Sonoma State Historic Park is situated to the north and northwest of the Sonoma Plaza- an attraction all its own with the grassy expanses, play equipment, memorials, and ponds full of ducks. I parked my car alongside the plaza and stepped out into the warm summer air. I stretched, locked my car, and stepped onto the sidewalk. I then made my way toward the first historical site of my venture.
According to a park ranger I spoke to, the Sonoma Plaza and, in fact, the town of Sonoma, was originally developed by General Vallejo, a soldier in the Mexican army (in case you’re wondering if the town of Vallejo is named after him- it is. The town of Benicia is named after his wife).
The Sonoma State Historic Park comprises of the location of Vallejo’s first home, his later estate, and the barracks that originally house soldiers of the Mexican army. It’s a fascinating history that would take a long time to explain; but I highly encourage you to do a little digging and read about it yourself!
The first part of my self-guided tour comprised of the Casa Grande servants’ quarters, the Toscano Hotel & kitchen, barracks, and not the Blue Wing Inn. It was originally built to house soldiers and also played a role in the gold rush. But I didn’t think to go in it. Don’t ask me why. I will next time I’m in Sonoma. I did, however, explore everything else.
The servants’ quarters, hotel, and kitchen all surround a wide-open courtyard with hard-packed gravel. Next to, is the barracks. It doesn’t open into the courtyard shared by the other buildings, but has an enclosed courtyard of its own. Behind all this is a big parking lot that I’ve known about but honestly never bothered to park in. But seriously. Park here if you can. You’ll have better luck than elsewhere along the Sonoma Plaza.
It didn’t take long to take a gander at everything; but I promise I took my time! I stepped gingerly so as to avoid the courtyard gravel finding its way into my flipflops. I couldn’t go into the servant’s quarters at that time; but at the Toscano Hotel, I was able to walk up to the second floor on a pair of sturdy wood steps. Only a portion of the second floor was open. You could walk to the very front of the building, along a wide hall with closed doors on each side, and to the front porch where you could then have a grand view of the Sonoma Plaza. The floor creaked as I made my way forward and the sounds of traffic and voices filtered through the air. I took a moment to enjoy the view, and then snapped a few photos.
Before I left I went into the soldier’s barracks: a room that displayed the beds and a table and what personal effects a solider back then would have had. There was another room I went into as well that contained a museum exhibition of the place. The displays discussed the history of the area, some of the history of California, and generally how Sonoma came to be what it is today.
I took my time here, reading everything I could. It was enlightening! I soaked it all in. I do love history. Thanks for that, Mom. 🙂
Sometimes I wonder if I should have been a history major in college instead of communication studies? But hey, I like to think I’m where I need to be in life. So there. The author sticks out her tongue in defiance.
Next up on the agenda: the Mission San Francisco Solano!