Downtown Sonoma is designed in the style of a Mexican Pueblo by Captain Salvador Vallejo, who in the 19th century was assigned the Mexican Government to establish a mission and garrison. At the center of the pueblo stood what is now known as Sonoma Plaza. Initially used as a military marching ground and later as the site of the Bear Flag revolt, the plaza is now a communal green space used by Sonoma residents for relaxation and gathering.
The plaza's current appearance is the fruit of the Sonoma Valley Women's Club—which in the early 20th century led a successful campaign to add trees to the plaza, providing a sanctuary to the community in what was then a frontier town with dirt roads. The center then became the place to hold community events, conduct civic businesses, bring children to play, and take time for reflection.
The plaza is truly public and has adapted over time to the identity of Sonoma and the needs of its residents and businesses. Today it is the anchor of a thriving downtown business district that draws tourists from throughout the Bay Area and world. Residents continue to use the Plaza as the primary civic and community space in the city. Visitors can enjoy an open bottle of wine from one of the world famous wineries with tasting rooms around the plaza. Ample seating is provided for visitors to the Garrison and Mission historic park and shoppers at its artisanal craft stores. And the city has recently adding bicycle parking to accommodate the community's growing use of alternative transportation.
To Sonoma residents, the plaza is a constant that persists through new development, business cycles, city governments, and world events. It is a shared memory successfully preserved and enhanced by community leadership.
Interview with George Mc Kale, City Historian,
City of Sonoma