The first structures built in the area were log cabins, none of which are extant. A few more permanent adobe structures were constructed with Indian labor in the period between 1840 and 1848, one of which, much altered, is located in Dry Creek Valley at 6630 Dry Creek Road. After the first sawmill was erected, builders began to utilize the local redwood for simple frame one- story gabled “homestead” residences. As sawn lumber and nails became more readily available in the late 1850s and 1860s, houses became larger to accommodate families and were built in the National Folk or Vernacular Greek Revival styles (HCRI 1983:16, McAlester & McAlester 1984:88-101, 178-195).
At first homes were built by their owners, but professional carpenters soon arrived in the area, becoming the second most noted occupation after “farmer” in the 1860 census of Healdsburg. By the 1870s the prosperity of businesses and farms began to be reflected in more elaborate local architectural styles. During this period several Italianate mansions and larger homes were constructed, incorporating more ornate features such as balconies, brackets, and grillwork. Most of the Italianate homes, however, were of more modest construction for middle-class owners, many of which are essentially identical and constitute the earliest row or tract housing in the area.
Undoubtedly the most important and elegant extant architectural resource in Dry Creek Valley is the Madrona Knoll Rancho (present Madrona Manor), 1001 Westside Road, built in 1880 by John Alexander Paxton as a summer home. Paxton, a wealthy mining engineer, banker, and lumberman from San Francisco, helped promote the fledgling wine industry in Sonoma County. In 1879 he purchased 240 acres for $10,500 as a site for his new home on land across the Dry Creek bridge west of Healdsburg. In March of the following year he contracted with Ludwig and
Greene to erect the residence, a three story frame building with a Mansard roof, bay windows, full-width front porch, and elaborate spindle work and brackets, at a cost of $12,000 (Figure 5). Residing in the home were John and his wife Hannah (their two sons, Blitz and Charles, were already grown), Hannah’s sister Ruth McClelland, a coachman, footman, groom, several maids and at least one indentured servant. Paxton died on his way to Europe in 1888, Hannah in 1902, and Blitz took over the family home, as well as the presidency of the Bank of Santa Rosa. The home was sold by Blitz in 1913, but remained a private residence until 1981 when it was reincarnated as a country inn and restaurant. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 (Madrona Manor 2007).
By the end of the 1890s and into the early 1900s, a substantial middle class developed locally and many moderately sized Queen Anne homes were built. Most of these cottages were copies of Eastern architectural styles, with many built from pattern books or kits. Though relatively small, the homes were embellished with verandas, circular bays, multi-gabled roofs, decorative shingles and millwork, and other characteristic features (HCRI 1983:17).
By the turn of the 19th century, the population had stabilized and many new Transitional style homes, following the influences of both Queen Anne and the Bungalow style to follow, were erected. This style, while involving less ornamentation, still utilized such features as oversized gables and decorative shingles. This style indicated a movement toward a more subdued approach, and between 1900 and 1925, the California Bungalow and Craftsman Bungalow styles became the characteristic styles of the region. Both provided housing for the middle class, and involved an effort to integrate indoor and outdoor living spaces with the use of sleeping porches, natural wood, and less formal gardens. The more prevalent Craftsman homes, with their broad-based pillars, overhanging eaves, exposed purlins, and knee braces, had more prominent design features than the simpler bungalow (HCRI 1983:17).
A few Mediterranean and Spanish or Mission-style homes were constructed in the period between 1930 and 1945, and exhibit characteristic arches, red tile roofs, and stucco wall cladding. Most of these homes were modest, as were the Tudor Revival homes built in the same era (HCRI 1983:17).
Industrial architecture, represented almost exclusively by agriculturally related activities, survives in barns, packing sheds, outbuildings, and wineries.