About the Museum
The Petaluma Museum Building and Exhibits
The former library now houses Petaluma poultry, dairy, and Miwok Indian history exhibits from the 1850s. The cornerstone for this stately Carnegie Library was laid in 1904. The building, designed by local architect Brainerd Jones and built from locally quarried stone, features the largest free-standing leaded glass dome in Northern California. The building is in the neo-classical style, featuring original fan-glass windows, round leaded-glass windows, also original interior wood paneling and columns. It also houses a fine research library.
The Museum’s History as Petaluma’s Carnegie Library
Petaluma’s was one of 2,509 library buildings constructed in towns and neighborhoods throughout the English-speaking world between 1886 and 1919 with the aid of Carnegie funds. Prior to that, most libraries were either small and always on the move in search of a site, or were individual large libraries built by major donors. Carnegie’s philanthropy addressed the need of municipal libraries for buildings of their own. He did not dictate the architectural style. Petaluma’s like many, reflected the expression of community pride in public buildings stimulated by Chicago’s 1894 Columbian Exposition. More importantly, Carnegie required that the cities contribute the land for the building and pass a tax equal annually to 10% of his gift to furnish and support the library. The result was the institutionalization of community commitment to maintenance of their library and its collection.
Architect Brainerd Jones
Six Carnegie Libraries were built in Sonoma County and three remain. In addition to Petaluma’s, Healdsburg’s is also a museum and Sonoma’s houses the Visitors Bureau. Of the 144 Carnegie libraries in California, 87 are still standing and a majority is still used for libraries. Others serve as museums, art and community centers and other municipal functions; a few are in private ownership.
Narrative written by Lucy Kortum, Historian
What We Offer
Weekend tours of historic Petaluma led by costumed docents.
Public lecture series, guided museum tours, Outreach Program to schools, Annual Tea, Assisted research, Museum Association Membership, Internships, and Special events through the year.