The young Vallejo was given three tasks: to make the San Francisco Solano Mission in Sonoma no longer Catholic, to colonize the area by starting a pueblo (Sonoma), and to be near the Russian Outpost at Fort Ross. This sounds worse than Dorothy having to get the Wicked Witch’s broom for the Wizard of Oz.
Vallejo was given a land grant of 66,000 acres as a bribe/gift. He forged ahead and chose a hilltop for his Petaluma Adobe rancho and factory. He had plans, and he wanted his Petaluma rancho large enough to support his military command in Sonoma. He certainly didn’t expect support from the Mexican government.
The Adobe served as the center of Vallejo’s 100 square miles of working ranch between the years 1836-1846. The architecture was Hispanic, and the materials were adobe bricks and redwood. The building began with tree nails and rawhide lashings to hold the beams together. It was upgraded to iron nails, hinges, glass windows, and a hand split shingled roof. Trade began.
The Petaluma Adobe was unusual because many work areas were together in one large building. Between 600-2,000 people worked at the Adobe, but not everyone lived there. The supervisors lived upstairs, and a Native American village was nearby. The income for the rancho was from the hide and tallow trade. The rancho also produced crops, including grain which was traded in large quantities.
Vallejo’s Victorian-style home was in Sonoma, but he liked spending time at his Adobe. He entertained there often—he was proud of his working ranch. When politics and the economy changed, Vallejo sold the building and some property in 1857 after he tried, unsuccessfully, to lease it at a profit. Vallejo became one of the first state senators for the new state of California.
The Petaluma Adobe was considered for the site of the University of California, but after a survey and discussion, another site was chosen. The Native Sons of the Golden West purchased the Adobe in 1910 and preserved it until the State bought it in 1951.
Today, the State owns a small portion of what was once a vast rancho and the largest privately owned Adobe building in California. The Adobe was officially registered as California State Historical Landmark #18 in 1932 and in 1970 became a registered National Historic Landmark.
Walk the halls, steps and working areas. Look at the furnishings and the way of life that sprang up from nowhere. Vallejo was an extraordinary man, and the Petaluma Adobe is a testament to turning a dream into a reality.