was but a fitting, kindly act for the committee to have remembered old Hullio and given him a place of honor along with old General Vallejo.

For keynote speaker they dusted off General Vallejo. His whole speech is transcribed below and is notable for not being the usual stemwinder where he would exercise his fractured english until everyone would have begged to give California back to Mexico just to get him to shut up.

The General rambled on about the history of cornerstones and how the Romans begat Spaniards who begat Cortez and the years rolled on, blah blah. But he did say one thing remarkable, claiming he and Governor Figueroa came to the Santa Rosa area in 1835 and every Indian in the area came to meet them: “We had 800 troops. We met here. The tribes of Cayuama, Pinole, Reparato, [sic, sic, sic] and all the tribes were collected here to meet the great General. Very well, and what did we meet? About 20,000 people, all naked; no hats, no shirts, no boots, no anything; well dressed, but all naked.” There’s lots to doubt about that story, but Vallejo really was here in 1835, and it was before the smallpox epidemic which decimated the Native community.

After the ceremony “…the crowd made a vicious rush for Morsehead’s Hotel, where special feeding-troughs had been arranged for their benefit. Soon there was an exodus of teams and travelers by rail, and by afternoon Santa Rosa was sitting clothed in its right mind.” Then the next day the Colton trial resumed and masons went about building lots of brick walls with lousy mortar. It was just another wonderful, busy day in 1884.


1 Prior to 1886 major hotels had private wooden sewers running (south?) to the creek which other businesses could tap into with permission – and presumably a hefty fee. When the new courthouse and Athenaeum were built a year earlier cesspools were included, per usual. Downtown Santa Rosa was honeycombed with them; in early 1886 a storekeeper dug a latrine in his basement only to hit a forgotten cesspool next door. Once the sewer was built and the old cesspools were abandoned, an article in the Democrat titled “The City’s Friend,” noted that well water was improving: “This poisonous discharge was formerly permitted to go into the gravel strata whence we draw our supply of well water. Now the cesspools are being filled up, and the water is becoming purer and more wholesome.” Who would have thunk.

2 The Ellen M. Colton vs. Leland Stanford et al. trial began November 1883 and went on until October 1885. When her lobbyist husband David D. Colton died in 1878 she agreed to a $600k stock buyback, only to discover that another executive who died the same year with an equivalent portfolio received considerably more. Key evidence at the trial were the “Colton letters” (PDF) which were hundreds of letters between her husband and the “Big Four” founders of the railroad. The correspondence – which David Colton had been expected to destroy after reading – proved the railroad was involved in fraud, conspiracy, and corruption with men at the highest levels of federal and state governments. Although she lost on the grounds of having agreed to the unfair stock deal, the outrage which resulted from widespread newspaper coverage weakened the political clout of the railroads (MORE).

3 The SF&NP was the rail line that went from Santa Rosa (and points north) to Tiburon. A different railroad, the narrow gauge North Pacific Coast, went from San Rafael (and points west) to Sausalito. The NPC liked to boast it offered better service and had better equipment including faster ferries, and would thrill passengers by racing the SF&NP ferry from the San Francisco docks. An oft-repeated story was that the NPC superintendent would give a ferryboat captain five demerits if he was caught racing – and ten demerits if he lost the race.

Looking northwest across Fourth street in 1885 at some of the newly-built brick buildings which would collapse in the 1906 earthquake. (Photo: Sonoma County Library)

THE COLTON TRIAL
A Truthful Report of Yesterday’s Proceedings.
MRS. COLTON’S TESTIMONY.
Her Early Life, Marriage and Widowhood — Her Legal and Business Advisers – Moneys Drawn from the W. D. Co.

Santa Rosa, February 20th.— The trial of the Colton case is now reaching a point where it is liable to be very interesting. Yet, strangely enough, though Santa Rosa is not suffering from a plethora of dissipation or amusement, the people here leave the trial severely alone. They don’t go the Courtroom, and don’t even discuss the case in bar-rooms, or read the reports, which come up fresh in the San Francisco papers, for the local press never has a word to say about the case, except that the Court is or is not in session. By a sort of mutual agreement the two sides to the case, together with all their henchmen, experts, lawyers and witnesses, live at different hotels, and never by any chance cross the thresholds of each other’s strongholds. The Colton headquarters are at the Occidental, though Mrs. Colton and Mrs. Crittenden have taken a private house on McDonald avenue, Thomas Thompson’s old residence. This, by the way, was a godsend to the United Carriage Company of Santa Rosa. Their hack never expected a job except at burials and weddings, but now it does steady duty drawing Mrs. Colton and her companions two or three times a day through the McDonald mud to the Court House and back. United States Carriage Company’s stock has gone up three points in consequence of the boom, and out of respect to city style the company’s driver now wears a brown beaver hat in lieu of the old white sombrero, his customary head-gear. Charles Crocker and the railroad folks are all at the Grand, between which hotel and the Court intervenes the Plaza, in which a new Court House is building, and canals of mud, miscalled streets. This

DIVISION OF THE FACTIONS

Was the cause of a good deal of anguish to a Call reporter, who came up here last Monday. First, be went to the Occidental, but he had no sooner dumped his trunk than he found it was a partisan headquarters, and for fear of becoming identified with one side, he hastily fled to the Grand. He was eating his supper there when some one mentioned that all the railroad folks were stopping at the house. With an agonised look at the remnants of the meal, he fled to another boardinghouse, from whence he was driven by a remark of the landlady’s that she did hope “that dear old Mrs. Colton would win the case.” It is rumored that he asked leave to sleep in the Courtroom, as that was the only unbiased place he could find, but while several people have reported the rumor, it is not as strongly verified as such an allegation should be before a strictly reliable commercial and family paper, like the Alta, accepts it as a proven fact. Yesterday, when the case was resumed, the Court-room looked more like an old horse auction than a temple of justice. The prisoner’s dock was packed with huge wooden cases, bearing such legends as “Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company,” “Contract and Finance,” “Arizona Contract,” etc., and all full of books, papers and accounts of the most solid character. Each of

THE ATTORNEYS

Had a grip-sack full of papers on his own private account, and by the time the bailiff stood on the balcony outside and bawled in loud tones that Justice Temple having arrived, the temple of justice (a standard local joke) was open, and that an auction would be held by the Sheriff of some fat stock at noon, the Court-room was so littered up that Judge Wallace and Charles Crocker, neither of whom possess very sylph-like forms, could scarcely force a passage through the debris…

– Daily Alta California, February 21 1884

THE COLTON TRIAL
Resumed at Santa Rosa After Six Weeks’ Rest.
SEVERAL PARTIES ABSENT.
A Disappointed Attorney for the Prosecution — The Non-Arrival of Certain Books Necessitates an Adjournment.

After a rest of nearly six weeks the Colton trial is again occupying the attention of the whole state with the exception of Santa Rosa, for this pretty little town is too busy watching the slow progress of the new Court House being built in the plaza to be able to pay any attention to so unimportant a matter as a suit for half a dozen railroads and an express company.

The two parties to the suit have observed the same care in the selection of camping grounds as before — the Colton party putting up at the Occidental and the railroad crew away on the other side of town, at the Grand, which latter house, in honor of its distinguished guests, has discarded all the traditions of country hotels and has gone in for a French cook and finger bowls…

– Daily Alta California, April 2 1884

Santa Rosa.

The outlook this coming season is very encouraging, and it seems that building will not cease during the present season. One brick block on Fourth street is approaching completion, and the foundations of two more are being laid. The new Young Ladies’ Seminary building on McDonald Avenue is approaching completion, while in all parts of the city new residences, mainly of that style so peculiar to our city as to be known as the “Santa Rosa Villa,” are being erected. The Santa Rosa Water Company are laying large pipes to the Agricultural Park, which will insure them an ample supply of water during the coming season, and other improvements of minor note, but aggregating thousands of dollars are being made. The city shows no signs of coming to a stand-still in this matter. We hear hints of several more important improvements, but negotiations are still pending, and nothing definite is yet reported. City property is in moderate demand, but the would-be purchasers are more than the sellers at present. Improved property is more in demand than vacant lots, but in the course of the summer, when trains arrive several times a day from the metropolis, building lots will be in still greater demand. A drive through our thoroughfares at present is a pleasure. Many of the gardens are beginning to exhibit Flora’s rare treasures in profusion, and during the coming two months, the “City of Roses” will appear in her glory. Rose culture should be encouraged by all. Nothing adds more to the beauty of our city than neatly kept gardens, which are so easily maintained here.

In the surrounding country the improvements are still more manifest. Everywhere young orchards, and vineyards are to be seen, which in a very few years will add materially to our wealth and prosperity. This is the secret of our prosperity. All this section is notably suited for fruit and vine culture, and after thirty years experience, the best qualities, — those varieties best suited for this soil and climate are known, and fruit and vine is not so much a matter of experiment as it has been in the past. There are yet thousands of acres of chemisal covered hills which should teem with vineyards or orchards. We have mentioned the fact of olive culture being undertaken, and the young trees set out this year in the hills east of here are already showing signs of life, budding and preparing to leaf out. Ten, twenty, thirty and forty acre “patches” of vines and tree fruits are to be found every where, while new houses, barns and other outbuildings abound.

The commencement season of the various institutions of learning, which are the boast of our fair city is at hand, and all who attend from distant parts of the state will see a marked improvement over the past year, and a year hence, it will be found that we have fully kept pace with the preceding one.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 3 1884

The S. F. and S. R. R. R.

Thursday last was a red letter day on the east side of town. Col. Donahue had issued invitations to many citizens to take a run to Point Tiburon and back, on that day. A large number of the prominent men of Sonoma county came down on the 8 o’clock train, and were joined here by our people. After a charming run to Tiburon, a part went to the city, and others stopped at the Point, anxious to take in the improvements located there and have a look at the surroundings. At 10 o’clock Col. Donahue, with several hundred invited guests, left the city by special boat, and reached San Rafael about 11. They were met at the Fourth street depot by a great many of our people who received them with hearty cheering, supplemented by music by the San Rafael Band, all of which but feebly expressed the joy of our citizens at the successful organization of an enterprise which will double our facilities of communication with the metropolis, and confer upon us the countless substantial benefits which must follow that consummation.

the company alighted and inspected the grand and ornate depot, which though not yet completed, is pronounced the finest except one in California.

[..]

COL. DONAHUE

Took the stand reluctantly, but when he spoke it was practical and pointed. This is May Day, he said, the day of play for children, and we are all children. I am glad to see you here, and to be here to see you. We have now the means to bring you here, to give you all a ride. We have had many obstacles to fight in making this road, and it is not yet finished. We have to go slow yet, because we don’t want to hurt you, nor to have any big damages to pay. But we expect to perfect our work by and by, and carry you all to the city and bring you back. And we will do it in forty-five minutes. We want you all to ride, and pay your fare, low fare, and we don’t want any deadheads. I see my banker is here, looking after his security, and I guess he’ll let me have some more money to-morrow. But we will now go on, to Petaluma and Santa Rosa. All get aboard, and we’ll have a ride and some sandwiches.

The train moved off. It only went to Petaluma, and returned about 2 PM. So opened the S. F. and S. R. railroad.

– Marin Journal, May 8 1884


SANTA ROSA’S HOLIDAY.
Laying of the Corner-Stone of the New Court-House.
AN IMPOSING PROCESSION.
The Knights Templar and Masonic Order Participate — Addresses by Judge Wheeler and Others — The Ceremonies.

The man who could imagine Santa Rosa in a real ferment would indeed be blessed with a lively brain, bnt yesterday the quiet little town woke up a little and for a while snorted around considerably. It was indeed a great day for Santa Rosa, and the 7th of May, 1884, will pass hereafter out of the commonplace line of dates and become a never-to-be-forgotten epoch. It was the crowning act of Santa Rosa’s triumph over Petaluma, and Santa Rosa nobly put forth every effort to do itself proper glory. The momentous occasion was nothing less than the laying of the corner-stone of the new $80,000 Sonoma County Court House, which is being built in the old Santa Rosa Plaza. It is true that Santa Rosa gave up to the county a lovely plaza, worth more than a couple of hundred thousand dollars, to get the Court House located within its precincts, and it is equally true that many Santa Rosans speak of the act as an act of vandalism, but then Santa Rosa triumphed over Petaluma and everything went…

…Long before 8 AM, Santa Rosa commenced to fill up with folks from the surrounding country. They came in all sorts of teams, generally well provided with lunch baskets, for there was to be a dance at the Pavilion in the evening, and they proposed not to squander their substance on Santa Rosa hotels. One features of the procession was the presence of all the local and neighboring fire companies, and it was really a beautiful sight to see the Santa Rosa company dip hose to the Healdsburg company, as the “Rescue” from the latter place hove in sight. On each occasions as this a Healdsburg fire Jake, if not a joy forever, is at least a thing of beauty. He is immense, all-pervading, superb, gorgeous, resplendent, effulgent, altogether too utterly much.

HIS UNIFORM

Consists of a blue shirt stamped “Rescue,” a glazed tarpaulin hat which looks as if left over from the Hayes’ and Wheeler campaign. A belt stamped “Rescue,” dark pants, and a smile of the most comprehensive self-satisfaction that it was ever given to man to wear. As his little heeled boots delicately tamped the Santa Rosa sidewalks and he attracted the furtive notice of the Santa Rosa girls, he was too splendidly conscious of his own beauty for anything, and if old Grant had come along just then the General’s hat would have been in his hand before he could restrain a salute to so imposing a spectacle. It was too much for Santa Rosa. The town is hardly large enough of so much gorgeousness and the consequence is that the Court House, town, procession, and the whole Grand Lodge were overshadowed and obscured by Rescue Company Healdsburg No. 1. Even Mark McDonald, who is six feet four, owns the gas and water works, besides an Indian bungalow, and has a whole avenue named after him, shrank to small proportions when the beautiful uniform of Rescue Company hove in sight.

THE PROCESSION

Began to form about ten o’clock, by which time the Plaza was almost full. As the bands began playing, the figure of poor old Hullio Carrillio could be seen leaning from a carriage in the procession. Poor old Hullio. He is one of the last vestiges of the Spanish occupation of Sonoma. His was once the Santa Rosa grant, and far as the eye could reach from where the poor old man stood every inch of the land, every lovely shrub and tree on the hillsides, were once his. He played the role of a Spanish grandee in a lordly fashion; so lordly in fact that one by one his acres slipped away, and as he stood and looked at the gay throng to-day he could not forget that he was poor and landless. In the flush old times, when Santa Rosa first began to be a town, poor Hullio had donated from his possessions two score choice acres for a town plaza, the very plaza on which the Court House was built, and it was but a fitting, kindly act for the committee to have remembered old Hullio and given him a place of honor along with old General Vallejo. The procession formed at the plaza and was a pretty fair article of procession, as the processions go nowadays.

THE MARSHAL AND HIS AIDS

Were a fine lot of men, and though some of them found the honors sat a bit uneasily, they all rode their horses well, and that is more than Marshal’s aids in larger cities always do. The Knights Templar had the van, then came the plain, ordinary Masons, then the Healdsburg and Santa Rosa fire jakes, next a delegation of cadets from some local college, and then the rag-tag and bobtail. The procession marched and countermarched, and then brought up short at the Courthouse, where a stage and an awning had been put up for the accommodation of the orators and the mob. The orators and invited guests were staked out in a square lot by themselves, and it is much to their credit that they smiled pleasantly on the lower orders who were grouped around old Hullio’s plaza. After Grand Marshal Hines, General Vallejo, the original locator of the whole country, opened the ball, so to speak, by paying the weather, the ladies, Santa Rosa and the rest of the folks as many compliments as his grasp on the English language would permit. Supervisor Allen, of Petaluma, was next in say, and he recited the whole

HISTORY OF THE COURT-HOUSE

And the steps taken towards its erection. The next orator was ex-Judge Wheeler of San Francisco, who read a beautiful oration on the Santa Rosa Court-House in particular, and Court-houses in general. The usual box of relics was put in the corner-stone. In it was put copies of the San Francisco and local papers, a copy of the deed of gift of poor old Hullio to the town, a copy of Fullerton’s corrections of exhibit D, as a memento of the Colton trial, a few coins and the card of Miss Bennett, the daughter of the architect of the building. Whenever there was a lull in the proceedings one or more of the rival bands played a tune, and added to the general hilarity of the occasion. After the usual Masonic ceremonies the gathering broke up, and the crowd made a vicious rush for Morsehead’s Hotel, where special feeding-troughs had been arranged for their benefit. Soon there was an exodus of teams and travelers by rail, and by afternoon Santa Rosa was sitting clothed in its right mind. During the evening there was a grand ball at the race track pavilion, where to the music of the boss Santa Rosa band the fairest youth of old Sonoma did the light fantastic till the “wee sma’ hours.” The affair was voted most recherche and the most thoroughly enjoyable event of the season.

– Daily Alta California, May 8 1884

Santa Rosa, May 6th.— The case of Ellen M. Colton versus Leland Stanford et al. was resumed to-day. Donahue’s new train arrangement enables the attorneys to stop over in the city till this morning and reach the Court House by 10 AM…

– Daily Alta California, May 7 1884

Santa Rosa having laid its Court House cornerstone, danced all night at the Pavilion ball, and in other ways worked off the pent-up energy of a dull year, peace was restored yesterday morning and Judge Temple was enabled to resume the hearing of the Colton case…

– Daily Alta California, May 9 1884

THROUGH BY RAIL.
Formal Opening of the Tiburon Route Attendant Festivities.

May-day excursions are frequent, but the one in which a large number of the residents of this county and of other sections of the State participated on Thursday, May 1st, was one of unusual interest and importance. A large, number of invitations had been issued to persona in this county, and a special train left Cloverdale at 5 AM, to convey invited guests from all points above here. When those invited boarded the train at the depot here, about thirty-five persons were found occupying seats, fifteen of whom got in at Cloverdale, and twenty at Healdsburg. The train sped on to Petaluma, another large delegation joined them, and at every station between the last named point and San Rafael, others joined the party. Of course, but little interest was manifested until the train left San Rafael, except an occasional remark relative to the numerous young orchards and vineyards visible at all points, or a casual reference to the beauty of the scenery, now shown to its greatest advantage, as hill and valley are all clad in their green vestments. Such an ever-varying scene of beauty and grandure can be presented on no other line of equal length in the world.

Leaving San Rafael, we glide smoothly along the new road, through a tunnel, over Corte Madera creek, through “the long tunnel,” and over cut and fill with Richardson’s Bay and Saucelito, in full view on the right, past hills on which innumerable herds of cattle are feeding, through the last tunnel, on to Point Tiburon. Here we found the steamer James M. Donahue in the slip, step on board and in twenty-three minutes later, are ready to disembark at Clay street wharf.

On the way down, we noticed among the invited guests…On arriving, [others] joined the party in company with a large delegation of San Franciscans, among whom were the following persons connected with the S. F. and N. P. R. R., Peter Donahue, President, Mervyn J. Donahue, Vice President…

After remaining at the slips about half an hour, the party returned to the Point, and boarded a train composed of the six new cars, the observation car, and Col. Donahue’s parlor car, steamed slowly away to San Rafael. Salvos of artillery from a couple of brass pieces on the bluff above the Point greeted the party. While waiting here, an opportunity was afforded all to witness the “Steam Paddy” load a gravel train.

On arriving at San Rafael, the party was greeted by a delegation of citizens, headed by a brass band. All alighted, and brief addresses were delivered by John Saunders Esq., Judge Bowers and Peter Donahue. Then the larger portion of the guests boarded the train, and went up the road to Petaluma. It was the intention to visit this city, but circumstances prevented, and after remaining at our sister city about half an hour, the train returned. After leaving San Rafael, and all the way back, refreshments were served, and wine flowed freely. The rejoyicing [sic] at the completion of this enterprise was made manifest. When the train reached San Rafael again, the guests again alighted and addresses were made by M. L. McDonald and H. W. Byington of this city. When, after hearty expressions of good will, the guests from San Francisco boarded the train and departed to their homes, while those from this county waited until the arrival of the regular evening train.

The events of the day were enjoyable in the extreme. All the railroad officials exerted themselves to the utmost to entertain the numerous guests, and were preeminently successful. Conductor Chas. H. Mold had charge of the trains, and laid all under obligation for his courtesy and attention.

The expressions of surprise and gratification from some of Sonoma’s best citizens that the work was done, and so splendid a terminus at deep water, were numerous and sincere. It is a grand enterprise, and one in every way worthy the grand old empire of Sonoma.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

LOCAL NOTES

—lt ia pronounced Tib-er-oon.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

New Time Table.

The new time table of the SF & NPRR which goes into effect on Sunday, May 4th, provides for three passenger trains to arrive and leave this city daily on week days. The times of departure ere 4 AM, 6:40 AM, and 3:45 PM; the times of arrival in San Francisco are 6:45 AM, 8:50 AM and 6:10 PM. The trains returning will leave San Francisco at 7:40 AM, 5 PM and 6:30 PM, arriving here at 10:05 AM, 7:15 PM and 9:20 PM. Trains 4 and 10 will run all the way through from Cloverdale, leaving this point at 5:20 AM and 2:25 PM. No. 1 connects at Fulton for Guerneville, leaving Fulton at 10:15 AM for Guerneville, and returning leaves Guerneville at 1:55 PM.

On Sundays the train leaves San Francisco at 8 AM and arrives in this city at 10:25 AM, and another will leave San Francisco at 5:30 PM, and arrive here at 7:55 p.m. Trains will leave here at 6:45 AM, arriving at San Francisco at 9:10 AM and at 4:25 PM, arriving at 6:15. There is one through train on Sundays, which leaves San Francisco at 8 AM and arrives at Cloverdale at 11:45, and returning leaves Cloverdale at 3 PM.

Freight will continue to come by way of Donahue, leaving San Francisco at 3 PM and arriving at this city at 7:45 AM, and at Cloverdale at 20:30 AM, returning, leaves Cloverdale at 10:20 AM, this city at 2:25 PM, and arriving at San Francisco at 10 AM. The early train, we infer from the appearance of the new time table, will remain over night at this city. The Sonoma travel will pass by the way of Sonoma landing as usual, although there may be a change of time.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

THE CORNER STONE LAID.
Gorgeous Ceremonies Witnessed by Ten Thousand Citizens of Sonoma County—Every Section Represented.

Wednesday was just a perfect day. Not even the slightest fleecy cloud was visible in the heavens, and nature seemed in perfect harmony with the events that were to transpire here. The down train, which left Cloverdale at 5 AM, found hundreds waiting all along the line, and when it arrived here at 6:20, the largest number of passengers that ever arrived in this city at any one time, disembarked. Shortly afterwards, vehicles of every description began to arrive, bearing their burdens of humanity, all anxious to participate in the ceremonies, or to witness them. Every interest and firm in our neighboring town, Healdsburg, was represented, and every vehicle that could be obtained was engaged for this occasion. The Hook and Ladder Company, Hose Company, and Rod Matheson Post, G. A. R, arrived about 8 AM, and were taken in charge by the kindred organizations here. At 9:30, Santa Rosa Commandery headed by the Santa Rosa Brass Band, went to the depot to receive Mount Olivet Commandery, of Petaluma, which arrived on the 10:05 train, and escorted them to their asylum. By this time the streets were thronged, and groups of people could be found every where, every available window, veranda and awning along the line of march was filled, and the sidewalks were crowded. By 11 AM, the different divisions were formed, and shortly afterward Grand Marshal De Turk gave the signal, and the column moved in the following order…

[long list of parade participants and parade route]

…After the column halted and disbanded, the Grand Lodge F. and A. M., took their positions on the platform, accompanied by the officers of the Day and a number of invited guests, the different orders of the Masons formed in due and ancient form about the corner stone.

Exercises at the Laying of the Corner-Stone of the Sonoma County Court House, at Santa Rosa, May 7,1884.

 Mr. R. A. Thompson. Fellow citizens, I have the honor of introducing to you one of the most distinguished citizens of Sonoma county, as President of the Day, on this most auspicious occasion. I allude to the Honorable Mariano G. Vallejo, the oldest, as well as one of the moat honored citizens in all the confines of Sonoma. (Applause.)

 General Vallejo. Members of the Committee on Invitation: Ladies and Gentlemen.

 I thank you very much, out of the fullness of my heart, for the invitation tendered me by the Committee in charge of the celebration of this day. I cannot speak the English language well, but I will try my best to make a few remarks about this celebration.

According to tradition and history, if my memory does not deceive me, ceremonies of this kind commenced with the Egyptian nation. Their civilization they transmitted to Greece. When those great pyramids were built they say that the corner-stone of the great pyramid was laid with great formalities. At those times those cornerstones meant power, despotism and slavery. Now we mast together to lay this corner-stone for civilization, not for tyranny. We are all free and we do it of our own will. (Applause.)

I congratulate the people and the citizens of Santa Rosa and of the whole of Sonoma County on the wisdom ol the Supervisors of our county here, in planning the erection of this building, I congratulate you on this joyful occasion. The ceremonies of this day here remind me how that they built with great ceremony the famous edifices of antiquity, as for instance, how they laid the corner stone of the Temple of Ephesus. Excuse me, gentlemen, this is a surprise to me, and these remarks are unpremeditated. If I commit a little blunder, excuse me. After Greece, the next civilization was the Roman. With the Romans, after Sylla and the old Caesars, one of the best and most stupendous occasions was to lay the corner stone of the Column of Trajan. It exists now in that very Rome today. From Rome, after seven hundred years of war with the Spaniards, they bring the Roman civilization and get persons to lay corner stones on those old monuments.

One of them, built about 300 years ago, was the Escurial at Madrid. Madrid is the capital of Spain; everybody knows it, but there are not many monuments like that.

From Spain I must make a jump with Columbus to this continent 390 years ago. On the island of Cuba they built a fine building, and had a great time in erecting it, for they did everything with great ostentation and ceremony. From Cuba, Cortez went to Mexico and established the National Palace and the Cathedral of Mexico. That was a great day, or as we call it, a gay day for a celebration, and there were great formalities.

Then I remember, according to the history of the United States, that vessel by the name of the Mayflower came to Plymouth. They made a landing there, and years rolled on, until Independence was achieved, under General Washington. Then they laid the corner stone of the Capital of our nation at Washington, as it stands there, and that capital was built with a great deal of ceremony and grandeur.

And not to be long in my remarks, some friends came to this very county, in my own Sonoma house, and they raised the Bear Flag. Then the government was changed and we had a Legislature, and we built a Capital at Sacramento, which is there now. That means civilization and power. They are the people to do what they please, If they try to make the tower of Babel again I think the people of the United States can do it. (Applause and laughter.)

Now, sir, to go a little further down, our counties began to be built up; Sacramento was the capital of the State, and other counties began. But this is the first one to come to this formality, and I am so glad to hear it, because this very month, nearly fifty years ago, in 1835, I was not on this stone, but in the neighborhood here, with General Figueroa, Governor of the State then. We had 800 troops. We met here. The tribes of Cayuama, Pinole, Reparato, and all the tribes were collected here to meet the great General. Very well, and what did we meet? About 20,000 people, all naked; no hats, no shirts, no boots, no anything; well dressed, but all naked. (Laughter and applause.)

Well, gentlemen, now, what a surprise to me. I was here the first; not the discoverer, but the first settler in this very country, Sonoma county. I was the Chairman in 1850, of the Senate committee to select Sonoma county. Very well. What a contrast to see here a heaven of ladies, who all seem to me angels! [Applause.] Respectable gentlemen here, Supervisors, printing offices, science, arts, railroads, sewing machines, telephones and everything. [Laughter and applause.] You see what a difference it is to me. I am astonished. It seems to me I ought to die here, because I see now the end. Not the end of civilization, but this is one of the proofs that Sonoma county must be a great and powerful county anyhow. [Applause.]

The poets say that those who are born in a country like this with such scenery, climate, water, trees and flowers, must be in harmony with their surroundings. So you are a great tremendous bouquet of flowers and intelligence.

Now, the day when we were here, fifty years ago, was a day of great distress to the chiefs of those tribes. One of the chiefs died, and they made preparations to cremate his body. They made a great funeral pyre of logs, small pieces of wood, and trees, and they burned the body there. That circumstance is brought to my mind now, and I hope that after this corner stone is laid and this house is built to stand for ages, that we will adopt cremation, because we should not allow our bodies to go to the worms and be eaten up. If we are spiritual, we must go to the spirit world at once, and not be ploughed up afterwards.

 Ladies and gentlemen; I hope you will excuse my remarks. I do not know how to speak, but I am trembling with pleasure to see such a concourse here. Masons, Druids, Odd Fellows, and everybody else, and I am here alone seeing these things with joy. My heart is full. I ought to explode. (Laughter and applause.) Allow me to introduce the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors…

…The Grand Master. Brother Grand Treasurer, it has ever been the custom of the craft, upon occasions like the present, to deposit within a cavity in the stone, placed at the northeast corner of an edifice, certain memorials of the period at which it was erected, so that, if in the lapse of ages, the fury of the elements, the violence of man, or the slow but certain ravages of time should lay bare its foundations, an enduring record may be found by succeeding generations to bear testimony to the untiring, unending industry of the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. Has such a record been prepared?

The Grand Treasurer, A. Wright. It has, most worshipful Grand Master, and is contained in the casket now sealed before you.

The Grand Master. Brother Grand Secretary, you will read the records of the contents of the casket.

(The Grand Secretary, E. W. Davis, reads the list of the articles contained in the casket.)

Articles contributed tor the comer stone by R. A. Thompson: “California As It Is” written by seventy leading editors and authors of the Golden State, for the weekly Call; map of the State of California; historical and descriptive sketch of Sonoma county; map of Sonoma county; Resources of California, with pictures and descriptive sketches of Santa Rosa and Petaluma, Sonoma county; one cent, date 1817; one half-dollar, date 1831; Obsidian arrow-head from California; Indian arrow-head from Washington Ty.; Russian River Flag; Pacific Sentinel; the Sonoma weekly Index; the Petaluma Courier; the Sonoma Democrat; the Healdsburg Enterprise; the Petaluma Argus; rosters of State and county officers; State and county Governments, 1883, Executive, Judicial and legislative Departments; Thompson’s map of Sonoma county, 1884; copy of Republican. daily and weekly; Sonoma County Journal, (German); Sonoma county “Land Register,” published by Guy E. Grosse, Proctor, Reynolds A Co., real estate agents; cards of the architect and his daughter; copy of Day Book… [lodge rosters and documents] …financial report of Sonoma county for 1881, 1882, 1833 and 1884; Sonoma county Court House—A. A. Bennett and J. M. Curtis, architects; Carle & Croly, contractors; copy of San Francisco evening “Bulletin;” copy of daily “Alta California;” copy of daily “Chronicle;” copy of dally “Call;” copy of daily “Examiner;” copy of daily evening “Post,” with compliments of C. A. Wright, news agent Santa Rosa; muster roll, bylaws and constitution of Santa Rosa Commandery, No. 14, K. T.; muster roll, bylaws and constitution of Mt. Olivet Commandery, No. 20, K. T., of Petaluma; by Losson Ross, a quarter of a dollar, date 1854; by James Samuels, 5 cent nickel, 1869; by A. P. Overton, ½ dime, 1840; by E. Crane and A. P. Overton, one standard silver dollar, 1884; by Mr. and Mrs. S. R. Smith, one copper cent, 1833; and one copper two-cent piece of 1865; card of M. Rosenburg, merchant, builder of the first brick store in Santa Rosa.

The Grand Master. Brother Grand Treasurer, you will now place the casket within the cavity, beneath the corner-stone. (The casket is deposited in its place.)

[..]

– Sonoma Democrat, May 10 1884

1884.
Sonoma County’s Advance in Importance and Interest.
A Cursory Review of the Events of the Year That Has Just Passed.

SANTA ROSA
Has made splendid advancement. In public improvements, ten brick stores, one hall and a brick warehouse have been completed in 1884, while not less than thirty frame houses have been added to this city in the form of residences, besides the Athenaeum, which, when completed, will be one of the finest theater buildings in the State, and a new and commodious grammar school. Santa Rosa presents one of the most modern appearances of any interior city in the State. The residences, generally, are picturesque and handsome, while the splendid location and salubrious climate present attractions not to be resisted. For the coming year, contracts for the erection of over $40,000 of new brick buildings are already let, and the prospects for a prosperous year were, never so good.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 3 1885

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