Since all Petaluma familiar, but strange spots are not located in the Historic Downtown Business District, let’s extend our wanderings to other interesting areas of our favorite river town. Not too far from the current Petaluma Visitors’ Center (formally a railroad depot), there is an old two story Georgian Colonial Revival Industrial building constructed of brick that most residents have seen; but know very little about its significant history. One of the photographs (below), was taken on August 14, 2004 when it was still open for business and the other photo was taken nine years later (August 17, 2013). Many residents will remember the April 11, 2012 Press Democrat article that announced this structure “is on the market again, its owners abandoning their hotel and restaurant plan for lack of financing.” How many readers remember the name of that structure?

Its popular name is the “Sunset Line and Twine Building.” Its historic name is the “Carlson Courier Silk Mills,” and it is located at the intersection of Jefferson and Erwin Streets, not too far from the Steamer Gold Landing in McNear’s Basin. An Historic Resources Inventory document from the California Department of Parks & Recreation includes this brief description of its historical and architectural importance:

“The Carlson Courier Company bought the Petaluma property from John McNear in 1892 and built the Petaluma Silk Mills. This building was the only silk mill of its kind when built and was today is the only Georgian Colonial Revival style industrial building in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. It is representative of the New England mill town buildings of the 1870’s. The silk for the Petaluma mill was obtained from China. The mill had the capacity of manufacturing into thread 250 lbs. of raw silk per day. The company made several kinds of spool silk, knitting silk and it was bought by Sunset Line and Twine in 1940 for the manufacturing of fishing line and related nylon twines. It continues its manufacturing today with Arthur Agnew of Santa Rosa as company president.”
(Form prepared January, 1977. The sources of this information: Aletha Olmsted, Heritage Homes of Petaluma, Argus-Courier, February, 1940; Ed Mannion, local historian; Centennial Edition of Argus-Courier, 1958.)

Two interesting bits of information about the Silk Mills/Line & Twine are: (1) the first cross-continental delivery of anything in the U.S. (silk soap) was made from Philadelphia to Petaluma in 1912, a journey of 4,100 miles in 91 days, by three drivers; and (2) one of the reentry ropes used by the Apollo capsule was made by the Sunset Line & Twine Co. in 1963.

The manufacturing of line and twine was discontinued and the building was closed in December, 2006. A proposal to turn the building into condos (2007) died during a halt in development as the city revised its general plan.

Stay tuned for more familiar, but strange spots in Petaluma.