The History of Forestville
Visitors to Forestville are taken aback by its picturesque valleys laden with roaming vineyards. However, Forestville is more than a gateway to the Russian River; it is a diverse array of businesses, wineries, farming, and recreation.
Forestville grew from the Spanish land grant traded by Capt. Juan Bautista Rogers Cooper from his brother-in-law Gen. Mariano Vallejo in 1834 into the town known by passing travelers as Swindle Rig.
In 1867, the town was named Forestville after Andrew Jackson Forrester, a saloon owner. It was set apart from other settlements by having the first powered sawmill in California and the Faudré Chair factory, the largest manufacturing plant in Sonoma County of that era. Collectors still seek out the factory’s rawhide-bottom chairs.
As a popular stop on the railway line, many vacationers from San Francisco passed through on their journeys to the Russian River. In 1963, the town continued to be different, setting aside land for a community youth park, so it is no wonder the town’s slogan is Forestville — The Good Life.
Forestville is an unincorporated area which means the governmental body controlling what can be developed in Forestville is the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
Forestville has had the same downtown streets since the 1800s, albeit much improved over the early dirt roads. Some of the buildings still exist or at least the exact placement of them.
Over the years, two groups have acted on behalf of the residents to keep the character of the town rural. The first is called Forestville Citizens for Sensible Growth. Many of the people from this group are still active in the community.
In 2002, a new group formed named Forestville Planning Association (FPA), now a non-profit 501(c)(3). Although the original goal was to acquire 8 acres for a downtown open space park, in the end the FPA was successful in getting four protected acres which will preserve the oak grove and lower wetlands, allow for the completion of the West County trail and trailhead, and establish a Town Square — a comfortable outdoor place for Forestvillians to gather, to hold the Town’s traditional Holiday Tree lighting celebration, and to continue to provide overflow parking for downtown businesses.
You can read more about this land here: Downtown Park.
For many years, the Forestville Historical Society was the keeper of Forestville’s History – it’s stories, photos and videos.
It was founded by Penny Hutten in 1999. The first meeting consisted of Jeff Tobes, Dave Henry, Darleen Speer and Penny Hutten. That same year Jeff Tobes, a 4th/5th grade teacher, was Chairman of the Celebration for the Centennial of the Forestville School.
Dave Henry and Bob Aldridge had been collecting pictures and the history of Forestville for many years. Henry, the local pharmacist put on regular “Dog and Pony” slide show presentations about the history of Forestville.
Subsequent meetings included the following: Lavon Speer Covington, Ross Yeager, Berniece Yeager, Lynn Botkin, Sandy Carver, Julie Carver, Warren Templeman, Florence Templeman, Verna Blanc, Hal Wood, Ron Davis and Brad Davall.
For several years the Society was engaged in the production of a calendar, composed of pictures from the past.
The Society, due to lack of participation, decided to disband in 2019 but has allowed the Forestville Planning Association to take ownership of its online presence, as you can see here in this section. The FPA wishes to thank and acknowledge the tremendous work the Society accomplished in its 20 years. We should all be grateful for that effort.