Downtown Petaluma -The Old is New!

I grew up in Petaluma. It was quaint, quiet and not too “fancy.” If you went to Petaluma High in the 60’s and you were not an “aggie”, at least third generation and not from the West side of town, you were a “newbie”- not a good thing.

My dad recently described moving to Petaluma in the 1950’s: “Petaluma has changed so much.  When we moved there in Dec 1959 there were only 13,000 people living there.  Now there are over 60,000.  About the only store in town was a Purity that had wooden floors. There were a couple of other Mom & Pops.  We had to drive over to Vallejo to do any serious shopping. The place had the feel of a farm town.  Some mornings you could smell alfalfa in the air.  It was a good place to raise a family.”

Wow, has Petaluma changed! The downtown area by “the tracks”, always off limits to kids back then, is now a major draw and full of restaurants, theaters and shops! The old alley downtown is now named, full of colorful graffiti and a “destination” spot! The “newbies” have taken over! It’s a wonderful place to spend a Saturday morning…a little coffee, a little shopping…It’s great! But, I do miss the  hamburger stand that used to be by the tracks, (5 burgers for $1.00) and the old Friedman Brother’s Hardware with it’s rustic wooden floors and wonderful musty scent……

The Petaluma River runs right through downtown... much nicer now than in bygone days!

Walk along the river, behind the buildings, and enjoy some nicely colored walls and doors!

At least the old clock tower is still the same!

You can look over the bridge to the river, through the bridge to the clock tower but be sure to peek under the bridge for the herons resting there!

All that's left of our favorite restaurant, Steamer Gold. How can it be that old, John had his bachelor party there!

There's a nice little walkway from the river to the main street....lined with benches to sit a spell...

Time for coffee...but will anything be open as early as I wander? Yes! Apple Box looks nice...think I'll try it!

The owner makes a great cup of coffee! As a former teacher I guess I was staring at the sign and the unusual spelling....a patron noticed and encouraged me to ask about it. What a great story! A druggist from out of town demanded the owner remove it since he's not a pharmacist! Demanded to the point of arranging to bring the sheriff by! As luck would have it,a customer stopped by who happened to work on neon signs.."can you make a little change to my sign the owner asked...the sheriff and the complainer must have been very disappointed to see the sign was not in violation of any law anymore! I love buying coffee from a man that clever!

Enjoy the antiques while you're there....

And don't miss the "layered" walls of the surrounding buildings...the peeling back of time...

My favorite building in town ... Now a museum, it was actually a library when I was young. I spent long happy hours curled up among the rows of books. I love the smell, the feel, the stories...books are the best!

There was something so grand about the entry and the columns. I was always awed as I entered. I was also awed by the librarians. Believe me, when you're not a quiet child they can be deadly! I was never actually kicked out but it came close! What's the big deal about laughing at a funny story anyway? I mean really, how can a child laugh in a whisper!

Though I wander pretty early, before the shops open in most towns, I'd checked out this shop, Knitterly, on another trip. The rich colors and textures of their lovely yarns are not to be missed if you knit or crochet!

If my children were not grown up Crackerjax would be my favorite store. Fantastic childrens clothing! And, if my grown up children have children so I can be a grandma one day...well I'll be doing a lot of shopping here!

After your coffee and shopping, stroll over to the area between Petaluma Blvd. and Kentucky Street and walk along "American Alley". Though not as colorful in person as they are with a few Photo Shop enhancements, it's interesting for the old time feel of the place combined with the modern graffiti touches! I'll leave you with a few images of the alley area....Next time you have a few Saturday morning wander on down to Petaluma....it has much to offer whether you're photographing, dining out or shopping! The "newbies" have taken over and they've done a great job!

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14 Responses to Downtown Petaluma -The Old is New!

  1. Fawn says:

    Love your post! Steamer Gold was my favorite restaurant. They had the best Clams and sour dough bread (which really needed to be dipped in the butter clam sauce) It’s where my husband proposed to me 28 years ago!

  2. Mike Iredale says:

    I remember when your brother and I stole a rowboat and drifted down the Petaluma River in it.

    This is a beautiful series!

  3. Jenny says:

    Wow, what a wonderful story! Your pictures are amazing… would you mind me borrowing them? I work for Petaluma Downtown Assoc. and Visitor’s Center and we’d love to have you images in our database for use in publications, marketing, etc. I’d be happy to give you photo credit if we use them 🙂

  4. Brooke says:

    Wow Donna! I personally have never found Petaluma to be particularly beautiful, but your pictures brought it to life in a new way! Loved them!

  5. Sarah Merkel says:

    Delightful post, love the stories! Fav photo is the pillars and plant at the museum :0).

  6. Dallas Hatley says:

    John was a bachelor?! I thought you two have been married forever! 🙂 No wonder Steamer Golds look so old…

  7. Carol Farries says:

    Great pictures as always Donna! One of these Mondays when I’m off I’ll have to go with you.

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