Seventy-six years after the trains stopped running to Sonoma, the city is looking to create the Sonoma Historic Train District.
The cost to form such a district is $15,000, and the city has set aside $7,500 and is planning to apply for a Certified Local Government Grant for the other $7,500. The city council on April 23 approved applying for the grant. The city had to apply by the end of the month; according to City Clerk Rebekah Barr, they did.
The “Historic Train District” would cover 14 buildings along the bike path between First Street West and First Street East.
Sonoma had train service from about 1880 until 1942.
According to a project summary, “The district that developed around the Sonoma Depot at the turn of the 20th century is intact, has a high degree of integrity, and has made an important contribution to the character and early American history of the City of Sonoma. The Victorian pattern of small dwellings and commercial buildings surrounding the public Depot continues today. Although the proposed Historic Train District addresses State Preservation Plan goals, it does not warrant consideration for bonus points.”
The project has the backing of both the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation.
In asking the council to apply for the grant, Patricia Cullinan, with the Sonoma Valley Historical Society, told the council that the train district is an important part of Sonoma history. “Most of the history relates to the Mexican and Spanish settlers,” she said. “While the train district is the early 20th century and slightly before. The train was moved to Depot Park in 1890 … and it’s an important element for heritage tourism.”
Robert Demler and Gina Cuclis also spoke in favor of the train district.
The council agreed.
Councilmember Amy Harrington said she supports the train district and heritage tourism. “If the grant isn’t approved,” she said, “I’d like to see the city do it anyway.”
City Planner David Goodison said the historic integrity and the structures in the train district would be preserved.
“The creation of a Train District historic zone would mean that new development and alterations to existing development would be subject to guidelines intended to ensure that the historic integrity of the zone and the structures within it are preserved,” he said. “This means that the existing structures within the zone would be subject to special design review requirements.”
The $15,000 wouldn’t include any signage.
The council voted 5-0 to apply for the grant. The filed papers in time, and the process is underway.