Where the past stays in focus
Because Petaluma residents have worked tirelessly for decades to preserve its local architecture, our downtown district has retained its small town, mid-19th century charm. A recent issue of Sunset Magazine described Petaluma's historic downtown as a "well-watered, well-fertilized, mature Main Street USA."
Chartered in 1858 along the banks of the Petaluma River, Petaluma is one of California’s oldest cities. During the Gold Rush the river carried locally grown produce, poultry and dairy products to feed the rapidly exploding populations of San Francisco and Oakland. It was spared much of the destruction of the 1906 earthquake so Petaluma boasts buildings whose foundations were laid a century-and-a-half ago and whose facades are some of the best examples of iron-front architecture in the entire United States. Downtown Petaluma was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995 and is today home to more than 600 businesses and 65 historical properties.
The city’s riverfront location made it a bustling destination during the mid-19th century Gold Rush when the river carried locally grown produce, poultry and dairy products to feed the rapidly exploding populations of San Francisco and Oakland.
Petaluma enthusiastically celebrates its agricultural heritage in numerous fairs and festivals throughout the year. The premiere event is the annual Butter & Egg Days Parade which honors Petaluma’s turn-of-the-century moniker as the “Egg Basket of the World.” More than 3,000 residents either volunteer or participate in this slightly quirky but always community spirit-filled event.
Restoration and preservation continues today as a group of dedicated volunteers work to bring the Petaluma Trolley back to life. Built in 1904 and originally known as the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad, plans for the restored Petaluma Trolley include connecting the Warehouse Waterfront District, Historic Downtown and the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. Train enthusiasts can get a taste of what is to come at the Petaluma Trolley Living History Museum.
Docent-guided walking tours of Historic Downtown start at the Petaluma Historical Museum at 10:30 a.m. on most Saturdays May through October.