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Italian Man Acquitted of Stealing Eggplant After 9-Year Court Battle

Italian Man Acquitted of Stealing Eggplant After 9-Year Court Battle


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The eggplant battle cost more than $8,000 in public funds over the years

Dreamstime

A fight over an eggplant cost $8,000 of public funds in Italy.

A court battle that stretched on for nearly a decade and cost thousands in public funds is finally over after Italy’s highest appeals court acquitted the defendant of stealing a single eggplant in 2009.

According to The Local, Italy, the defendant was arrested in 2009 when police caught him with an eggplant he had allegedly taken from a privately owned field near Lecce, in the southern Italian region of Puglia. The man, who was 49 years old at the time, reportedly pleaded with police and said he was unemployed, and that he had taken the eggplant because he was desperate to feed his child. He was arrested and charged anyway, and he was sentenced to five months in prison and a fine of 500 euros, then equivalent to about $660.

The man appealed the ruling and his sentence was reduced to two months in jail and a fine of 120 euros, or about $158. The man’s legal counsel reportedly encouraged him to appeal again, this time to the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy’s highest appeals court.

Nine years after the man was originally arrested for the eggplant theft, the court acquitted him, saying that there were grounds for justification because the defendant was acting to feed his hungry family. The court also chided the lower courts for having let the case go as far as it did, and said that over the years the case had cost around 7,000 euros, or $8,600, of public money in legal fees. Your own eggplant — grown or purchased, not stolen — would be great in one of our best eggplant recipes.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


Petaluma Historian

Bar at Gilardi’s Corner, 1940s (photo Sonoma County Library)

The swanky Lanai Lounge opened in the Hotel Petaluma on August 16, 1938. Taking up the hotel’s entire front corner, it was adorned with South Seas murals, bananas hanging from the ceiling, a koi pond, and a horseshoe-shaped bar that served exotic rum cocktails, transporting its customers to a romantic and languorous tropical paradise of rattan furniture, flower leis, and live Hawaiian music.

To the delight of hotel operator Vernon Peck, the lounge was an overnight sensation. The Golden Gate Bridge had opened the year before, and waves of tourists were passing through town on the Redwood Highway, headed for resorts along the Russian River, where they danced the night away to the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rogers, and Glenn Miller.

Hotel Petaluma, 1938 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Meanwhile, Tiki culture was sweeping the Bay Area, having made a big splash in 1937 with the opening of Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland. As word spread of Peck’s exotic roadside attraction, members of the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive Monte Rio men’s club, made ritual stopovers at the lounge on their way from San Francisco to their annual summer gathering on the Russian River. Their chauffeured limousines lined up outside the hotel caused a sensation in town.

Ad announcing Lanai Lounge opening, 1938 (Petaluma Argus-Courier

That cachet helped draw in Peck’s other target clientele, Petaluma’s “smart set.” While a number of bars and grocery taverns sprang up around town following Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, there was a crowd of young men and women more attracted to the lure of night clubs. That was largely a hangover from the speakeasies of Prohibition, which ushered in both the cocktail culture and mixed sexes drinking together in a semi-public establishment.

Mike Gilardi, owner of a cigar store across the street from the hotel, had converted his store into a popular cocktail lounge in 1937, offering jazz, dancing, and an exciting mixology of new slings and fizzes.

Gilardi’s Corner at Washington & Kentucky streets, c. 1949 (photo Sonoma County Library)

Piggybacking on the success of Gilardi’s Corner, the Lanai Lounge quickly became the second anchor of Petaluma’s “night club row.”

Peck needed the business. The Great Depression had sent many hotel properties into receivership, or else turned them entirely into single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). Traveling businessmen and salesmen were starting to take rooms in the inexpensive new motels being built along the highways, which, in addition to convenient parking, also relieved them from running a gauntlet of hotel staff with their hands out for tips.

Lanai Lounge matchbook cover (image in public domain)

In 1940, after successfully guiding the Hotel Petaluma through the Great Depression, Vernon Peck departed for a hotel in Los Angeles, selling his lease to Harold Eckart, a hotelier from Olympia, Washington. Eckart undertook a major renovation of the hotel in 1945, including a complete makeover of the Lanai Lounge, which he rechristened the Redwood Room. Newly decorated with large photo murals of the redwoods, the cocktail lounge quickly became a favorite hangout of Petaluma’s postwar café society, known as “the 400.”

Postcard of mural in the Redwood Room (image public domain)

They were serenaded most evenings by Earle Bond, a locally renowned organ player. Eckart also created a studio in the hotel for the local arm of the Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, and on the roof a Civil Air Patrol spotting station that continued to operate during the Cold War.

Redwood Room at corner of Hotel Petaluma, 1954 (photo Sonoma County Library)

The opening of Highway 101 to the east of town in 1956 put an end to travelers passing through the downtown on the Redwood Highway. As inexpensive motels were available just off the freeway, the Hotel Petaluma converted to being primarily an SRO.

In 1959, the local Elks Club, seeking more space for their club gatherings, purchased the hotel from the original Petaluma Hotel Company trust for $91,160, far short of the $285,000 local citizens had invested in 1924, when the hotel was built in a GoFundMe fashion. The Elks closed off the Redwood Room, carving it up into retail shops, blocked out the lobby for meeting spaces, and roofed over the open courtyard entrance, turning it into an exclusive barroom for club members.

Ed Mannion and Bill Soberanes of the Argus-Courier standing outside Gilardi’s Corner on the eve of its demolition in 1967 (photo Sonoma County Library)

In 1967, Gilardi’s Corner fell to the wrecking ball when Washington Street was widened into four lanes. A parking lot for the corner bank was eventually built in its place, erasing the last of Petaluma’s night club row.

Petaluma Argus-Courier: “Lanai Cocktail Lounge Opens at Hotel,” August 17, 1938 “KSRO to Close Local Station,” February 16, 1951 “Through the New Hotel Petaluma This City Offers Accommodations to Local People, Travelers-Unexcelled,” November 29, 1953 “Elks Hotel Project Will Cost $50,000,” January 22, 1960 “Colorful Fifties in Petaluma,” January 22, 1969.

Bill Soberanes column, Petaluma Argus-Courier: July 3, 1959, August 17, 1971, October 29, 1974, July 7, 1978, October 24, 1980, February 2, 2000.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: “$35,000 to be Invested in ‘Motels,’” March 20, 1938.


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