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Santa Rosa History, California

Santa Rosa, CA, US was settled in the 1830’s by Dona Maria Carrillo and her family when they built an adobe house, the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa, near what is downtown Santa Rosa today.  The members of the Carrillo family were the first known European settlers in the area, but it is possible that settlers from Sonoma and other surrounding towns may have been grazing their livestock in the area as far back as the 1820’s.

Within twenty to thirty years after the settlement of Santa Rosa, the downtown area began to develop.  It started with a Wells Fargo post and a general store.  During this same time period, Julio Carrillo and other outstanding members of the community began planning the city with a grid pattern for the streets and a town square.  For the most part, their planning of the original part of town is still in-tact today.  Old Courthouse Square was the original town square. 

In 1868, Santa Rosa became an official city.  The city had been growing and developing steadily since California announced its statehood.  At one point, the city was the eighth largest city in the state and a county seat.  Other cities outgrew Santa Rosa around 1900, but the city still grew steadily and had around 10,000 citizens at that time.

On April 18, 1906, the great San Francisco Earthquake struck Santa Rosa.  The entire downtown was destroyed and even though there were few deaths, the growth of the city’s population began to slow.  Another earthquake struck Santa Rosa in September of 1969.  Much of the downtown area was again destroyed.  A major reconstruction saved the city, but many of the older buildings were lost. 

Santa Rosa did not gain many historical highlights during the World Wars or the Great Depression; however, in 1943, the city was chosen for the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Shadow of a Doubt.”  The Old Courthouse Square and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot are both featured in the movie.  After World War II ended, Santa Rosa began to grow steadily, again.  This was due mostly to immigration. 

In 1958, Santa Rosa became a major civil defense center when the United States Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization was settled in the city.  This lasted until 1972, when FEMA replaced the U.S. Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.  At that point, the city’s role in civil defense had lasted for 69 years. 

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Santa Rosa City Ratings

  • Rating71%
    City Rank210
  • History & Culture: rated for 40%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 80%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 90%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 90%
  • Food: rated for 60%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 20%
  • Shopping: rated for 80%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 100%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 80%
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