The Old Petaluma City Hall (“Reflection of the Old World Order”)


Oil  on linen  24 x 30″  1988

I stumbled upon a striking photo of this building while doing research inPetaluma’s newspaper archives.

Then I learned that the building was torn down in 1955, which led me to want to find out why, because unless there was a good reason it looked like wanton destruction. I found out that it was not in disrepair. It was sound and was hard to demolish. In city Council minutes it was evidently a foregone conclusion. The only reasons I ever heard from people were that they had built a new, single story, modern looking city hall and it would have cost the city to maintain this building, and that it was to make room for parking. This was all before “historic preservation” and the grand structure fell victim to post-WWII frenzy to do away with anything “Victorian.” The lot stood empty for decades and was only paved in the 1970s. By the late 80s the City had begun to market itself as “Historic Petaluma” and the parking lot was surrounded by a Victorian style wrought-iron fence with imitation gaslights.

Below are two of the studies for the painting.