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Main Street, Downtown Penngrove, California

Penngrove, California 94951, USA is a small, unincorporated community in Sonoma Countymarker, between Petalumamarker and Cotatimarker at the intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Petaluma Hill Road, nestled in the foothills of Sonoma Mountainmarker.

Located in the remnants of a historic grove called Penn's Grove, it was previously a North Bay freight rail station on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad as well as a center for egg and chicken farming, much like its close neighbor Petalumamarker.

Every year on the Sunday closest to the 4th Penngrove celebrates the 4th of July with a parade sponsored by the Penngrove Social Fireman. On Saturday at the Penngrove Fire Station located at the corner of Main Street and Old Redwood Highway, the Rancho Adobe Firefighters Association sponsor a breakfast.


Penngrove's downtown is "Main Street," a small stretch of road between Old Redwood Highway and Adobe Road. At the corner of Adobe Road, Main Street turns into Petaluma Hill Road—the location of Penngrove School.

Lichau Creek flows southward through the town, paralleling the railroad tracks. The creek feeds into the Petaluma River, which flows to San Pablo Baymarker.

Due to the ancient volcanic past of Sonoma Mountainmarker, Penngrove is rich with obsidian and petrified wood. Its soil is unique, composed mainly of clay-like adobe, which has been used for centuries as building material. A prime example of adobe architecture is the Rancho Petaluma Adobemarker, a State Historic Park in nearby Petaluma.

Like its neighbor Petalumamarker, Penngrove enjoys a mild Mediterraneanmarker climate.


As of the census of 2000, Penngrove had 3764 inhabitants.


Originally home of the Coast Miwok native people, the Mexican government granted Rancho Cotate to Captain Juan Castenada in July 1844 for his military services in the region. The grant encompassed present-day Penngrove, Cotatimarker and Rohnert Parkmarker. Cotate Rancho is a part of Vallejo Township which encompasses the plain between Sonoma Mountain and Petaluma Creek, San Pablo Baymarker, with an east-west line dividing the tract from Santa Rosamarker Township."

Rancho Cotate was sold in 1849 to Dr. Thomas S. Page, of Cotati, and eventually broken up and sold off piecemeal to incoming settlers.

The first European settlers in the Penngrove area were David Wharff, W.J. Hardin, and J.M. Palmer who arrived in 1852.

In October 1870, the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad completed the first railroad from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, running through Penngrove.


The naming of Penngrove is uncertain, and there are three main "histories" of the name's origin.

Ruth Anderson, the famous "Bell-Lady" of Penngrove (who lived on the site of the old schoolhouse on Oak Street), recalls,"In the late 1860s, two brothers by the name of Penn came out from Pennsylvania and bought of land in this area. They planted the area with olive trees, but when the trees matured it was found that the olives were not edible. The Penn brothers tore out many of the groves, sold the land and moved away. However, while they were here, they named their place Penn's Grove. Later it was changed to Penn grove, and still later, because our mail got confused with that of Pine Grove (the former name of Sebastopolmarker), the U.S. Postoffice Department changed the name to one word—Penngrove." (Harris 1980)

Other accounts state that there was another town with the name of Penn's Grove in New Jersey, which is why the Postoffice changed the name. Others claim that the Woodward family, who came from Pennsylvania, named their property Penn's Grove in honor of their home state.

Community development

A Penngrove chicken house.

Along with the chicken and egg industry, Penngrove proved to be a rich site of basalt paving stones due to the volcanic history of Sonoma Mountain, which were used to pave the streets of major cities in the Bay Areamarker, including San Franciscomarker. Harris notes that 200 men were employed at the three major cobblestone quarries at the end of the 19th century, and that quarry scars can still be seen dotting the hills between East Railroad Ave. and Roberts Road. When the Northwestern Pacific Railroad was completed in 1870, the paving stone industry kept Penngrove station busy. After the turn of the century, Penngrove became the "second largest egg and poultry producing area in the country. Only Petalumamarker outdid this area" (Harris 1980). Apparently, and according to The San Francisco Examiner, chickens paid better than gold mines. To this day, many dilapidated chicken houses dot old farms and country roads in the area.

Notable landmarks

Penngrove Community Church

One of the oldest buildings in Penngrove, the old Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1898 at the corner of Formschlag Lane and Petaluma Hill Road. In 1910, the church was moved on wooden rollers to its present location at 9970 Oak Street. The original building now serves as a fellowship hall, while a newer structure, built in 1955-7, now serves as the main sanctuary. The original structure is still used by Girl Scouts of the USA, Boy Scouts of America, 4-H, and various other community organizations.

Penngrove School

The first classes were taught in a small building on Peters' Ranch (Harris 1980: 33). In 1876, the first school was built at the southwest corner of Adobe Road and Main Street. It was named the Eagle School after the Eagle Hotel located across Main Street and shown on Thompson's map of Sonoma County (1877). In 1906 after construction of the second Eagle School, the old school was used as a teacher's residence. It was later moved about south to its current location and reconfigured into an ell. The second Eagle School was built between Main and Oak streets. The original structure no longer exists, and a private home now stands on that property, however, the steps leading to "Eagle School" from Main Street are still visible. Some of building materials were recycled for construction of the Community Center and a small building in Penngrove Park. In 1926 a beautiful mission-style school house was built and named Penngrove School, Eagle District. Penngrove School joined the Petaluma City School District in 1962. In 1963, the present Multi-purpose room was constructed and newer wings were developed between it and the older portion of the school. The Multi-purpose room was expanded with a stage in 2006. The 1926 school building is now primarily used for offices and the school library.

The Post Office

"The Post Office at Penn's Grove was established on October 30, 1882. A series of name changes occurred because of mail mix-ups with Penn's Grove, New Jersey and Pine Grove (later renamed Sebastopol). In May 1895 the Petaluma paper reported: 'The Penngrove Post Office has had its name changed again and is now officially known by its former and best known title, Penn's Grove.' In 1908 the name was changed back to Penngrove and has remained so since" (Harris 1980).The first Post Office was located in the Edwards Building and was then moved across the street from the hotel (now The Black Cat pub, formerly "Kelly's") in the Terribilini Building on the East side of Main Street. It was then moved next to Penngrove Market and a new structure for the Post Office was built in the 1980s on Main Street across from Penngrove Market.

The Fire Department

At the turn of the century, three fire chemical carts served as Penngrove's fire protection. The foundation of Firehouse #1 can be found between Penngrove Church and the Old Eagle School lot on Oak Street. "The fire department was established in the fall of 1928. In 1929 the first fire engine was put into service" (Harris 1980). In 1938, the art deco fire house was built on Woodward Avenue, just above Main Street. This structure still bears the title "Penngrove Firehouse." It is a now a private residence. In 1975, the current firehouse was built at the corner of Old Redwood Highway and Main Street, the unofficial entrance to Penngrove. Until the 1990s, a siren placed at the top of the building would sound in order to alert volunteer firefighters of a fire. The siren had over a radius and could be heard frequently through the hot, dry summer months. This system was replaced by pagers in the 1990s, but the siren is still perched on top of the firehouse. Currently, the Penngrove Firehouse is part of the Rancho-Adobe Fire District, along with Cotatimarker and other surrounding communities.

Eagle Hotel (Currently, the "Black Cat" pub).

Penngrove Community Clubhouse

"During World War I, a group of Penngrove ladies met in Evart's Hall to do Red Crossmarker work. After the war they decided they wanted to stay together as a group and have a club house of their own" (Harris 1980: 33). In 1922, after raising funds and materials, Penngrove came together to build the Community Club House. The total cost was $9000. The building was first named the "Penngrove Social Welfare Club House," but was later shortened to Penngrove Women's Club House. After a fire destroyed portions of the building in the late 1970s and the Women's Club could no longer afford the upkeep, the Penngrove Social Firemen bought the building. It is now used for various community events, such as voting and fund raisers.

Penngrove Community Park

Funded by the Penngrove Social Firemen and the Penngrove community, Penngrove Park was dedicated on October 8, 1952. The "Maple Leaf Club" planted the maples trees dotting the park in 1953.

Bank Building

"The Bank Building was built in 1922 for the Central Commercial and Savings Bank. The bank lasted only 2 or 3 years. The bank manager and his family lived upstairs" (Harris 1980: 48).

9555 Main Street, or the Old Blacksmith Building

Ronsheimer Home

Ronsheimer General Store (Now Penngrove Market)

Penngrove Rail StationThe Penngrove Rail Station burned to the ground in 1980, and nothing of it survives. The poultry loading docks still exists behind Penngrove Market, adjacent to Penngrove Park, and now houses businesses.


  1. Argus Courier, June 22, 2005
  2. Access Genealogy
  3. DeClercq, 1977.
  4. Harris, 1980.


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