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Glen Ellen Historical Society nominates SDC campus for National Register of Historic Places

Glen Ellen Historical Society nominates SDC campus for  National Register of Historic Places
The Hill building, on the west side of the Sonoma Developmental Center campus, is among the structures covered in the Glen Ellen Historical Society’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.Photo by Paul Goguen

By Tracy Salcedo

Citing the Sonoma Developmental Center’s “unique history in caring for individuals with intellectual disabilities since its inception in 1891,” the Glen Ellen Historical Society (GEHS) has nominated the center’s campus for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The nomination of the Eldridge property is effective as of February 2022, culminating nearly a decade’s work, according to GEHS board president Angela Nardo-Morgan.

“The GEHS has been documenting and working on this project since 2012. We remember sitting around Anne Teller’s antique wooden table at Oak Hill Farm discussing and strategizing about both the importance and the need for this significant work,” Nardo-Morgan wrote in an email describing details of the nomination.

While conducting research for the historic district nomination, the GEHS identified more than “350 individual potential cultural resources, buildings, structures, objects, features, and sites” within the original 1885 boundary of the former state hospital, according to the press release announcing the nomination. Approximately 120 of these resources have been identified as contributing elements to the historic district. The iconic brick Main Building is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Sonoma House, the one-time superintendent’s residence, is designated a Sonoma County landmark.

Asked what protections the nomination confers on the property, Nardo-Morgan explained some of the “many benefits” of a nomination. For “investors, developers and lenders,” Nardo-Morgan wrote, the benefits include the ability to secure federal, state, and local preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation, federal and state tax credits for commercial properties and rehabilitation, a potential income tax reduction if preservation easements are granted to nonprofits, the ability to leverage “special exemptions or alternatives contained in local historic building codes,” and “access to technical assistance from the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office related to the rehabilitation of the historic property.”

The developmental center campus is also the subject of a specific planning process, under the auspices of Sonoma County, and a disposition process, by which the State of California will sell the site. Asked about the impact of the nomination on the specific plan, Nardo-Morgan explained that the lead agency, Permit Sonoma, “has to follow all of the laws and regulations that go along with the National Historic Preservation Act. They have to propose appropriate mitigation for any potential damages to the integrity of the district.” Mitigation measures to protect historic resources will also have to be considered in the environmental impact report.

“The GEHS, under the leadership of Charles Mikulik, is very pleased to have accomplished this complicated and arduous task,” Nardo-Morgan said. “This team worked together over several years to bring this about. We felt this was of major importance for many reasons, [including] to ensure the preservation of the history and legacy of over 130 years of a marginalized community — people with developmental disabilities — and to help ensure that the state and the county perform their due diligence when planning the outcome of this historic and significant piece of land.”

For further information about the Glen Ellen Historical Society and the National Register of Historic Places nomination, contact Teresa Murphy, the GEHS public information officer, at [email protected] or (707) 235-8130.