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Historic Petaluma farmhouse may get new life

By LORI A. CARTER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As one of the last farmhouses on Petaluma’s east side, the Hansen House likely will soon enjoy the respect that comes with officially

The house at 718 N. McDowell Blvd. in Petaluma on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

The house at 718 N. McDowell Blvd. in Petaluma on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

becoming a local historic landmark.

The City Council is the last stop on a fitful journey toward that designation for the 1906 house on McDowell Boulevard near Sunrise Parkway. The council is expected to vote on the item at tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting.

The house, built by Danish immigrants Hans and Anna Marie Hansen, is the planned centerpiece of a 34-residence rental-home subdivision being built by Santa Rosa developer Hugh Futrell.

Unlike other developers who have eyed the site before him, Futrell included the rehabilitation of the home in his plans. The planning commission unanimously approved his North McDowell Commons project.

The Hansens built the modest farmhouse for their family on what was then a quiet rural road on the outskirts of Petaluma. Today, it sits neglected on two acres, boarded up and enclosed behind a chain link fence, surrounded by newer houses, a mobile home park and grassy vacant land.

Since 1997, several developers have proposed projects for the site, all of which included moving or demolishing the house. Each time, preservationists worked to save the house, which has an unusual attached water tower at the rear of the house.

For nearly 30 years, the 23-acre Hansen property was a bustling chicken ranch. It was a focal point for Danish immigrants, hosting weddings, parties and meetings of the Danish Sisterhood, which Anna Hansen helped start.

Anna Hansen served as a midwife to many in the community, including Emma Sonksen, who was born in the Hansen House in 1911, according to local historian Katherine Rinehart. Until at least 1997, Sonksen lived across the street from the house in the Capri Creek Mobile Home Park.

In 2003, a study by two history consultants said the house didn’t qualify as a state historic resource because it had lost much of its integrity.

At that time, Cobblestone Homes sought to move it but was denied. Five months after a suspicious fire at the house, Cobblestone applied for a demolition permit. It was denied again. Public opposition to destroying the house stalled the proposal in 2004.

Futrell intends to refurbish or replace the home’s rustic wood siding, install new single-hung windows, install new front and rear doors, rebuild the exterior wood stairs and railings, replace the roof and stabilize the chimney.

A historically inaccurate picture window facing the front cut-out porch will be replaced with a new double-hung window.

Two large Canary palm trees at the entrance will remain and two others will be relocated to the rear.

Construction could begin this summer on eight detached single-family homes and 13 two- and three-bedroom duplexes that will surround the Hansen House.

Long-term plans call for the Hansen House to be sold to an owner-occupant who will maintain the history of the structure. The others will remain rentals.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.





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