History of the Depot

Some Additions

Doug Offenbacher

It’s nearly always the case that those closest to an object or location of interest, are the least likely to be aware of its true significance. While there’s no question everyone in Kenwood loves the Depot, I found very few who thought of it as anything more than the obvious. This column was started to raise that level of awareness, to share what I could discover and encourage others to make their own discoveries. We’ve learned together that our humble little community center has a world-class history and shares that history with a host of California’s most powerful and influential figures.

Continuing to delve into what literally feels like a treasure hunt, I occasionally discover a contradiction to something previously written. I’ll always share the corrections as well. Accuracy counts.

One has to do with T. J. Ludwig, builder of much in Sonoma County during the 1880s and 1890s (including our depot). One project was the DeTurk Round Barn in Santa Rosa. I relied on a bit of misinformation as to the date it was constructed. I had found 1875. While there is actually no written evidence supporting an exact date, “official” researchers in Santa Rosa determined the barn was constructed in 1891. A small matter but one that could some day be meaningful.

Looking into this did, however, lead to other discoveries regarding the little-recorded life of Mr. Ludwig. One is that he shared the round barn with Mr. DeTurk and the two partnered in the business of breeding horses, champion trotters specifically. This was consistent with men of means of that era. We found the same pastime prevalent among the railroad leadership as well.

A side note: Isaac DeTurk was owner of Sonoma County’s first truly large winery producing 400,000 gallons of wine and 15,000 gallons of brandy annually. Conveniently, his winery complex was adjacent to the railroad tracks near the Santa Rosa Depot. He also owned vineyards here in the Kenwood area – just where, I’ve yet to discover.

In the column on San Francisco native, N.W. Griswold, long considered the founder of Los Guilicos (later Kenwood), I was unable to connect Griswold with Sonoma Valley in any way beyond the fact of that project. Discovering that Los Guilicos was actually a Central Pacific project under Charles Crocker led to other questions. Could there have been an N.W. Griswold/Charles Crocker connection? Then as now, it was who more than what you knew that opened doors.

So now we discover that N.W. Griswold, among his many creative attempts to achieve celebrity, had once written a book titled Beauties of California. It was a primitive travel guide highlighting and encouraging tourism to the state’s iconic wonders, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, etc. His book was published in 1883 by H.S. Crocker & Co. of San Francisco. Henry S. Crocker, in addition to being a famously successful publisher, happened also to be the younger brother of Charles Crocker. Further, in the table of contents, first listed among the must-sees of the state was the Del Monte resort of Monterey, the magnificent precursor to Pebble Beach – coincidentally owned by Charles Crocker.

Meanwhile, back at the Decker-Jewett Ranch in Sonoma Valley, N.W. Griswold appeared visionary in his quick moves to acquire this valuable ranch land for his Los Guilicos development. But was he? Peter Decker and John H. Jewett, Marysville Bankers, had purchased from William Hood the last of his valley properties as he faced financial ruin. Their purely investment ownership of the ranch was no secret, especially from their bank’s most powerful client, the Central Pacific Railroad, more specifically, Charles Crocker.

With all due respect to an honest, hard working Norman Griswold, the point being made here is, where Charles Crocker was involved, everything, even spontaneity, was tightly controlled.