Preserving Santa Rosa’s past
By WILLIAM ROHRS / Towns Correspondent
David Franzman has taken it upon himself to give the Carrillo Adobe the respect it deserves. He’s a history teacher at Santa Rosa High School and makes regular cleanup visits to Santa Rosa’s oldest surviving structure with members of the school’s history club.
But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Franzman’s appetite for Santa Rosa’s history. He is in the process of creating the city’s first historical society and hopes to have it up and running before Santa Rosa’s 150th birthday in 2018.
“I think Santa Rosa is a wonderful city, but we never take the time to look backward,” Franzman said. Santa Rosans interested in history usually join the Sonoma County Historical Society.
Members of his high school history club were among the first to join, but Franzman also has been working closely with Eric Stanley, curator of the Sonoma County Museum. Stanley wants to help him create a space in the museum for the fledgling organization.
“We’ve been discussing a lot of things,” Stanley said. “The society is new and energetic. I think it is a good thing. Oddly, Santa Rosa is one of the last places (in the county) that doesn’t have a historical society.”
Stanley hopes the society will have a physical exhibit in the museum by next year. He and Franzman are discussing the possibility of a full program and guided tours.
Franzman also has lots of ideas about ways the youth members can work alongside their elders to share the city’s history.
Club members already make regular visits to the Carrillo Adobe, which was built in 1837 by Señora Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo, the mother-in-law of Gen. Mariano Vallejo, along what is now Montgomery Drive. The remains of it are protected beneath a pole barn and two separate perimeter fences.
The grounds back up to Santa Rosa Creek, where blackberries and brambles grow rampantly. In recent years the property has become a homeless encampment, with transients sometimes burning wood from the 175-year-old structure in their campfires.
Franzman has dreams of turning the site into a living historic park, but in the short term he keeps his students busy cutting away the foliage, picking up trash and looking for beams and supports they can return to their original places in the adobe.
Franzman hopes that having a local society will spur the preservation of other important historical sites. He also hopes the group will appeal to members of all ages who, with a strong volunteer force, can actively clean up and maintain sites like the Carrillo Adobe so they remain city landmarks for years to come.
The historical society is still in its formative state. It has a board of directors and 50-60 members, with a meeting planned for Oct. 8 that will include a general election.
“We’re just beginning the paperwork for nonprofit status,” Franzman said. “Until the IRS gets back to us, we can’t do fundraising yet.
“The biggest problem I have in a nonprofit is getting volunteers. I get a lot of people who say, ‘Wow, that’s a good idea,’ but there isn’t a lot of support,” Franzman said. “The most important thing I want to stress is even if you can’t spare time to volunteer, please become a member. Your memberships and donations go a long way to protecting the city’s history.”
To contact the Santa Rosa Historical Society, make a donation, volunteer or find the next event, visit historicalsocietysantarosa.org.