It was 21 years ago (1993) that we moved to Petaluma. It didn’t take too long for my wife, Connie, and me to become immersed in the history of Petaluma. This interest in the past of “Our River Town” is reflected in various blog themes: Petaluma History, Then & Now, Historical Significance, and more recently, Lest We Forget.
Although a photograph of Brainerd Jones hangs on the wall of the Petaluma Historical Museum and Library I wonder how many current Petaluma residents know about the impact he had on architecture of the schools, churches, businesses, public buildings, as well as homes in our town? As stated in his obituary in the Argus-Courier (March 21, 1945), “Architecture was his life and today a large group of buildings in this city rise as monuments to his artistry and skill.” Among the most notable structures he designed in Petaluma over a five decade career are:
The Carnegie Library (Now the Historical Museum) 1904-1906.
The former Lincoln Primary School, School Administration building, 11 Fifth Avenue
The former Post Office Building, 22-34 Petaluma Boulevard (1926).
The Petaluma Woman’s Club, 518 “B” Street
An addition to the Sunset Line and Twine building (1906 & 1922).
The remodel of the old Opera House, 147-149 Kentucky Street
The original art Deco-style Fire Station on “D” Street (1938).
The Must Hatch Incubator building, 401 7th Street
The 1922 Petaluma Golf & Country Club Clubhouse
The First Congregational Church, Fifth & “B” Streets
Former Philip Sweed School, 331 Keller Street
Jones’s home-office, 226 Washington Street
The Byce House (used for filming of Peggy Sue Got Married), 226 Liberty Street
Residences at: 319 Keokuk Street, 300 Kentucky Street, 500 Western Avenue, and 625, 901, 920 “D” Street.
Jones was born in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Petaluma with his recently widowed mother, when he was six years old. He won drawing contests at local fairs, as a young man. After his studies and work as an architect in San Francisco, he returned to Petaluma and became a very active member of the community: Petaluma Rotary Club, Petaluma B.P.O.E. Lodge #901, City Council member, and the City Panning Commission.
It has been estimated that approximately 75% of the buildings in Petaluma’s historic core were designed by Jones, although many are no linger there, now. Local researchers have found it difficult to find much about Jones’ personal history. Katie Watts, has written for the Argus-Courier that, “It’s almost as though he planned it that way – allowing his work to speak so magnificently about who he was.” Lest we forget.
Research files: Petaluma Historical Library & Museum
History Room, Sonoma County Library, Petaluma
Katherine Rinehardt, Petaluma: A Histoiry of Architecture, 2005.