Penngrove is situated just east of the highway corridor in central Sonoma country. Bucolic Penngrove (pop. 2,522 in 2010) boasts of a glimpse of Main Street life at the center of Sonoma Wine Country. Surprisingly, however, this rural community doesn’t feature even one wine tasting room, wine shop or winery today. But instead, Penngrove’s downtown Main Street features a range of local restaurants, bars, local shops, and coffee shops in several ancient buildings.  Penngrove is a small community in Sonoma County, California, the U.S.A. it sits between Petaluma and Cotati cities, just by the Sonoma Mountains. It’s one of the North Bay subregions of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The site of an ancient and landmark grove known as Penn’s Grove, it was once used as freight station as well as a center for egg and chicken farming.

Passing through Penngrove, you will quickly realize it’s a perfect destination for food and refreshments. A hearty burger, Pop into Mack’s Bar & Grill for a tasty drink or other coveted delicacies. This small-town joint, with its old-style vertical sign sitting above the stoop, its clapboard building, and lots more, never disappoints.

You would hate to miss Yanni’s Sausage Grill or Full Circle Baking Company’s organic artisan loaves and rolls. When John Vrattos’ Grill commenced operation in 2010, he never thought of a day when their doors would be opened to Belushi. Vrattos was coming from the back of the downsizing from about 30-year in bakery sales, and had the faith that he would be able to successfully sell sausages – something he had always made for his family.

Then in June 2012, Jim Belushi was in town. He arrived in advance of his much-publicized performance at the Sonoma County Fair. He was to perform with the Sacred Hearts Band, a group with whom he had performed for about 15 years. The Chicago-born musician/actor stumbled on Yanni’s sausage after searching the press for an outstanding roll. He then gave   Vrattos a standing ovation after dining.

The loaves of bread are displayed at leading restaurants in the Bay area; at Yanni’s, Vrattos splits, grills and nestles the sausages in a Full Circle Baking Co. roll, after which they are garnished with chili, sweet peppers, pepperocinis or grilled onions.

Suddenly, tiny Penngrove becomes a thriving and flourishing business.

Geography

At Penngrove’s downtown, you will find Main Street, a 0.48 km street which is a link between Old Redwood Highway and Adobe Road. The location of Penngrove School is just at the corner of Adobe Road, where Main Street becomes Petaluma Hill Road.

Lichau Creek extends southward through the town, and parallels the railway. The creek extends into the Petaluma River, which flows to San Pablo Bay.

Penngrove is blessed with lots of obsidian and petrified wood because of the ancient volcanism associated with Sonoma Mountain. It has a unique soil, with clay-like adobe as its major constituent, which has been deployed as a building material for many centuries. Rancho Petaluma Adobe (a State Historic Park in nearby Petaluma) is a perfect example of adobe architecture.

Penngrove occupies an area of around 4 square miles, and experiences a mild Mediterranean climate.

Community development

Aside from the production of egg and chicken, basalt paving stones were abundant in Penngrove. They were used to pave the streets of many cities in the Bay Area (an example is San Francisco).  According to Harris, the three major cobblestone quarries had 200 employees at the end of the 19th century, and that you can still see quarry scars dotting the hills between Roberts Road and East Railroad Avenue.

At the completion of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1870, Penngrove stations were kept busy by the paving industry. After the turn of the century, Penngrove had grown into the “second largest producer of eggs and poultry area in the entire country. Penngrove was only surpassed by Petaluma” (Harris 1980). Chickens, apparently, were more profitable than gold mines, according to The San Francisco Examiner. To this day, there are lots of dilapidated structures and chicken houses on country roads and old farms in the area.

Twin Oaks Roadhouse

There has been a gradual build-up of character and charm at this particular place since 1924, which makes the Twin Oaks the home of stories of all kind. Whether what you seek is a roadhouse, honky tonk or tavern, this place offers a bit of each. Also, you’ll find a backyard, a bar, a dance floor, a kitchen and a fireplace. This place has had a huge influence on my life, and I hope things continue that way.

If you are not far from Penngrove and you desire to get a drink and be entertained at the same time, this is the perfect place for you. The level of organization they had almost got me confused at first. It’s clearly visible from the moment you step in that they cherish their customers and take their business serious.

Haven noticed the HopMunk draft selection; I then took a moment to find if this location is theirs as well. I was told by the bartender that they had for two years now.  Each day you can enjoy a brew in the company of locals while drinking and enjoying the open mic, line dancing or karaoke. You can then enjoy a show on weekends.

I enjoyed the best buffalo chicken sandwich ever at the Twin Oaks.  The bbq sauce on the bbq cheddar burger was particularly impressive. The beer garden in the backyard is a beauty to behold, and the music venue was simply a wonder. The pricing of the beer is also moderate (you don’t get this easily around Sonoma County!). Feel free to drop in; I promise you won’t feel bored, even if you are alone.

Penngrove Community Church

The ancient Methodist Episcopal Church remains one of the oldest structures in Penngrove. It was constructed in 1898 at the corner of Formschlag Lane at the corner of Petaluma Hill Road and Formschlag Lane. In 1910, the location of the church was moved to 9970 Oak Street (its present location) using wooden rollers. The original structure is used as a fellowship hall now, and the newer building – built in 1955-7 – is now the main sanctuary. The original structure is still being used by the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, 4-H, and other community groups.

Penngrove School

The first classes took place on Peters’ Ranch in a small building. The first school was built in 1876 at the southwest corner of Main Street and Adobe Road. Its name Eagle School was inspired by the Eagle School after the Eagle Hotel situated across Main Street and can be seen on Thompson’s map of Sonoma County (1877).

After the second eagle school was constructed in 1906, the old school was converted into residential property for teachers. Later it was moved 15m south to where it is now and also reconfigured into an ell. The second Eagle School was built between Oak and main streets.  The original building is no longer in existence, and the property is now occupied by a private home. The steps that lead to “Eagle School” from Main Street can still be seen. Some of the building material had to be recycled and used to construct the Community Center as well as a small building in Penngrove Park.

A beautiful mission-style schoolhouse, named Penngrove, Eagle District, was constructed in 1926. In 1962, Penngrove School became part of the Petaluma City School District. And in 1963, the current Multi-purpose room was built, and newer wings were formed between it and the older part of the school. In 2006, there was an expansion of the Multi-purpose room.  The 1926 school is being converted to offices and the school library.

Post Office

The Penn’s Grove’s post office was started on October 30, 1882. It went through lots of name changes as a result of several mail mix-ups with New Jersey, Penn’s Grove, Pine Grove (which later became Sebastopol).  In May 1985 there was this report by the Petaluma paper: “‘The Penngrove Post has again undergone a name change and will now be called by its former most popular title, Penn’s Grove.” The name was changed back to Penngrove and has been that way since then” (Harris 1980). The location of the first post office was in the Edwards Building, but it was later moved into the Terribilini Building on the East side of Main Street. Later, it was moved close to Penngrove Market; a new building was then constructed for the Post Office in the 1980s on Main Street and close to Penngrove Market.

Fire Department

At the early part of the century, there were three chemical carts acting as fire protection for Penngrove. One can find the foundation of Firehouse#1 between the Old Eagle School lot on Oak Street and Penngrove. “The fire department was started in 1928. The first fire engine was put to work in 1929” (Harris 1980). The art deco firehouse was constructed in 1938 on     Woodward Avenue, a little above Main Street. Even though this structure is now a private residence, it still carries the title “Penngrove Firehouse.”  In 1975, the present firehouse was erected at the corner of Main Street and Old Redwood Highway which was regarded as Penngrove’s unofficial entrance. Until the 1990s, there was a siren placed at the apex of the building which sounded and alerted volunteer firefighters. The siren had a radius of more than 2.4 km and often frequently heard. In the 1990s, pagers replaced this system, but the siren remains on the top of the firehouse. The Penngrove Firehouse is connected with the Fire District in Rancho-Adobe, as well as Cotati and other nearby communities.

Penngrove Community Club House

A group of ladies in Penngrove met during World War I to carry out some Red Cross duties. After the war, they decided to stick together and have their own clubhouse” (Harris 1980: 33). In 1922, funds were available, and Penngrove joined hands and built the Community Club House. It cost a total f $9000. The building was initially called “Penngrove Social Welfare Club House,” but later it was changed to Penngrove Women’s Club House.  After parts of the structure were destroyed by fire in the late 1970s and the Women’s Club became unsustainable, the building was then purchased by the Penngrove Social Firemen. It is now a venue where various events such as fundraisers, voting, and community events are held.

Bank Building

The bank building was constructed in 1922 to be used by the Central Commercial and Savings Bank. The bank was in existence for just 2 or 3 years. The bank manager lived upstairs with his family.

Penngrove Rail Station

The Rail Station in Penngrove was completely raised by fire in 1980, and nothing was spared. The poultry loading docks are still standing behind Penngrove Market, and now host businesses.