The Community Center is housed in a beautiful 107-year old former school building. Originally constructed as the Sonoma Grammar School, it became Sonoma’s Community Center in 1952.
The Sonoma Community Center is actively exploring the history of the site on which it sits, with a particular interest in uncovering the stories and voices that were erased from mainstream historical narratives. As we learn more, this page will be continually updated. We invite you to join us on this journey!
This land has been a school site since 1869. In 1915, the current building was constructed as a new facility for the Sonoma Grammar School, which was running out of space in the smaller buildings it was operating from on this site.
All went well for a number of decades – until, in 1948, the building was found to be seismically unsound, and the school had to close. Luckily, by then, Prestwood Elementary had opened, so the school board wasn’t hard-pressed to either upgrade the building or find a new site. As such the Board tried to sell the building – but there were few takers. They ultimately accepted an offer of $28,000 from Doctor Carroll Andrews, who believed that if the site couldn’t be used as a school, it should be turned into a community center.
Dr. Andrews donated the building and site to a brand-new organization dedicated to managing the new Sonoma Community Center, which opened in 1952 with the mission to “provide a congenial and convenient meeting place where recreational, artistic, instructive, literary, and educational projects for the general welfare of the community may be furthered.”
Since then, the Community Center board has overseen not just the pursuit of this mission, but also the preservation of this building. In 1975, the seismic issues in the building were addressed through a $2 million federal housing and urban development block grant, which also installed a sprinkler system, and in 2011 another $2 million grant, this time from the State of California’s redevelopment funds, enabled additional repairs and upgrades – including the construction of our commercial kitchen, and extensive renovations to Andrews Hall. In 1981, the building was added to the registry of historic places, ensuring that the building can never be demolished, and by extension committing ourselves to its long-term preservation.
Today, our mission still rings very true to Dr. Andrews’ original vision. Our purpose, ultimately, is to be a place where our community can come together through a variety of experiences that enrich lives and promote wellbeing, both for individuals and for the community as a whole. And we do that, still, through world-class arts and culture programming, community events, by providing space for gatherings and groups with new ideas, and finally, through the stewardship of this historic building.
As the stewards of a historic building in the City of Sonoma, we recognize our responsibility to hold, honor, and tell the full story of the land on which we stand.
It’s important to acknowledge that our status as ‘stewards’ and ‘owners’ of this piece of land is the result of centuries of colonialism, oppression, and systemic racism – and the forcible occupation by white settlers of land belonging to the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo. Today, these communities are represented by the Graton Rancheria federation. We invite you to learn more about the history and vibrant present culture of these communities, and the Graton Rancheria’s website is an excellent place to start.
The Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo have been committed to the stewardship and care of these lands for centuries. We are honored and grateful to be here at this site today, offering our Center as a resource for our community at large – and we are committed to honoring the indigenous inhabitants of this land through ongoing education and action.
Our first step in this process is to uncover and explore the history of the site on which the Community Center operates, with a particular focus on uplifting the stories and voices of the indigenous people of this land. As our journey of education continues, we will periodically update this statement with new information about our learnings and actions. We hope you’ll join us in this process.