The Early Development and People of Forestville
by Dave Henry
John BR Cooper constructructed California’s first known power operated commercial saw mill adjacent to Mirabel Park in 1834 on part of the 17,892.42 acre grant obtained in 1833 from Mexico. Capt. Cooper’s brother-in-law was Marians Vallejo.
Later, people from the Midwest (particularly Missouri) came and settled in this rural timbered area to farm. The popular crops were apples, grapes, prunes and hops for beer.
The town was first surveyed on June 10, 1869 and recorded on Dec. 30, 1878 on behalf of Andrew Jackson Forrister. The original spelling was Forestville and comprised 6 blocks bounded on the south by Front Street and on the east by what is now Covery Road. Mr. Forrister was listed as a saloon keeper and entrepreneur.
Petaluma-Santa Rosa Railway, Forestville Station, circa 1915, connecting Forestville, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Petaluma. Service started 1905 and abandoned 1951. (Passenger service discontinued in 1932.) Residents of Forestville used this service to go to high school in Sebastopol, the Junior College in Santa Rosa and do shopping in the surrounding area.
The Electric Hotel, circa 1913, was located across Railroad Avenue from the railway station at corner of First Street. It was moved intact from its original site where Carr’s Drive-In is now. Russel’s Stage, which transported passengers as far as Guerneville, is parked in front.
After the turn of the century vacationers from San Francisco were able to come by train to Forestville and Guerneville. Gradually more stores developed to meet the needs of this new community.
Forestville looking east from Hidden Lake Road, circa 1950.
Today Forestville is a wooded rural area with high-achieving schools and a superior fire department that provides fire control and medical response. In 1960 the townspeople headed by Andy Anderson and Bob Aldridge with 15 other citizens bought a piece of land and formed the Forestville Youth Park which is still opertating today, the only park in California of this type with entirely volunteer money and labor (not from taxes).
The motto for the town is Forestville — The Good Life. Forestville citizens love their town!
Forestville School, built in 1899 and burned to the ground in 1934. It was rebuilt by residents of the town within one year by the newly formed Forestville Contractors Association, based on the ideals of Roosevelt’s New Deal, circa 1911.
Forestville is an unincorported area of Sonoma County run by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Since the Forestville Planning Association (FPA) was formed in 2002 the Board of Supervisors has listened to and worked with the FPA to let the voices of Forestville citizens be heard on issues that affect the area. That cooperation has led to many important decisions by the Board of Supervisors that have benefited Forestville.
Front Street corner of First Street looking east, circa 1916. On both sides of the street are seen two identical Cadillacs owned by the Ross brothers given to them by their father.
Horstmann’s Electric Supply Shop, circa 1950. This building has been a series of great restaurants, most recently Canneti Roadhouse Italiana.
Clark’s Forestville Meat Delivery Wagon, circa 1915. William Clark is on the right. The market was located underneath their house on north side of Front Street between First Street and Covey Road.
Hick’s Gas Station, looking west, circa 1935. The site and building is now the Forestville Club.
Front Street, circa 1950, looking west.
Forestville covers 23 square miles and as of 2010, about 5,500 folks were living here.