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Healdsburg & Hops

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By the time the final 27 Mexican land grants in Sonoma County were complete, the area now covered by the City of Healdsburg had been included in the Sotoyome land grant, although the subject property lay just outside it. Also in the immediate vicinity was the Molino grant, just across the Russian River from the subject property. Just before the Gold Rush, only a few Anglos had settled around the Healdsburg area, but soon after the Gold Rush many more  came, the first being Harmon Heald, who purchased the land in the Sotoyome grant of H. D. Fitch, one of the pre-Gold Rush pioneers. In 1857, Harmon Heald laid out Healdsburg Plaza, with the settlement's population at 300, and the town held its first agricultural fair the next year. The post office name was changed from Russian River to Healdsburg; Heald started a store  with H.M. Wilson and a hotel with a partner named Harris. The next year, with a population of 500, the town had two brick stores, an academy building with a capacity of 125, a fire company, and Masonic and Sons of Temperance halls, 25 business buildings and 120 houses. Its early development was limited by title disputes between speculators who had bought Spanish titles to land and squatters who had moved onto parcels and improved them; ultimately the title-holders agreed  finance  the  transfer  to  occupants. The  town  developed  enough  to  have  its  own department store, Rosenberg & Bush, founded by Wolfe Rosenberg in 1865. Two years later, Jerome Smith opened Smith Bank, Healdsburg's first, the same year Healdsburg incorporated. By 1872, the San Francisco and Northwest Pacific railroad network had expanded past Santa Rosa through Healdsburg to Cloverdale (service which is to be restored by the SMART network almost 150 years later).  

In 1886, Healdsburg built its first city hall (demolished in 1960) at a cost of $12,500 and opened a public high school which graduated eight girls and one boy in 1891. Another high school was completed in 1954. In 1888, the city gained a theater; Truitt's Theater hosted dances, concerts, and lectures as well as plays. By the turn of the 20th century, Healdsburg's main crops were hops, grapes and prunes. While railroad service had connected Healdsburg to the population center of the county for more than 40 years, the Santa Rosa-Healdsburg route was first paved  in 1914. The 101 freeway reached Healdsburg only in 1964.  

Healdsburg's rapid development after its relatively early founding among post-Gold Rush towns was ascribed primarily to the agricultural potential of its setting. "Nothing can surpass the fertility of the soil of Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys ...maintained nearly at its maximum by the annual overflow of the streams, which brings down a rich alluvial mold," according to an early account. Early farms ranged in size from 20 to 100 acres, putting the subject parcel, as shown on 19th century maps, close to the norm. An 1876 inventory of the town's production included 6,700 boxes of grapes, 138,600 pounds of dried fruit, 223,130 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables, 1,245 tons of grain, as well as 252 cars of livestock, 69,700 pounds of hides and tallow and 148,867 pounds of wool. Non-agricultural production included 322 flasks of quicksilver, 80,000 pounds of tan bark, and 187,500 feet of lumber.