Over the last year or so at the many meetings I’ve attended about issues of the Springs, often the subject of our area’s history and the possible historic significance of a property get mentioned. For example, this has occurred in discussions about Paul’s Fields, the MidPen affordable housing project, and the Springs community plan.
I’m particularly passionate about this topic, because I believe honoring an area’s history through the built environment is how we maintain and enhance its sense of place. But what does that mean for the Springs? The fact is, the historic integrity of most of our buildings has been lost.
I reviewed the historic property and historic resource surveys that were conducted for the Springs redevelopment area in 1984, 2005 and 2013. I did this for the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation, of which I’m a board member. The League’s mission is to educate, promote interest in, and advocate for the preservation of historic buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes in the City of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.
The 1984 historic property survey identified 20 buildings along the Highway 12 corridor that had the possibility of qualifying for the National Register of Historic Places. By 2005 only one property is identified as possibly qualifying, the former Ideal Resort at 17475 Highway 12 in Fetters Hot Springs, which is now used as housing. However, a supplemental report conducted in 2013 found that the former Ideal Resort was no longer eligible due to alterations that ruined its historic integrity.
I should note the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn isn’t included in these surveys, because it’s located outside of what was the redevelopment zone. A plaque outside SMI’s front entrance identifies it as a historic hotel. It’s not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but a building doesn’t need to be listed on the national register to be considered historic.
For a building to be listed on the national register the owner must fill out an application and the building must meet certain criteria. These involve the building’s age, integrity and significance. There are currently no buildings anywhere in the Springs listed on the national register. The closest is the former Nicholas Carriger Estate at 18880 Carriger Rd.
A building of note identified in the 1984 survey as appearing to be eligible for the national register is currently the business VdV at 17000 Sonoma Highway. It was built in 1906 as a restaurant. What’s interesting is this building isn’t mentioned in the 2005 or 2013 reports. Whether it maintains its historic integrity would require review by an architectural historian.
In addition, several of the buildings identified in the 1984 survey as possibly being eligible for the national register no longer exist, such as the Clemente Inn at 17367 Sonoma Highway, which the county ordered torn down because it became a hazard, and the original Flowery School building at 17257 Sonoma Highway, where the Sonoma Charter School is now. A few houses identified in 1984 are also gone.
I share this information to point out what happens when a community isn’t mindful of its history. The ethic of historic preservation hasn’t existed in the Springs and in the county to the degree that it has in the city of Sonoma. However, I believe we are developing a new attitude. Our community should consider what to do to honor our past as we plan for our future.
I would like to see owners of properties that had been of historic significance, even if now altered, put up plaques, murals, or other types of display communicating a property’s historic significance. Two locations that come to mind are: the site of MidPen housing’s new apartments by Vailetti Drive, located on the former Fetters Hot Springs resort, and the Ideal Resort, mentioned above.