The largest city in Sonoma County, as well as the county seat...
The city of Santa Rosa is, by far, the largest town the Napa/Sonoma Wine Country with a population of 177,000. However, it is often overshadowed by its smaller neighbors, most notably Healdsburg, St. Helena and Yountville who reap the glory of this famous region.
That’s a shame because Santa Rosa has a charm all its own and the lucky people who live there know it well.
A vibrant and diverse community, Santa Rosa offers all the amenities of urban life but is not far removed from the spectacular natural scenery that the Wine Country is famous for.
Old Courthouse Square is the center of downtown Santa Rosa and is surrounded by numerous shops and restaurants, including the internationally known Russian River Brewery. Santa Rosa real estate is highly desirable and boasts numerous historic neighborhoods, including the prestigious McDonald Area which blends with a collage of other historic locales like the Junior College, Montgomery Village, Railroad Square, West End, and Cherry Street Districts. These help to give Santa Rosa its quintessential small-town feel.
Old mansions and Victorians can still be found near downtown on tree lined McDonald Avenue - arguably the most beautiful street in Santa Rosa. Outside the downtown core you will find exceptional neighborhoods like Fountaingrove (on the rise with its newly designed country club), Montecito Heights, Rincon Valley, Annadel Heights, Bennett Valley and so much more. These are very popular neighborhoods for those wishing to buy a home in Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Wine Country.
Like many regions of early California, Santa Rosa was part of a large land grant given by the Mexican government with the hope of populating their colonial lands with Vaqueros – Hispanic cowboys - and hardy ranchers. These early settlers practically lived on their horses and took advantage of the area’s temperate climate and indulged in never ending fiestas, fandangos and rodeos, all in the tradition of wealthy landowners in Spain.
Of course, they expected the local native Americans to support this lifestyle.
When America took over California, many of these large ranches disappeared and became small holdings and new towns.
All cities have their legends, wives tails and myths. Santa Rosa has one of the stranger ones that harkens back to its rough and unruly beginnings in California’s gold rush.
In the early 1850’s thousands of Americans poured into Northern California looking for gold. A Mexican named “Joaquin” Murieta came there too seeking his fortune. As rumor has it – legend and fact get mixed up at this point – Joaquin was attacked by a group of Anglos who tried to steal his claim. These claim jumpers raped his wife, hung his brother from a nearby tree and left Joaquin for dead.
Seeking revenge, Joaquin went on a robbery and mass murder rampage throughout California mostly targeting Americans, although he and his band would whack Chinese miners when the opportunity presented itself.
Joaquin and his group of banditos, including the noted outlaw Three Finger Jack, went up and down the coast murdering and terrorizing those unfortunate enough to cross their path.
Finally, in 1853, the Government offered a $6,000 reward to bring Joaquin dead or alive (preferably dead). California Ranger Harry Love took the challenge and his posse set out to track down the marauding banditos. Months later Love and his posse attacked Joaquin’s hideout and when the wild shootout was over, eight bandits lay dead, including Joaquin.
As proof of his demise, Ranger Love cut off Joaquin’s head and put it in a jar of alcohol along with Three Finger Jack’s severed hand. Love collected his reward, and the head made its way to San Francisco where it was displayed at a saloon which charged $1 to view Joaquin’s pickled remains.
Apparently, during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Joaquin’s head went missing, at least that’s one of the many stories of its disappearance. However, decades later the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Walter Johnson of Santa Rosa had the head which he had kept in a vault. In the 1970’s, Johnson got tired of being bothered by the Sonoma County Health Department who frowned on people body parts in their homes. Johnson buried the head in Santa Rosa but wouldn’t tell anyone where he put it.
While Joaquin didn’t literally lose his head in Santa Rosa – Walter Johnson lost it – his head is, to this day, somewhere in Santa Rosa.
On a lighter note, activities in Santa Rosa include the Charles M. Schulz Museum, dedicated to one of the city’s most famous residents who created the famous cartoon Peanuts. There’s also the Snoopy Ice Arena, along with Safari West - a private African wildlife preserve just outside the city boasting great scenery and overnight stays.
People who buy homes in Santa Rosa benefit from an elaborate network of parks - including the 5,000-acre Annadel State Park among numerous other regional and city parks that provide the true outdoor lifestyle that many seek when considering a move to Wine Country.
Santa Rosa has a large medical services community boasting two Kaiser Permanente campus’, a new Sutter Medical center and newly renovated – billion dollar - Memorial Hospital campus in downtown.
Aside from the wine industry and tourism, there is a growing technological footprint in Santa Rosa in medical tech, especially as Medtronic calls it home and many start-ups have blossomed from there. In addition, Keysight Technologies (the former test and measurements unit of Hewlett Packard) has its headquarters here as well.
New to the community is the SMART Train which now serves from the Larkspur Ferry terminal in Marin County where you can hop on a ferry and cross the bay to San Francisco. The train has an abundance of stopping off points as it arrives at the expanded Sonoma County Airport. You can catch flights from major carriers like United, American and Alaska Airlines. These fly to LAX, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas & Phoenix – from there the world is yours!
There are a lot of homes for sale in this Wine Country city. Currently, 171 are up for sale (3/23*) and they range in price from $350,000 for a small two bedroom condo with 968 sq ft. The highest price home for sale in Santa Rosa is $9.9 million for a brand new ultra-modern home with four bedrooms and six bathrooms on over ten acres. This home abuts a vineyard, has an infinity pool, four garages and its almost 9,000 sq ft.
The median price of a home in Santa Rosa is $720,000 and it takes almost two months, on average, to sell one. Homes for sale in this Sonoma Wine Country are popular because Santa Rosa is only about 40-minutes from San Francisco. Moreover, it’s not too far from the often fog-bound scenic Pacific coast. Whether you are selling a home in Santa Rosa or buying a home in this Sonoma County city, you’re sure to find something that will please you.
Santa Rosa has just about everything you’d expect a large suburban city to offer with lots of retail stores, services and an abundance of outdoor venues. That’s why homes for sale in Sonoma County’s most populist city sell so quickly.
However, if you buy a home in Santa Rosa, be careful tending your garden. If your shovel hits something hard, you just might have stumbled upon old bandito “Joaquin” missing head.
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