Since its beginning in the 1850s, Petaluma has had several hotels built, relocated, and/or destroyed over the years. The American Hotel, the Brooklyn Hotel, the Washington Hotel, the Union Hotel, the City Hotel, and the Revere House were five of the large, commodious, and well-constructed hotels built years ago.
There are different versions of what happened to the City Hotel located at the intersection of Kentucky Street and English Street (now Western Avenue), and then its replacement – the Continental Hotel. The Petaluma Fire Department historical documents state that on “May 6, 1968, fire destroyed the Continental Hotel. The Structure was built about 1875, the second hotel on that site. The first was the City Hotel, which began as a hotel in Valparaiso, Chile in 1849. Four years later it was shipped to Vallejo, California to serve as the State Capitol. It was then purchased by C.H.Veeder and brought to Petaluma. After its demise, the Continental was built in the same style on the same site. An article in the Argus (July 1906), mentioned that the facade would soon become a ‘mission design’ as drawn by local Architect Brainard Jones. Firemen were stunned when they watched the second story of the hotel crash to the ground. The hotel and all four street businesses were destroyed.”*
Adair Heig’s “History of Petaluma” book (1982), also states that, “When the legislature moved on to Benica, Veeder had the hotel dismantled and towed by barges to Petaluma, which he heard was an up-and-coming town. It was hammered back together on the corner of English and Kentucky streets in 1853 and opened as a hotel and lodging house. In 1875 the City Hotel moved one last time, when it was dragged up Keller Street and attached rather ignominiously,. to the rear of the Brooklyn Hotel on Keller and Washington Streets.”*
In the Historical Museum’s “Hotel File” is a 1875 document that states: “This pleasantly located hotel (the City Hotel) owned by Dr. W.R. Wells, and at present conducted by H.H. Parkell, is undergoing improvements which will render it one of the largest hotels in Sonoma County. The main portion of the building, which was erected some three years ago, is to be removed twelve feet west and fifteen feet south. An addition is to be built which will extend to Kentucky Street., giving the building a frontage of of 132 feet on English, and 60 on Kentucky. The lower story will be used for an office, a billiard saloon, dining room, kitchen, and stores, and the two upper stories for parlors, sleeping rooms, etc. The entrance will be on English Street. All the rooms will be hard finished, and the building is so situated that the sun will shine upon each room during some part of the day. The roof near the Kentucky Street end will be surmounted by a handsome tower 16 feet high. There will be between 50 and 60 rooms, and nearly 100 windows in the hotel. It is expected that the improvements will be completed about the first of April.”*
Sonoma County Library Associate, Katherine Rinehardt, research the Library’ historical files and shared these quotes: “In 1867, Dr. Wells built an addition (to the City Hotel) of sixty feet on the southwest portion of the structure, while in 1875, when the original building was disposed of, he erected the new part, which gives it now a facade of imposing appearance, one hundred and thirty-five feet on English street, with a depth of twenty-eight feet.” * Plus an Argus article (1905), titled, “To Remodel City Hotel:” The old wing on Kentucky street will be torn down as well as the kitchen annex. These buildings will be replaced by a neat brick annex for kitchen, bar and dining room. The present barroom will be the office of the new hotel and will be prettily fitted up and equipped with every modern convenience” … “When completed the house will be the finest in the city. It is understood that the name to the hotel will be changed and that an elegant bus will be put on when the house is reopened.”*Another article (no date) quoted the following lines in a 1901 Argus: “The old City Hotel has a history. The original building was constructed at Valparaiso, Chili, in 1849, and from there transported to Vallejo, Cal., during the session of the legislature at that city in 1852. It was erected by Colonel Veeder in 1853, when the glories of Vallejo departed with the state capital. Colonel Veeder moved his house to Petaluma at the corner of Western Avenue and Kentucky streets, and named it City Hotel. The property was sold to P.B. Hewlett in 1862 it again changed hands and became the property of Dr. William R. Wells. In 1875 Dr. sold it to Kelly Tighe, who removed the building and attached it to the present Brooklyn Hotel. (Washington and Keller streets.)*
I do not know which of these statements is the 100% correct version of what happened to the City Hotel; however, there is more to the story of the Continental Hotel. The Fire Department submitted a report (1966) that stated, “the building has become a fire hazard of a critical nature and is dangerous not only to surrounding buildings, but is a definite hazard to the people living in the building.” The Continental Hotel was demolished on May 6, 1968, and replaced with a new structure that housed various financial institutions. The current occupant is Chase Bank.
* References: Petaluma Fire Department History, http://cityofpetaluma.net/firedept/history.html, History of Petaluma, Adair Heig, 1982 ; Petaluma Weekly Argus, Dec(?) 8, 1875, Petaluma Historical Museum; The Petaluma Argus, July 25, 1914, Petaluma Historical Museum; Petaluma-A History in Architecture, Katherine J. Rinehart, 2005; History of Sonoma County, J.P. Munro-Fraser, 1880.; C.H. Veeder, “Was Early Hotelman,” Argus, no date.; “To Remodel City Hotel,” Argus, April 15, 1905; Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1883,1885,1888,1894,1906,1910,1923, Petaluma Historical Museum Collection.