Western Sonoma County Historical Society

Western Sonoma County is part of Sonoma County, California. Sonoma County is known for its wine, grape, and apple production, while its biggest city Sebastopol lies only 50 miles north of San Francisco. The county is located on the Pacific coast region and includes historical sites such as the famous Fort Ross.

Perhaps one of the most well-known people associated with Western Sonoma County is none other than Luther Burbank. The renowned botanist and horticulturalist purchased a 4-acre plot of land in Santa Rosa, where he established a greenhouse and conducted crossbreeding experiments on plants. In 1885, he also purchased the 15-acre Gold Ridge Farm in Sebastopol, where he developed thousands of hybrids, crossbreeds, and selections.

Throughout his lifetime, Burbank introduced over 800 types of fruits, vegetables, grains, and flowers. He developed the Burbank potato – its natural sport called the Russet Burbank potato is the most widely cultivated potato in the United States. Among many others, Burbank had also developed a wide variety of California’s plums and prunes.

Burbank passed away in 1926. His wife established an apple orchard on the Gold Ridge Farm while leasing most of the farm’s territory to the Stark Brothers Nursery. After the expiration of the lease in 1957, the estate gradually deteriorated and passed to the new owners. However, local historians are dedicated to preserving Burbank’s legacy. Thus, in 1974, the Western Sonoma County Historical Society was formed, and the farm was placed on the National Register of Historic Places just a few years following the society’s establishment.

The restoration of the farm and the cottage began in 1983 with the help of the joint efforts of the City of Sebastopol and the Society. The two have also been cooperating to restore the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad Depot since the 1980s. Upon its complete restoration in 1993, the West County Museum was opened in its building and is still open today.

The Gold Ridge Farm has also been in use for quite some time now. Since it was added to the National Register in 1978, the Farm has been transformed into a place both locals and tourists like to visit. The Society’s Farm Committee works with volunteers to manage the farm and cottage, cultivate Burbank’s plant varieties, and provide both guided and self-guided tours to visitors.

The museum focuses on the history of West Sonoma County and changes its exhibits two-three times a year. Some of the most notable exhibitions in the past featured items related to the movies filmed in Sonoma County, a variety of items donated by the local community, historical toys, and lighting devices, collections related to the apple industry and its festivals, items, and documents recounting WWII experiences on the home front, and others.

Of note is the reference room available in the museum. The room – known as the Triggs Reference Room – is a treasury of historical reference books, a clippings file, and local history recordings. It is one of the best places to visit for anyone doing research about Sonoma County, its history, and notable figures connected to it. If you need to write a history essay, you can also get help from an experienced writer from an essay writing service reviews site who will assist you in the research, planning, and writing of your work.

Besides the museum, there are also Burbank plant variations being cultivated and displayed on the grounds and to the south and east of the museum. The plants range from flowers to fruits and vegetables, among others. You can even purchase some of them at the Gold Ridge Farm (sold every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) You can also get a brochure at the museum with all the details.