The Great Petaluma Mill–a collection of buildings constructed between 1854 and 1903–is a perfect example of how old and new come together in Petaluma.
The southeast corner was built by an early settler, Thomas Bayliss, in 1854 as a storage locker for one of Petaluma’s first “exports”–wild game. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, a handful of “ambitious, tough” Anglo men had made their way to Petaluma from the gold fields of the Sierras or further afield. These men–including Bayliss–established a hunting camp along Petaluma Creek, shipping what they bagged to San Francisco, where a deer carcass went for $20 and a dozen quail, $9.
As Petaluma transformed itself from a hunting camp, to a frontier town, to an agricultural center, other founding families in Petaluma’s development built warehouses and mills at this location. Isaac Wickersham, who arrived in Petaluma in 1853, used the building to store grain, potatoes and hops. John McNear bought the mill complex in the 1890’s; his son, the George P. McNear, added an office portion at the northeast corner of B Street and Main (now Petaluma Blvd. South) in 1902, and more brick warehouses in 1919 and 1923.
By 1975, the complex of structures had deteriorated and was slated for demolition. Petaluma realtor Skip Sommers purchased and rehabilitated the buildings (including the Petaluma Post Office designed by Brainerd Jones), transforming them into a single, connected commercial center.
Today, the Mill complex is home to 24 Hour Fitness, the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce, a hair salon, two restaurants, the Adobe Road winery tasting room, and a variety of small businesses. The hallway of the Mill serves as a mini-museum, with antiques and intrepretive information on display.
Read more in this local blog post.