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You Thought You Knew Petaluma

You know Petaluma is charming and picturesque but you might not know that…

Petaluma had the world’s first and only chicken pharmacy.

The annual Salute to American Graffiti—when more than 350 classic cars rumble into downtown Petaluma for the car show and festival—pays tribute to George Lucas' classic movie (many of the film’s most memorable shots were filmed here).

Chartered in 1858, Petaluma is one of California’s oldest cities, and many of its 19th-century iron-front buildings built along the Petaluma River are still in use.

Thanks to its granite bedrock, Petaluma was one of a few California towns to survive the legendary 1906 earthquake with only minor damage.

The Petaluma Gap is a wind-tunnel-like opening that starts between Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay, builds up speed through Petaluma, then empties in the San Francisco Bay. Daily temperature swings range from forty to fifty degrees. The result is that vineyard yields are smaller and grapes ripen later, developing wonderful flavors and fruit characteristics, while maintaining ideal levels of acidity. The Petaluma Gap is home to numerous wineries that have been growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah grapes since the 1880s.

Petaluma’s historic Downtown is so well-preserved that it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Internationally recognized brands that are based in Petaluma include CamelBak and Lagunitas Brewing Company.

Made from adobe brick and redwood, General Vallejo's Petaluma Adobe it is one of the oldest preserved buildings in Northern California and a State Historic Park.

Docent-guided walking tours of Historic Downtown Petaluma start at the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum at 10:30am on most Saturdays May through October.

American botanist Luther Burbank on his opinion of Sonoma Wine Country: “I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this Earth as far as Nature is concerned.”

The first practical chicken incubator was invented in Petaluma in 1879 by Canadian-born inventor Lyman C. Byce. This led to a building boom in chicken farms and Petaluma’s title as the “World’s Egg Basket.”

When stagecoach riders needed to stretch their legs and get a bite to eat on the way from Petaluma to Bodega, they stopped at the Washoe House. Built in 1859, and located just a few miles north of Petaluma on Stony Point Road, it’s brimming with local character (and now a federally protected landmark). Go for the history and stay for the Buffalo Burger.

Frank Sinatra’s favorite cheesecake is made by Petaluma’s J.M. Rosen Cheesecakes, which are still being served in some of California’s best restaurants and markets.

In 2011, Petaluma celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first airmail flight. Adventurer and  turn-of-the-century adrenaline junkie Fred Wiseman carried two letters from the Petaluma postmaster to the Santa Rosa postmaster, a bundle of copies of the Sonoma Press Democrat newspaper, and a sack of coffee. Although the 20-mile flight took him two days to complete, his total flight time was only 20 minutes.

Petaluma’s Sonoma-Marin Fair hosts the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest® which garners international attention. Bowed legs, mismatching eyes, under-bites, and bald spots are all beautiful features in this crazy K-9 competition.

Petaluma celebrates its agricultural heritage with the annual Butter & Egg Days Parade that brings 30,000 people into historic downtown on the last weekend in April. The festivities include a Cow Chip Throwing Contest and Cutest Little Chick Competition.

Downtown Petaluma is the location of one of the largest blocks of iron-front buildings west of the Mississippi. The cast iron facades of these architectural gems were manufactured at San Francisco's foundries, then shipped up the river, assembled, and bolted to brick walls.

The Petaluma River is actually a tidal slough. It was upgraded to “river” status by an act of Congress signed by President Eisenhower in 1959.

During the 1800s, schooners, sloops, and paddlewheelers made Petaluma one of the busiest inland ports in California. Petaluma’s prolific egg production spurred some design modifications in the boats transporting them down the river. The smokestack was placed in the stern instead of towards the bow so heat from the engines wouldn’t cook the eggs before they got downriver.

Petaluma is home to Rancho Obi-Wan, a museum housing the world’s largest privately owned collection of Star Wars Memorabilia. Housed on a former chicken ranch in rural Petaluma, Rancho Obi-Wan attracts Star Wars fans and fanatics from around the world to tour the collection amassed over 37 years by former Lucasfilm employee Steve Sansweet.

The Petaluma Museum, built in 1904, was originally a Carnegie Library. A treasure unto itself, the building features the largest free-standing leaded glass dome in Northern California.

The Petaluma Visitors Center is housed in the Mission Revival-style depot that was build for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1914. Today, with the addition of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) platform adjacent to building, the Visitors Center once again welcomes railway passengers.

Petaluma’s Military Antiques and Museum in historic downtown is the country’s largest retail military shop.

The highest elevation in Petaluma is 313 feet — at La Cresta Drive and Summit Way. The lowest elevation is East Court — 6 feet.

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