California has several dozen state parks that focus on historic locations. Three of them just north of the San Francisco Bay have significant connections to the rancho era of Mexican Republic. This itinerary will take you through these three state historic parks in a day trip from the Bay area. Each is near a different city in California Wine Country.
Most historic parks focus on California’s early history, especially the many California indigenous people and the Spanish and Mexican settlers. These three show the people native to this area plus two sites associated with General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a Californio (a California-born person of Spanish descent) who became a significant part of the Mexican government and eventually in the formation of the State of California.
The first park, Olompali, is part of the traditional territory of the Coast Miwok people, who lived in this area for thousands of years and in a village in what is now this park for about 1500 years. The Miwok hoipu (head man) built an adobe house here in 1776, and in 1843, his son was granted their land by the Mexican government under the rancho system.
The next stop is the Petaluma Abode. During the Mexican era, it was the largest privately owned building in what’s now California. Once the headquarters for General Vallejo’s Rancho Petaluma, it has been turned into a museum of ranch life at the time. Like many of the Californios, Vallejo lost most of his land and wealth in a series of court battles shortly after the California Gold Rush.
The last park is a collection of sites in the heart of Sonoma. On the western side, in a green park is Vallejo’s Victorian-style wooden town home. This “carpenter gothic” house was imported pre-built from the East Coast and assembled at this site in the 1850s. Next door is a building designed in Europe, which was called the Swiss Chalet. In the main downtown area are several other buildings from the era, including a mission church, a military barracks, a kitchen, and one of the oldest hotels in northern California.