The Sonoma city hall was dedicated in 1908, carefully built with four identical facades so that the merchants on all sides of the square could claim that it faced toward them. Prohibition almost destroyed the economy of the valley. Many valley wineries had to close down. Some converted to canneries; only Sebastiani, which was licensed to make sacramental and medicinal wines, was able to remain a winery. The wineries reopened in 1933, with the repeal of Prohibition, but the vines had been neglected and the Depression affected markets.
The opening of the Golden Gate Bridge made the area more accessible, but there was little reason for visitors to come. But growth was managed and a proposal to put a freeway down the town center in the 1960s was abandoned. Sonoma adopted
a general plan in 1974 calling for preservation of single family dwellings and the valley’s natural treasures, and the town prevented a multiple housing unit from being built. Acting in the same spirit, citizens recently voted heavily against the construction of a large resort hotel on the town’s last open public land.
Sonoma never became the political and economic hub that General Vallejo had envisioned and worked for. In the long run that, turned out to be a blessing, since unlike many parts of California, Sonoma has managed to retain its original charm and beauty.
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The Sonoma Valley has always grown grapes. The Sonoma Mission fathers had planted vineyards at which grapes were crushed under the feet of their native religious trainees. In the late 1850’s a Hungarian immigrant, Col. Agoston Haraszthy, came to the valley and turned a scientific eye on viticulture. He convinced the state of California to send him on a trip to study the methods of European growers, whose wines were deemed the best in the world. What he saw convinced him that the Sonoma valley’s red, gravelly soil was perfect for grapes. He helped found the Buena Vista winery and by 1876 the valley was producing more than 2.3 million gallons of wine a year.