There is so very much to do in California's Wine Country! And surprisingly, not all of it revolves around wine. Head to charming downtown Sonoma, California. Just next door to the old Armory, which is part of the San Francisco Sonoma Mission, The Toscana Hotel is a fascinating little step back into the "old west."
Historic blurb: On the north side of the Plaza, next to the Sonoma Barracks, is the Toscano Hotel. Built in the 1850s it was first home to a retail store and rental library. Later the building was used as an inexpensive hotel, dubbed the "Eureka Hotel". Around 1890, many patrons were Italian immigrants, and the name of the hotel changed from "Eureka" to "Toscano." Today, the Toscano is furnished with period furniture and looks much the way it did around the turn of the century. The kitchen and dining room are located in a separate building behind the main hotel. (In the picture above it is the yellow building in the background.) Both are open to the public Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 1pm to 4pm and guided tours are hosted by docents in period costume.
(Blurb and exterior photo from: Best In Sonoma
When I stumbled across this charming historic site, I had no clue it existed. It was completely empty except for two adorable volunteer docents, who were all too happy to give me not only my own, personal guided tour of the entire hotel, including the roped-off areas, but they also provided me with all of the great historical tidbits that I could ingest! Don't miss visiting the Toscano when you're in downtown Sonoma.
A great collection of period antiques to show life in the 1850's
Doesn't the lobby area look like the set from an old western?
One of the upstairs bedrooms.
See that little metal thinger in the corner? Yah, that's a bathtub
Nestled smack dab in the center of idyllic downtown Sonoma (which is nestled smack dab in the middle of the Napa Valley wine country) you'll find a smattering of mom and pop stores, original restaurants, high-end homeware shoppes and cute clothing sellers. You'll also find a piece of California's history -- Mission San Francisco Solano.
The mission was built by the Mexican authorities as a barrier to Russia's attempts to extend control to the federal territory of Alta California. During the years the Mission was active, General Mariano Vallejo resided in town. He was tasked with monitoring the activities of Russia at their nearby settlement of Fort Ross (krepost' rus'), and with establishing peaceful relations with the Native Americans of the region. Vallejo helped to build the town of Sonoma and even paid for the rebuilding of the small Mission chapel. There were always soldiers and settlers in the town of Sonoma during the Mexican period. The Franciscan Fathers grew grapes and produced sacramental wine from the first vineyard in the Sonoma Valley, which was first planted in 1825. By 1834, Vallejo had the Rancho Petaluma Adobe built a few miles to the west, which became a large agricultural operation to support the Spanish military here. By 1839, the Mission was in ruins and unoccupied. Through the years the Mission saw many different uses, among these a blacksmith's shop, a barn, and even a storeroom. In 1846, white American settlers took over the town in what has come to be known as the "Bear Flag Revolt." It was during this time that the Mission was sold to a man who used the chapel entrance as a saloon and stored his liquor and hay in the chapel. The Mission eventually became a parish church serving the Pueblo and Sonoma Valley until it was sold to a private interest in 1882. In 1903, the California Historic Landmarks League bought the remains of Mission San Francisco Solano. Restoration was completed in 1913. The restored chapel burned in 1970. Today, the Mission is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park.
Photo and history blurb from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_San_Francisco_de_Solano
If you were to visit dowtown Sonoma and Mission San Francisco Solano today (and I highly recommend you do!) it would look a little something like this:
Entrance fee to view the mission and garrison = $3.00 US. Cost of Admission also includes admission to Lachryma Montis, the historic home of General Mariano Vallejo.