Chamber of Commerce historical

Black and white photo, taken at the completion of the Chamber of Commerce building built in 1923 at the corner of Sebastopol and Petaluma avenues (Highway 12 and Petaluma Avenue). This mission-style building has an arched roof and doorway and a mock bell tower. The Chamber of Commerce, organized in 1921, contributed immeasurably to the growth of the city by conducting beautification projects, erecting street signs, establishing the first auto park and organizing the California Gravenstein Apple Growers.

The following snippets of history were prepared by volunteers at the Western Sonoma County Historical Society. For more information about local history, go to the WSCHS website at, or email comments or questions about this History Corner to Mary Dodgion at

100 Years Ago — 1919

Million dollar apple crop harvested

Five hundred and fifty cars of apples are shipped and represent the biggest crop ever, and this season’s crop will run way over the million dollar mark. The Sebastopol Apple Growers’ Union states that 425 cars of Gravenstein apples were shipped from the Gold Ridge section, along with 125 cars of other varieties making 550 carloads of packed apples. This means that a total of 318,750 boxes of apples selling for $2.35 each will show that $749,062.50 was realized from Gravensteins alone. That does not include the 4,300 tons of dried apples, the product of 125 dryers scattered throughout the Gold Ridge section. Combining all of the apples produced means $3 million go to apple growers this year. An estimated 25% increase is expected for next year. During the past year, 1,000 people were employed in packing houses and dryers alone, plus hundreds of workers employed in harvesting the crops. Where do we go from here?

75 Years Ago — 1944

Last of the C. of C. bonds burned at banquet

Burning of the bonds, representing the last $1,200 of indebtedness on the Chamber of Commerce building, was the main feature of the annual chamber banquet. The present building was erected in 1923, 21 years ago, and as he burned the bonds, H.L. Hotle, treasurer of the chamber, remarked that this was an excellent way for the chamber of “come of age.” L.R. Hart, president of the local chamber, introduced some of the out-of-town guests and members of the board of directors. Entertainment was provided by Dr. Ben Burdo, who sang two selections, accompanied on the piano by Miss Mariam Hotle.

50 Years Ago — 1969

Who, if anybody, owns what here?

The city council and chamber of commerce negotiating committees will explore possibility of purchase of the site of the chamber building. The chamber owns the building but has a 99-year lease on the site owned by the city. Problem: the lease holds a reversion clause. Under that clause, the building reverts to city ownership if not “used for the public interest and benefit.”

Happenings at West County Museum:

If you didn’t get down to the museum over the last nine months, you have missed out of some local history you may have not seen or heard of before. Remember that rotating exhibits are changed twice a year, with interesting themes and subjects each time. We would love it if you would stop in twice each year. You will be happy you did.

Volunteers will begin taking down the Seats of History exhibit in preparation of the next, “Extraordinary Local Women,” which opens Dec. 5 and runs through March 15. This is a collaboration of Sonoma County museums with a look at some of the extraordinary women who contributed to our local communities in various ways. Come and learn about the first woman doctor in Sebastopol, first Apple Blossom Queen to win Miss Apple Queen USA, the first woman mayor, city planner and Sebastopol Times editor. Also the first woman to vote in Sonoma County; the first Sonoma County council woman; local historians, business woman and women in the military.

The newest link to the So Co Library, which includes our West County Museum’s photo collections, is:

If you made it to the Archive Crawl you saw our large collection of items in the train car. As part of our continued expansion of the museum software, your museum volunteers — Sally Morrison, Paul Judge, Theresa Lynch, Rae Swanson and Bronwen Katsaros — are now undertaking photographing all of our object artifacts. This will be a valuable tool for inventory, loaning, exhibits and recording donations. This is a huge project that involves not only taking pictures, but making sure proper software numbering is complete. If you would like to join the team for this project or other, come on down!

The Western Sonoma County Historical Society is a wholly volunteer organization and includes West County Museum and the Burbank Gold Ridge Experiment Farm in Sebastopol. Our mission is to preserve the west county’s historic past. We are looking for old photos and stories of families, businesses, farms, etc. Do you have photos or stories to share? Call the museum at 707-829-6711 or the Burbank Experiment Farm at 707-829-2361.

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