Blue Wing History
When Mariano Vallejo laid out the pueblo of Sonoma according to the Laws of the Indies in 1835 the site of the Blue Wing Inn became part of Lot 35. Although it is not known if there were any buildings on the site based on the layout of missions there could have been a overseers house there.
The first recorded property transaction involving Lot 35 took place on July 11, 1836 when Vallejo granted the eastern half of the parcel to his associate Antonio Ortega. Vallejo gave up his position as majordomo of Sonoma to Ortega but Vallejo fired him in 1837. Within a year of acquiring the parcel, Ortega was recorded as residing in a small adobe structure on the lot. Ortega was running a pulqueria (a shop selling the alcoholic beverage, pulque) as late as August 1848 on the site. The book Early Inns of California suggests the dimensions of Ortega’s adobe were 35′ x 65′ and the measurements today of the 2 eastern rooms achieve these dimensions.
Ortega sold the adobe and the eastern half of lot 35 to Thomas Spriggs and James C. Cooper on August 15, 1849. General Vallejo was a witness to the transfer. In late 1849 Cooper and Spriggs began a second story addition above the original structure and added a wooden balcony giving the structure the appearance of a Monterey style adobe. In early 1852 Cooper and Spriggs build a 35′ x 35′ two story addition on the west wall of the existing building. A Von Geldem painting completed in 1852 shows the ‘Sonoma House’, as it was now called, completed.
During the Gold Rush, many prospectors passed through Sonoma on their way to the Trinity and Shasta mines. In 1849, when General Persifor Smith headquartered the U.S. Army of the Pacific in Sonoma, he brought with him officers who frequented the hotel. Many later fought in the Civil War. Both William Tecumseh Sherman and Joseph Hooker served as adjutants to General Smith..
Miners arrived from San Francisco on their way to the Trinity Gold Fields, and returned to celebrate and gamble in the Blue Wing.
Visitors included future Civil War generals, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Hooker, Major Philip Kearney, and Captains Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, as well as notables such as John C. Fremont, Lotta Crabtree, Three-fingered Jack and the legendary Joaquin Murrieta.
The Blue Wing passed through various hands until 1895 when Agostino Pinelli purchased it. When Pinelli purchased the property there was a wine press in the rear yard, in the Pinelli years the building was used for wine storage (see the pictures and stories of how Pinelli put out the fire of 1913 with wine), housing for stone masons, the Sonoma Chamber of Commerce and a museum.
Pinelli and his descendents owned it until 1940 when the building was sold to Alma Spreckels and her husband Elmer Awl, to save it from the proposed destruction by the widow of Agostino Pinelli.
Elmer Awl envisioned the Blue Wing as a center for the ‘Vigilantes’ a San Francisco area group based on theSanta Barbara men’s club,Los Rancheros Visitadores,The Awls performed some preservation work, but when Alma and her husband divorced and in 1943, she signed the building over to Elmer. In 1945 the building was sold to the Murphy’s owners of the local newspaper the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
The Murphy’s subsequently sold the Blue Wing to William Henry and Eleanora Bosworth Black who owned the building until 1968 when Mr. Black sold it to the State of California Division of Beaches and Parks. During the years they owned it the Blacks converted the second floor of the building into apartments, made some repairs to the outside adobe bricks and added commercial enterprises on the first floor. The downstairs also was later used for apartments.
During the years that the State Parks owned the Blue Wing it had various businesses including the antique store of Fred Jenner. A Sonoma County supervisor lived in the apartments, as did Ray Jacobsen and his wife Barbara, both acknowledged for their contributions to Sonoma being named ‘Sonoma Treasures’. Department of Parks and Recreation employees lived in the building including James B. (Beach) Alexander, author of ‘Sonoma Valley Legacy: Histories and Sites of 70 Historic Adobes in and around the Sonoma Valley’. Beach left a legacy to his friends of his love of Sonoma adobes and the Blue Wing in particular.
In 1975 the Blue Wing was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributor to the Sonoma Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the Blue Wing building is California Historical Land mark Number 17. In 1990 the City of Sonoma, in response the state Senate Bill 547, designated the Blue Wing Inn as a potentially hazardous unreinforced masonry building. The last tenant living in the Blue Wing Inn moved out in 2001.
With the goal of seismically stabilizing the Blue Wing the State Of California Department of Parks and Recreation began archeological studies inside the Blue Wing. Other studies have been proposed and are awaiting funding.
The Blue Wing Adobe Trust was founded in 2010 to explore the preservation and re-use of the Blue Wing Adobe.