It was a seminal moment for Santa Rosa in 1870. Colonel Peter Donahue and his Irish rail crew finished laying the tracks that connected Santa Rosa with San Francisco. Two years later a wood frame stationhouse was erected at the foot of Fourth Street, anchoring a bustling district that is now Historic Railroad Square. A third of a century later, the depot was destroyed by fire the day before Independence day, 1903. In its place was built the Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot. Still standing, the depot later was a locale for scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” and recently in “Cheaper By the Dozen.”
Located directly across the street from the depot, the Hotel La Rose was constructed by the same quarter of Italian stonemasons who built the station and whose names- Marconi, Forni, Galeazzi and Sodini- are still a part of the local roles. They were responsible for other neighboring building projects as well: St. Rose’s Catholic Church, the Andrew Carnegie library, the railway express office situated diagonally across from Hotel La Rose (and now home to A’Roma Roasters Coffee House and Ice Cream Parlor), many of the county's wineries and hop kilns, and most famously, Jack London’s Wolf House. The basalt for these buildings was quarried locally from hills to the east and hewn into blocks by Italian stonecutters.
When built in 1907, the Hotel La Rose cost $35,000, had forty rooms and a bar, and was managed by a Mr. B. Bettini. Legend has it that during Prohibition, one of Santa Rosa’s finest narrowly escaped being tarred and feathered for trying to shut down the hotel’s bar. The hotel continued to serve red wine for the duration despite this locally infamous brush with the law.
Over a century old now, the Hotel La Rose has since been renovated and expanded by the addition in 1985 of the Carriage House directly across Fifth Street. Hotel La Rose is listed with the Historic Hotels of America under the auspices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and guests will find that many of the hotel rooms are named after illustrious (and in some cases colorful) Railroad Square founders. Be sure to ask for the hotel’s hand out containing brief biographies of these Santa Rosa luminaries.
Come take a walk through time with Allen Thomas, on a Historic Walking Tour around Railroad Square! http://timetravelerstours.com/