A Photo Tour of the Sonoma Plaza with George Webber Part 1 of 2

I sat down with George Webber, Sonoma’s Professional Multiple Personality Artiste, to get his unique insight on the Sonoma Plaza and Sonoma History. Visit George’s website to learn about the walking tours he offers of the Sonoma Plaza www.GeorgeWebber.com.


This first picture is the North East corner of the plaza. This is the San Francisco Solano Mission. Founded in 1823 by Father Jose Altimira. It is the last in a line of 21 missions that began in San Diego in 1769 and stretch all the way here to Sonoma. George is quick to tell us that, “it is a common mis-perception that this mission was named after St. Francis. Actually, this mission was named after a Spaniard named Francisco from Solano. He founded a mission in Peru in the 1580’s. In the incident for which he was canonized in 1710, he converted several thousand hostile Indians when he spoke to them in their own languages.” George is full of information like that! Let’s continue around the plaza and learn more!


Diagonally across from the Mission is one of the Bear Flag monuments. George continues,”The Bear Flag revolt on June 14, 1846 ended Mexican rule over California. Thirty-three American adventurers from the Sacramento Valley seized General Vallejo and took over Sonoma.”

George’s acting troupe, the Sonoma Historic Re-Creation Society, will re-enact this event on June 10, 2007 at 1:00 pm in the Plaza’s amphitheater. Here is a photo from one of their previous performances.

Bear Flag Revolt Re-enactment, Sonoma CA


“The gentleman on the rock is a representation of a Bear Flag revolter, the curious part of the story is that although these men were Americans, they did not claim California for America. They essentially, claimed it for themselves. They called it the California Republic and raised a flag with a crude bear drawn upon it and began making a general nuisance of themselves. All of this was taking place against a backdrop of the US and Mexico on the verge of the Mexican American war. In fact, the war had already begun in Texas when the Bear Flag was raised. When this news finally reached the West Coast on July 7th, the US Navy sailed in to Monterey and raised the American Flag. Two days later, on July 9th, the Stars and Stripes were raised in Sonoma and the Bear Flag came down. The Bear Flag Republic had lasted for 25 days.”

Note that Dogs are not allowed in the Sonoma Plaza. However, it is a lovely picnic spot!


“The brick building on the left is the Pinelli building built in the 1890’s. In 1904, Sonoma was threatened by a huge fire. The town was saved when Mr. Pinelli allowed firefighters to attach their hoses to 8000 gallons of wine stored in the basement as the water mains had run dry. When looking at the building, notice the square metal washers 2/3 of the way up the side of the front. These washers were state of the art earthquake prevention technology of the 1890’s as they were the bolt for a building-long steel rod that held the masonry together. It worked as this building survived the 1906 quake.”

These buildings are on the East side of the plaza on….drum roll please….First Street East!


“The alley between these two buildings (on First Street East) leads to Murphy’s Irish Pub a popular community center featuring live music four nights a week. Across from Murphy’s is the restaurant, Taste of the Himalayas, (Veronica’s favorite restaurant in Sonoma). If you appear in this alley from 9:00pm to around midnight you will smell the wonderful aroma of freshly baked Basque Boulangerie bread cooling outside in racks.”

During business hours, you enter the Boulangerie under the red awing in the picture. The front walk has tables and chairs and is a popular place for locals and tourists to hang out, quite often with their dogs.


Still on First Street East, one of the last remaining single screen movie theaters in the Bay Area the beautiful Sebastiani Theatre is also the home of small town theatrical events.


“Across the street from the theater is the Sonoma Valley Vistor’s Bureau. It was originally a Carnegie Library and dates from the early 1900’s. It is one of 12,000 Carnegie Library’s built in America and Western Europe. Andrew Carnegie was the first person to use matching funds and would give a town whatever they raised themselves. In this building, friendly locals dispense information about the beautiful Sonoma Valley.”


“Many delightful hours can be spent strolling the pathways of the beautiful Sonoma Plaza. The largest Plaza in California.” (eight acres)

This picture was taken standing on the corner of First Street East and East Napa Street. That is City Hall in the distance.


“This bell, at the end of the wide street leading into the plaza (Broadway), marks the end of the Mission trail. The other end of the Mission trail is in Mexico City, Mexico.”

We have turned the corner now and are headed west. I turned back and this picture was taken facing East and looking down East Napa Street.


“General Vallejo laid this street out to be 110 feet wide because he marched his regiment up this wide avenue.”

Standing in the same spot as the previous picture, I turned 90 degrees to my right and took a shot looking up Broadway near sunset.


This directional sign is located in front of City Hall (seen in the background on the left) near the Mission Bell. My back is to Broadway as I take this shot.


“This building, Sonoma’s City Hall, was begun in 1904. It was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake and was not finished until 1908. It still houses City of Sonoma workers to this day.”

You can tell when I took these photos by the Christmas tree atop the building. Again, my back is to Broadway as I take this picture.

This is the South West corner of the plaza looking down West Napa Street.

We have come half-way around the Historic Sonoma Plaza.
Our walking tour of the Sonoma Plaza continues at this link.