Time Warp: Take a Trip Through 19th Century Sonoma

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Much emphasis is placed on the vines of Sonoma County, but how about going back to its roots?


Here's a quick history lesson: In the mid-1550s, Spanish explorers claimed vast swaths of California for their home country. In the 1800s, Mexico gained independence from Spain and staked its flag into hundreds of thousands of acres of ranch land that now makes up much of Sonoma County. Eventually the U.S. government claimed California as its own, but the lands surrounding Sonoma still evoke flavors of the past.

Next time you head to Wine Country, take a trip back in time at some of these historic sites. Then, you can impress your friends with all your worldly knowledge.

Sonoma Barracks

If you think the scene depicted above looks like something out of The Revenant, you wouldn't be too far off. In June of 1846, bearing our state flag, the California Republic staged a revolt against their Mexican rulers. At the time, these barracks served as a military post for US soldiers, sailors, and militiamen. Today they remain in tribute to Lt. Colonel Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, frontiersman and founder of the town of Sonoma, and reflect the lives of soldiers of the day with post-Mission-era items such as a well-preserved cannon and, so cool!, the original bear flag.  //  Spain Street E. and 1st Street E., Sonoma, 707-938-9560, sonomaparks.org

General Vallejo's Home

General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo had a grand title: And as befits the Military Commander and Director of Colonization of the Northern Frontier, Vallejo's home was grand, too. Built in 1851 about a half-mile west of what is now the Sonoma Plaza, the two-story wood-frame house in gothic Victorian style was rather dramatic for the time. Since 1933, the state landmark has been open to the public as a museum, preserved with all the original red velvet chairs, elaborate chandeliers, and hand-carved beds.  //  3rd St W. and W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-9559, sonomaparks.org

Mission San Francisco Solano

Founded on July 4, 1823, this former parish and church was authentically restored in the early 1900s. Once home to the mission's padre, the graceful stucco and tile home now houses a museum with real deal antiques—including an iron for making communion wafers, an 1840 weekly devotional prayer booklet, and an anvil dating back to 1766, not to mentions Chris Jorgensen's famous watercolors of California Missions. Real history buffs should take a docent-led tour to learn all the details.  //  114 East Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-9560, missionscalifornia.com

Toscana Hotel

In the 1850s, Italian immigrants and other working-class Europeans flooded Wine Country, seeking new lives in America. Next to the Sonoma Barracks, the Toscana Hotel acted as a general goods store, library, and low-cost stay that catered to the new residents of Sonoma. Docent led tours are available, and even more fun, they're led by period-costumed hosts.  //  20 E. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-939-8300, sonomaparks.org

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