June 05, 2009

Ghirardelli sign in Petaluma

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Now, this would make a good treasure hunt, but I'll give you directions -- not that I think you'll ever go there, but just to give you a flavor of what it takes to get there.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

First, you've got to get to Petaluma, which used to proudly call itself The Egg-Basket of America.   In the '50's and you lived near Petaluma, you weren't anybody unless you had a few chicken coops in your back forty...

Petaluma is located about 40 miles north of San Francisco, about 20 miles inland from the coast, and about 20 miles west of The Wine Country.   Location, location, location...

Starting in the late 1800's, commerce arrived and left Petaluma via a 13 mile stretch of the Petaluma River, which technically is more of a long slough than a river.   Regardless, shallow-bottomed vessels could navigate the Petaluma River to San Francisco Bay if they planned their trips to coincide with high-tide.

The barn the Ghirardelli sign is painted on is located at the very end of Steamer Turning Basin.   Petaluma was a much different place when that sign was visible to passing traffic -- it is now curiously hidden by progress.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Nice of the sign-painters to leave a little space for the window -- and phonetically it worked out just right...

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Domingo Ghirardelli:

In 1849 Ghirardelli moved to California, upon the recommendation of his former neighbor, James Lick, who had brought 600 pounds of chocolate with him to San Francisco in 1848.   Caught up in the California Gold Rush, Ghirardelli spent a few months in the gold fields near Sonora and Jamestown, before deciding to become a merchant in Hornitos,** California.   In 1852, he moved to San Francisco and established the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company at Ghirardelli Square.

Around the year 1865, a worker at the Ghirardelli factory discovered that by hanging a bag of ground cacao beans in a warm room, the cocoa butter would drip off, leaving behind a residue that can then be converted into ground chocolate.   This technique, known as the Broma process is now the most common method for the production of chocolate.

Domingo Ghirardelli died in 1894 while on a trip to his birthplace in Italy.

** Hornitos is a great little ghost-town on your way to Yosemite.   Ansel Adams has a famous photograph of a long winding road leading to the church, and many others.   Edward Weston also photographed at Hornitos.   I was only sixteen or seventeen at the time, but so did the not so famous Donald Kinney.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

A few businesses still depend on the Petaluma River to ship and receive materials.   While I was there this one was busily processing something, but I haven't a clue what.

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Plug1 said...

great find, great pics, great story.

Tomate Farcie said...

Great find! I lived in Sonoma County for a while some years back and never noticed the sign. Petaluma is a great little town, completely underrated. It was yuppified in the late 80's but there are still some gems if you know how to look.

If you have a chance, go back and visit the "historical" side of Petaluma. They make parking a little harder these days, but it's still worth the stop, I think.

Mindy | f-stopMarin said...

What's not to love? Old signage with handpainted lettering, textured layering due to time, and wonderful blue. Love the vertical lines and contrasting typefaces of "Ghiradelli" and "COCOA." Wish I knew what typefaces they were.

Si's blog said...

More great pictures. Need to try to find time to come by your blog every day. Alas, where?

And how did you develop the eye to see these picture opportumnities? I look and look and come up with zip.

photowannabe said...

Ah great memories. I haven't been back to Petaluma since I sold my parents home after Mom's passing 12 years ago. I loved the old country feel of it. Wasn't really into photography then so I have no pictures of this fascinating area.

AphotoAday said...

THANKS PLUG1 -- Always fun to have you stop by.

AND YEAH, TOMATE FARCIE -- I need to explore the old historical section of Petaluma more -- I think they've made a lot of improvements over the years... I used to live farther north, near Sebastopol in the tiny burg of Hessel -- oh so many years ago... Very rural...

AND YEP, MINDY PINES -- Great color of blue, isn't it? I think it must be cobalt-blue -- it's very lightfast... And it would be fun to research the Ghirardelli typefaces on their packaging and see how it coincides with the sign. ((( another great sign is the Alber's sign in the Mission )))

AND THANKS SI -- I'll take a bow... --Actually, Si, you had better visit the blog each day or I'm going to be mad at you... Might even have to punch you in the stomach if I ever run into you, so you had better watch it... ((( just kidding ))) Anyway, to answer your question about how I developed my eye -- well, I worked on it in the years that I wasn't taking photos -- roughly from age 25 to 55... I would always go around framing things up with my fingers and plan little photographs, although I seldom took them... But the process goes on -- I am still learning -- I always have the feeling that I am only beginning... So much fun stuff out there waiting to be framed-up and snapped...

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