Historic sites in need of saving
(Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series that explores preservation efforts in Petaluma).
The way Petaluma historian Katherine Rinehart sees it, there are a multitude of unkempt landmarks that could be saved from "demolition by neglect" if the city seeks Certified Local Government, or CLG, designation.
Rinehart highlighted six historic structures that tell the stories of Petaluma's past but have fallen by the wayside from years of neglect. Each stands to benefit from improved funding and more consistent planning, which advocates say CLG status can help provide by encouraging partnerships between local governments, the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service.
The Silk Mill
Perhaps Petaluma's most well known landmark, the Silk Mill was the very first mill of its kind west of the Mississippi. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historic Resources, the mill was originally home to San Francisco's Carlson-Currier Silk Manufacturing Company. In the 1940s, Sunset Line & Twine Company took residence in the building, manufacturing silk parachutes for World War II and cords for parachutes used in the Apollo and Gemini space programs.
For a decade, the building has been closed and slowly degrading. Recently, Rinehart and other concerned citizens banded together to nominate the Silk Mill for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2014 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Rinehart said the group should find out this month whether or not the mill made list. Such recognition, she said, would give the Silk Mill national attention, thereby attracting developers who might have the money and the expertise to take on such an enormous rehabilitation project.
The Railroad Trestle
Petaluma's historic 500-foot long railroad trestle was once the foundation for the Petaluma Trolley. Built in 1904, the trolley was part of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad, which transported passengers between Sonoma County and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad was the only interurban passenger and freight railroad in Sonoma County.
To begin restoring the trestle, and ultimately bring the trolley back to Petaluma, a Coastal Conservancy Grant was awarded to the city in October 2010 for $475,000, with a local match requirement of $25,000. Between 2011 and 2013, that grant funded the design engineering, environmental assessment and construction documents needed for the trestle's renovation.
Project Manager Diane Ramirez said the next step for the city is to secure construction funds, which now amount to about $5 million.
The Masciorini House
In 1872, Swiss immigrant Joseph Giuseppe Masciorini, now known as the patriarch of one of Petaluma's founding families, settled near Sear's Point. In 1906, he purchased the 246-acre John D. Ellis ranch on Lakeville Highway, and five years later, the Masciorini House was built.
Today, the house sits near the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, boarded up with occasional landscape maintenance. The building's roof was replaced in 2007 to help the structure maintain its integrity, but currently there is no upkeep or preservation work planned.
The Polly Hannah Klaas Performing Arts Center
Located across from City Hall on Western Avenue, the old Petaluma Christian Church was constructed in 1910. After the church vacated the building in the 1970s, the city bought the property with plans to level the structure to build a parking lot. Instead, Petaluma preservationists were able to designate the building as a historic landmark. The church building was dedicated in 1994 to Polly Klaas, a Petaluma 12 year old who was kidnapped and murdered. Klaas loved the stage, and it was decided that Cinnabar Theater would take over after the space was renovated — but it never was.