Santa Rosa’s Juicy History

Santa Rosa’s Juicy HistoryThe first permanent European residents that we know about in Santa Rosa were the Carrillo family and their Santa Rosa homestead. They were the in-laws of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the man who settled the Sonoma pueblo and Petaluma area. Vallejo’s name is written all across the North Bay.  He was a true and good force.

In the 1830s, during the Mexican period, the family of María López de Carrillo built an adobe house on their Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa land grant, just east of what later became downtown Santa Rosa.  This adobe still stands near a shopping area and is in sorry disrepair.  But, there it is if you want to take a look at it.

In the 1820s, before the Carrillos built their adobe, Spanish and Mexican settlers from Sonoma raised livestock in the area and slaughtered animals at the fork of  Santa Rosa Creek and Matanzas Creek.  (This is near the intersection of Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue.)

A Wells Fargo post and general store were established in what is now downtown Santa Rosa in 1850. In the mid-1850s, several prominent locals, including Julio Carrillo, son of Maria Carrillo, laid out the grid street pattern for Santa Rosa with a plaza in the center.  The pattern is still the street grid for downtown Santa Rosa, now called Old Courthouse Square.

In 1868 Santa Rosa became the third incorporated city in Santa Rosa, just after Petaluma and Healdsburg.  After California became a state, Santa Rosa grew, and in 1870 it was the 8th largest city in the state, and the county seat for one of the populated areas in the state.  But, by the turn of the century, it was losing people to San Francisco’s Bay Area and to Southern California. In 1905, 10,000 people lived in Santa Rosa.

Famed director Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller Shadow of a Doubt in Santa Rosa in 1943.  The film is a glimpse of Santa Rosa in the 1940s.  The rough-stone Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot and the prominent Empire Building (built in 1910 with a gold-topped clock tower), still stand. A scene at the bank was filmed at the corner of Fourth Street and Mendocino Avenue.  The “KRESS” building on Fourth Street is also there, along with the homes in the McDonald area.

Santa Rosa has a long history of trains, movies, cattle grazing, local Italian winemakers, French bread bakeries, and old Mexican adobes.  It is a portrait of the growth of CA in a nutshell.  Go winetasting downtown and find a fun place to eat!  Many have done so for centuries.

Writer: Meredith Blevins, featured travel writer for the Authentic Wine Country.  Join her at for wine-country mysteries, classes, and the untamed west.

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