Drawing Sonoma: Union Hotel and Union Hall

The last Friday of each month, the Index-Tribune runs ink illustrations and historical essays from Sonoma Artist Barbara White Perry. Her book, “Drawing Sonoma” celebrates Sonoma Valley’s historic and unique properties. A chapter in her book documents structures and vistas forever lost due to neglect, time or development. The Union Hotel and Union Hall is part of that chapter.


35 W. Napa St., Sonoma

California State Historic Landmark No. 627

The original Union Hotel and Union Hall were located on the southeast corner of First Street West and Napa Street. Three veterans of the Mexican War formed a partnership or “union,” and built the two structures in 1847. The hotel, a one-story adobe, had a bar below street level because so much soil on the site was used to make the adobe bricks. It is said that, during heavy rains, the building would flood and it would take a rowboat to get a drink. The Union Hall, a one-story frame building was used for a meeting place and social center. The three veterans profited by their venture and sold out in 1851.

Both buildings were destroyed by fire in 1866.

In 1867 the Union Hotel was rebuilt by John H. Lutgens as a two-story stone structure with 30 rooms. (As seen in this illustration). Lutgens leased the hotel to Frank Oettl, a former brothel piano player who came west. For many years new proprietors of the hotel came and went.

The Union Hall was not rebuilt until 1885. Property owner Henry Raschen rebuilt the Union Hall into a two-story wooden and stone structure. The stage with curtains was used for theatrical and musical productions. The hall was large enough for the Sonoma High School to play basketball games inside.

In 1916 both the hotel and hall were acquired by John and Josephine Steiner. Except for prohibition, their son John, ran the hotel bar and Josephine Andrieux managed the hotel dining room. By the 1950s both buildings had been converted into commercial rentals. The Bank of America acquired both properties in 1955.

The two buildings with their colorful past were demolished in 1956. The Bank of America building and parking lot now occupy the corner across from the Sonoma’s historic Plaza.

“Drawing Sonoma” is available at Readers’ Books in Sonoma.


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