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Valley Forum: Future of the Blue Wing Inn is up to us

Valley Forum

By Patricia Cullinan

In his song “Faith of Heart,” Rod Stewart sang, “It’s been a long road.” Many who have watched the Blue Wing Inn crumble over the decades would certainly agree. The venerable building is finally getting a new roof, necessary to protect its adobe walls from destructive elements. Some of the walls have stood since 1830, when they were constructed as part of the original Sonoma Mission complex on East Spain Street.

The roof replacement is the culmination of persistent efforts by numerous Sonoma Valley residents over many years.

Citizen groups have consistently advocated for the preservation of the building, while presenting various plans for its use. All, in theory, have been acceptable to State Park’s administration.

Advocates include a local woman who has for years maintained the garden behind the Blue Wing because of her love for the building.

The structure was closed by State Parks in 2001 because of seismic concerns.

In May 2005, the Sonoma City Council approved working with California State Parks to begin a process that would somehow bring Blue Wing Inn into some kind of functional use.

The options for use of the Blue Wing are varied and have been laid out in various studies approved by California State Parks. Included in the proposed uses are its historical use as a building for visitor services (it was historically a tavern and hostelry), retail space, offices, a museum or apartments. Any use would provide interpretation of the history of the building, in the context of its history, and require the sensitive preservation of the building and public access.

In 2007, the City of Sonoma hired former City Manager Pam Gibson to report on steps that would lead to the stabilization and re-use of the historic building.

The predecessor to the Blue Wing Adobe Trust, the Blue Wing Adobe Preservation Committee, created an informational video about the importance of preserving the inn that is partially funded by the Sonoma State Historic Park Association. The Association provides docents for the Sonoma State Park buildings and the Petaluma Adobe, Gen. Vallejo’s former Rancho and summer home.

The Blue Wing Adobe Trust was incorporated as a non-profit foundation in September 2010, to rehabilitate the Blue Wing and other historic sites in Sonoma Valley through partnerships and innovative strategies, to ensure the sites remain vibrant and thriving parts of the community.

The trust prepared its own cost estimates, engineering and construction drawings, and identified appropriate parties wishing to reuse the building and to help repay rehabilitation costs. Members of the community provided donations and generous matching grants. Ultimately, the State needed to let the trust move forward, or to finally fund and perform the work itself.

Members of the Blue Wing Adobe Trust have worked with California State Parks and have successfully illustrated to them that seismic stabilization needed to be done in conjunction with replacing the roof. Ned Forrest, Trust Board Member and local architect, provided architectural drawings of the Blue Wing Inn to California State Parks, in order to assist State Parks in developing a well-planned project.

The fate of the Blue Wing is extremely important to both Sonoma residents and visitors alike. It is a building that tells the vibrant story of our town and its colorful history.

The question remains, “Now what?”

The roof will be replaced and the initial seismic work will be completed, but there still remains additional seismic stabilization work to bring it up to current codes. California State Parks’ in-house construction services is currently performing the work of both the roof replacement and partial seismic stabilization. We applaud California State Parks, and the voters who passed Proposition 84, which created funding for this vital project.

Blue Wing Adobe Trust will continue to advocate for a use of the building that will provide the necessary funding to preserve and sustain ongoing repairs, so the Blue Wing can be opened and used.

The Blue Wing Inn survival is the responsibility of our community. California State Parks needs to hear from us. If you are interested in participating, information is available at bluewingadobetrust.org.

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Patricia Cullinan is president of Blue Wing Adobe Trust.