Since we wandering around the Great Mill area and highlighting the McNear family name, take a closer look at the Center Park photo, above,  and the buildings on the west side of Main Street (now Petaluma Blvd. S.)

This 1890’s picture shows horses and buggies tied up what is now Center Park. Note the building names: Rex Mercantile Co., a smaller structure which was replaced with the second McNear Building in 1911, the 1886 McNear Building (also called the Armory because the National Guard once held meetings upstairs), and the Cosmopolitan Hotel (a 40 room working man’s hostelry) and the Lan Mart Building. Adair Heig wrote in her History of Petaluma book that: “At one point there was a bordello upstairs (in the Lan Mart building), leading conveniently into the second floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, next door.” (Photograph courtesy of the Petaluma Historical Museum & Library)


The hotel site is now a vacant lot, but famous for the “tie the chain to the cop’s axel” stunt location in George Lucas’ movie American Graffiti, filmed in June-July, 1972.

An all-volunteer, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit California Public Benefit Corporation (Crusin’ the Boulevard) sponsors an annual celebration of American graffiti. Next year’s salute has been scheduled for May 15-17, 2014.

Stay tuned for more “Then & Now” spots in Petaluma.