Mystery Photo No. 13: "Rural residence, Sonoma County"

Phone calls and emails about our “Mystery Photo” series have increased since The Press Democrat ran a story on the project on the cover its Sonoma Living section last Sunday (Nov. 14).

One the callers was David Collins, 72, of rural Petaluma, who grew up near the old Victiorian home show in this photo, and still lives nearby.

The digital archives at Sonoma State University identify it simply as “Rural residence, Sonoma County” (ID# carpssu_557), and we’re calling it Mystery Photo No. 13.

But Collins identifies it as a house on Pepper Road near Liberty Road, about fives north of downtown Petaluma.

“Gen. Vallejo gave the land as a grant to the Watson family in the middle 1800s,” Collins said. “Francis Watson was the last to live there. It was a spook house to us kids at Liberty School in the ’40s. He was a little scary to us, with his old open Model T sedans. But I spent time running around that house. He had a big model train set.”

The house burned down in the 198os, but a carriage house remains on the property, and there a rose garden there now, Collins said.

The photo is one of some 850 black and white images shot by students as part of historical preservation course during the ’70s. Lynn Prime, Digital Projects Librarian at Sonoma State University, is in the process of transferring them to the college’s digital archives. She has logged about 300 of them so far, but still needs identifications and background details for many of them.

More information about the North Bay Historic Preservation Digital Collection is available at or from Lynn Prime, or (707) 664-4025.