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Friday Slide Show: General Vallejo's Home Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

23 October 2015

There is something about General Mariano Vallejo's Home just down the street from the main square in Sonoma, Calif. that sticks with you. We've been going there for years. And not just to tour the estate. Sometimes we just bring a picnic lunch and pretend we own the place.

You can't really miss it. The quarter-mile long driveway lined with cottonwoods and roses is hard to resist.

It was the middle of the afternoon in the summer of 2005 when we took these photos with a Nikon Coolpix 990. This morning we ran them through Lightroom, applying a black-and-white treatment to them (darkening the exterior greens and lightening the interior reds) before applying a post-crop vignette.

That sets them back more than 10 years, almost to Vallejo's time. Which would have been the 1850s.

The Victorian house was finished in 1852 beside a spring the Indians called Chiucuyem or crying mountain. Vallejo translated the name into Latin as Lachryma Montis.

It looks as if the General and his wife are in another room at the moment. Even the table is set.

He put those tears to good use as an early California horticulturalist.

He transplanted grapevines and fruit trees (growing olives, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, figs, lemons and oranges). And he trained a pergola to grow alongside the pool he built to capture the spring's water.

The big brick barn, known as the Swiss Chalet, is now a museum with small exhibits and, its greatest virtue in the heat of the Sonoma Valley, cool air.

You can wander inside the house to view the roped off rooms that remain fully furnished with marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, lace curtains and period furniture including a concert-grand piano imported from Europe.

It looks as if the General and his wife are in another room at the moment. Even the table is set.

There are two other buildings worth a peek (and a peek is all you get of them). One is Vallejo's son's cabin above the pool. The other is his wife's refuge El Delirio now set alongside the main house.

Vallejo and his wife Francisca lived at Lachryma Montis for 35 years as he lost most of the fortune (including almost all the land) he had acquired. But he remained a generous man, spending time in his library of 12,000 books and writing to his family and friends.

He wrote a five-volume history of California and was an active member of the California Horticultural Society, living to the age of 82 before passing away in 1890. His wife died just a few days after the first anniversary of his death.

In 1933, the Vallejo home and 20 acres of the original holdings were acquired by the state of California.

So, in a sense, we do indeed own the place.

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