2020 is a year full of celebrations for the Museum of Sonoma County! The year marks the 35th anniversary of the Museum, the 110th anniversary of the building, and the 5th anniversary of the contemporary art gallery.
At the time the Historic Santa Rosa Post office was built, the city was in a similar state as it is now — a state of rebuilding—following the devastating 1906 earthquake. On March 9, 1910, the city’s first full-time Postmaster, H.L. Tripp, and his staff moved into the new building at Fifth and A Streets. Tripp, a former haberdasher, and about a dozen postal carriers served the city, which at the time had a population of less than 10,000. The newly constructed building was completed in the Roman Renaissance Revival style, with a Spanish tile roof that connected it to its California setting.
Over a half of a century later, the historic building would survive the 1969 earthquake, only to be slated for demolition to make way for the mall. Historian Gaye LeBaron described the scene, "Here and there were the concrete copings marking the foundations of hotels and business blocks, gas stations, fraternal lodges and two-story Victorian homes — all of them gone, cleared away after the damaging 1969 earthquake to make way for a mall. One building stood alone on the northern edge of this wasteland, a majestic building with four stone columns..."
In 1979, a team led by Dan Peterson took on the impossible task of rolling the 1,700-ton building two blocks, from Fifth to Seventh Street, successfully completing the project in 75 days. The team adopted the slogan, “They said it couldn’t be done!” and after a remodel and expansion, the Sonoma County Museum officially opened its doors on January 12, 1985.
For 30 years, the changing art and history exhibitions shared the limited gallery space inside the historic post office. Following a multi-million dollar capital campaign, the Museum renovated the a 4,500-square-foot gallery space on the neighboring corner of Seventh and B Streets- previously a carpet warehouse, acquired in 2001. The contemporary art space opened its doors on April 11, 2015 with Picturing the Iconic: Andy Warhol to Kara Walker. In the past five years, the space has featured works by locally and internationally renowned artists including John Baldessari, Annie Leibovitz, Franklin Williams, Faith Ringgold, Maria de Los Angeles, and many more.
The Museum of Sonoma County would not exist without the tireless efforts of those who have supported the organization over the decades. It is with the deepest appreciation and gratitude that we thank all who have contributed to the Museum’s growth and success. We look forward to celebrating these incredible anniversaries and to continuing to serve our community as we enter our next chapter.