Glen Ellen Historical Society

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The Sonoma Developmental Center

The Main Building (the brick building at the west end of the main drive) was made a National Historical Landmark in August of this year (2000). The following is taken from the nomination form of application for that designation:

The Sonoma Developmental Center (formerly known as the California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children, Sonoma State Home, Sonoma State Hospital) was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi. Julia Judah and Frances Bentley were the driving forces behind the founding of the facility. Julia Judah was the wife of Henry Judah, a prominent railroad builder and Frances Bentley was the wife of a Methodist Minister. Both had Developmentally Delayed Children. Other early sponsors and directors included: Bishop Kip, (founder of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco), Leland Stanford, Henry Judah, Washington Bartlett, (then mayor of San Francisco and later Governor of California), Professor Warring Wilkinson, (Principal of the California School for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind), Col. William Harney, Oliver Eldridge and Mrs. Ariel Lathrop.

The facility was founded as a private institution and was first opened at San Jose, later at Sulphur Springs at Vallejo. Soon, outgrowing that site and realizing greater funding was needed the institution was turned over to the State of California and temporarily moved to Alameda and from there to Santa Clara. Again it was evident that more acreage was needed as the population had grown from 20 in 1884 to 108 in 1889. In 1889 funds were appropriated by the state for the purchase of at least 500 acres for the institution. Captain Oliver Eldridge and George Gibbs began the search. They found a beautiful 1670 acre ranch just south of Glen Ellen. The land was owned by Ex Senator William McPherson Hill . The ranch was acquired for $51,000.

Ground was broken for the first buildings and the corner stone laid in 1890. The original structure, (the west wing), consisted of a kitchen, client and employee dining rooms on the ground floor and an assembly hall and dormitory on the second floor. The building included a two story north wing with sleeping quarters for male residents and a two story south wing for female residents. The north/south frontage of the building was a total of 520 feet.

The first residents occupied the building in 1891. By this time there were 148 clients. The move from Santa Clara occurred on November 24, 1891, in a special train provided by the Southern Pacific Railroad. During the first few months the residents had to vacate the building during the day so that workmen could finish the construction.

During the earthquake of 1906 part of the building collapsed. Luckily no one was injured. Following the quake the second floor of the west wing was torn down. Two years later, in 1908, ground was broken for the Main Building. The new building housed administrative offices of the institution as the center grew around it.

The north and south wings were torn down during the 1950's. Only a small portion of the south wing remains. The administrative offices were moved into the Porter Administration Building in 1956. The Main Building was then used as a Professional Education Center and included a professional library. Then in 1970 the building was abandoned.

This remarkable building is the center piece of the 1670 acres making up the Development Center today. The grounds consist of wooded hills, with lakes and creeks running through it. It is the most beautiful setting for an institution in the state. The Center was, for many years, the largest employer in Sonoma County and at the present is still the third largest. The communities of Glen Ellen and Eldridge cherish the setting and this unique Main Building.

--Courtesy of the Glen Ellen Historical Society

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Historical Significance of The Glen Oaks Ranch on Highway 12 just east of Glen Ellen.

This property is on the National Register of Historical Landmarks #94001223. The ranch was originally acquired by a grant deed by General Vallejo in 1839 from Lazaro Pina. In 1846 the General conveyed 2 1/2 leagues of the property to Andres Heppner in consideration for 5 years of pianoforte music lessons for the Vallejo family. In 1858, Colonel Charles V. Stuart, from Pennsylvania bought the land and called the ranch Glen Ellen in honor of his wife, Ellen. Later the village that grew nearby took the name for itself and to avoid confusion the name of the ranch was changed to Glen Oaks.

Charles Stuart had a thriving vineyard, winery and was one of the largest wine champagne producers in the state. After his death his wife Ellen continued to produce wine and became one of three ladies in the Sonoma Valley to produce great wines. He also built the smoke house, the main house and the barn of native stone. The Stuarts entertained lavishly. Hosting the prominent members of the community including their friend and frequent guest General Vallejo. The entertainment included balls, theatrical productions and dinner parties. People would arrive by train, the Warfield Station was located just across the road, and by horse drawn coach.

The property is now owned by Joan M. Cochran, daughter of Roswell and Camille M. Cochran. Camille and in turn Joan are descendants of Manule Boronda, one of the men who accompanied Fr. Junipero Serra from Spain and accompanied the Anza Expedition to California. The restoration of this wonderful ranch is the work of the Cochran family.

In June of 1993, the firm of Domenichelli Masonry of Healdsberg, California redid the tuck pointing* on the exterior of the main house and the Smoke house on the property. The exteriors were also coated with Barricade to prevent deterioration of the stone walls and mortar.

* Tuck pointing is the finishing of joints along the center lines with a narrow parallel ridge of fine putty or fine lime mortar. In existing brick or masonry work, the raking out of deteriorated mortar joints to an appropriate depth and refilling with new mortar.

This property is unique and very important because of its rich history. The ranch is the most intact agricultural complex in the Valley of the Moon. Most of the other 19th century vineyard properties have been subdivided or converted to nonagricultural uses. The importance can only be emphasized by the National Landmark status which was granted to the ranch in 1994.

Visual description: The main house was built cc 1858 by Colonel. Charles Stuart. It is a large Italianate structure, built with rusticated stone and has a low pitched hip roof. There is a porch across the front with tapered posts and 6 wooden pilasters on the facade. The windows in front are tall and thin, double hung with 2 light panels. The side windows are double hug with 12 lights. All the windows are hooded with relieving arches that are rusticated and have keystones. The front door has a single light panel with transom. Inside the house are six fire places. The rooms have 14 foot ceilings and the doors are four paneled. There is a double parlor with an archway between.

A new addition was built in cc 1939 connecting what was then cook house to the main house. This structure is of wood.

There is also a river rock gateway, a stone smoke house, a stone barn, and two stick style cottages on the property plus two storage buildings. The smokehouse is a fine example of 19th century smoke houses and is in excellent condition. The stone barn is also in excellent condition. It is a 4 stall barn and was used primarily as a horse barn. At the present time storage buildings are being rebuilt.

--Courtesy of the Glen Ellen Historical Society

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Written by Nancy Bauer for the Glen Ellen Historical Society

Throughout the Glen Ellen area there is evidence that this was a favorite spot for the Native Americans. There are sites of summer villages and work areas in the valley and winter camps on the side of the mountains.

The first Europeans were of Mexican heritage. The village of Glen Ellen started out as a land grant owned by General Marianno Vallejo. He bestowed part the grant on to his children's pianoforte teacher as a reward for his services. The property then went to Charles Stuart, a southern gentleman with a bride from Scotland by the name of Ellen. Together they established the Glen Ellen Ranch, known today as the Glen Oaks Ranch on Highway 12. As the town grew around their ranch it assumed the name Glen Ellen and attracted many new settlers, especially those interested in the wine industry.

With the beginning of the railroads in the late 1880's, the town became a popular destination for residents of San Francisco who could hardly wait to escape their fog-bound city in the summer months. They boarded ferry boats in San Francisco, and then transferred to waiting trains in Sausalito or at Sonoma Landing, which was located near the mouth of the Petluma River. From there they eventually reached the many resorts and hotels located in Glen Ellen. The wife and children of the families would spend the entire summer in Glen Ellen, while the husbands commuted to work in San Francisco, returning to Glen Ellen for the weekends.

With the end of the railroad era, the summer visitors found more exciting places to go and Glen Ellen became a town of permanent residents. Many present residents are the 3rd and 4th generation of the original settlers. Glen Ellen was also home to many celebrities, among whom were Jack London, M.F.K. Fisher, Joshua Chauvet, David Pleydel Bouverie and others who have left their mark behind.

Today, Glen Ellen still continues to attract visitors from around the world. So enjoy our community and do remember to return once again for another unforgettable visit.

Mary Frances Kennedy was born in Albion, Michigan in 1908 and at the age of 2, her parents moved to Whittier, California. Her father was the editor of the local newspaper and while in her teens Mary Frances took turns filling in for staff members on vacation. Feeling stifled with her home life, she left home in 1929 and went to France with her new husband Al Fisher and thus she became M.F.K. Fisher.

She fell in love with France but out of love with her husband. Breaking up the marriage and worried about making it on her own, she started writing magazine articles. Later she fell in love with Dillwynn Maxwell, who came from a family of well known artists. They married and moved to Switzerland and Mary Frances blossomed as an up and coming author. Her new husband contracted a rare disease and they returned to the States. In 1941 her husband committed suicide due to the intense pain of his illness.

In just twelve years, she published 9 books. She became a well known gourmet cook and had gained a world wide reputation as such. A few years later she became the sixth Mrs. Donald Friede. Mr. Friede was a dashing book editor. After six years they parted.

M.F.K. arrived in Glen Ellen where David Bouverie built her a special house. She continued to write for various magazines and gained more world recognition. She died in 1992 as a legend.

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Research Collection
of the
Glen Ellen Historical Society

Located at the
Regeneration Resources Community Center
Glen Ellen, California

For more information contact Bob Glotzbach
P. O. Box 181
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 939-0601


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