We had close to 50 people out for our May walk in the current Sebastopol Walks series and we lucked out on the weather, missing the rain by a couple of hours. We began at the Plaza as usual and circled around Main Street before heading east toward the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Along the way, I talked told stories about Sebastopol’s Chinatowns (North and South, as well as the original one once located on Main Street), its pre-WWII Japantown, the Azorean community that was instrumental in building and supporting St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church, the Pomo peoples who lived for thousands of years near the Laguna, and the xenophobia directed at Filipino laborers by the Sebastopol business community and also by the European-American migrant workers during the Depression. Most of the structures I mentioned were gone without a trace and only in the second half of the walk were we able to look at historic houses as we traced the lives of a few of the Azorean and French immigrants.

Other than some difficulties in making myself heard over traffic noise (we’re looking into a portable voice amplifier), the 3-mile walk was a great success and everyone learned about some facets of Sebastopol’s history that have completely disappeared from view.

I owe special thanks for research help to Evelyn McClure, our unofficial town historian, with the Western Sonoma County Historical Society; and Delia Rapolla of the Filipino American National History Center, Sonoma County Chapter. I also made use of Sonoma County Library‘s digitized photos for copies of a variety of historical photographs that I shared with the group. Sadly, no photos have been donated to any of our heritage organizations (as far as I’m aware) that document the Chinatowns,  Nippon Hall (the Japanese social and meeting hall), or many of the other fixtures of early Sebastopol life. The buildings recorded on the Sanborn Insurance Co. maps (available at the WSCHS’s West County Museum and from the library (on microfilm)) seem to be the only documentation of the physical locations and details remaining.

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