This is a fantastic 1871 view of Petaluma, oriented towards the west, with the Petaluma River in the foreground and coastal hills in the background. A legend at the bottom indicates the location of key sites in the city, such as city hall, hotels, and churches (including one labeled simply as ‘colored’).
The layout of the city drawn here is still recognizable today. Main St. and Third St. later became Petaluma Avenue, the town’s main thoroughfare. The Sonoma and Marin Agricultural Park, which also served as a racetrack, is today the location of Petaluma High School. In 1882, the agricultural park and racetrack relocated to the site of today’s Kenilworth Park. Some of the rail lines displayed here are still in use, including by the new Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) commuter system.
Petaluma had historically been the territory of the Coast Miwok. In the 1830s, Rancho Petaluma was established by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a key figure in the transition of (Alta) California from Mexican to U.S. control. By the time this view was published, Petaluma had built a reputation as one of the main centers of agricultural production in Northern California. Ships would carry produce and other agricultural goods down the Petaluma River out into San Pablo Bay and on to San Francisco. The town was particularly known for poultry – the egg incubator was invented there in 1879 – and it came to be known as the ‘egg capital of the world.’
Due to bedrock under the city, Petaluma was fairly unharmed by the 1906 earthquake and, as a result, retains one of the best-preserved historic town centers of any city in Northern California.
This evocative view was drawn by Augustus Koch in 1871 and lithographed by Britton & Rey in San Francisco. We are aware of only one other example, held by the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley.