Petaluma’s Downtown evolved on the southwest bank of the Petaluma River from its relationship with riverfront trading, commercial and industrial uses on the northeast riverbank, and agricultural commerce. Suburbanization and auto-centric industrialization diverted development outside of the downtown area to its adjacent neighborhoods, with residential neighborhoods, commercial buildings, and business parks. The City has continued to grow steadily with growth spurts from the 1950s to 1970s, and in 1980s and the 1990s. As the available land decreased, infill projects occurred in the City. During this time the Downtown was responding to an influx of population and uses and evolved to its present-day setting with mixed-uses and a rich character with a variety of architectural styles.
In the efforts of recognition and historic preservation, the Historic Commercial District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NR# 95000354) on March 31, 1995, and adopted as a City Landmark with a Historic Overlay Zoning on September 7, 1999. The district identifies and preserves a period of significance spanning from 1854 to 1945 featuring prominent architecture styles such as Late Victorian, Italianate, and Streamline Moderne. As noted within the National Register form, the buildings within the district demonstrate district unity by their built lot lines composition, storefronts with recessed entrances and flanking display windows, flat roofs with parapets, and elaborate ornamentation.
Integrity is the ability of a historic resource to convey its significance and can be defined with seven aspects, which include location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Discretionary reviews, guidelines, and technical standards have provided a level of review to evaluate the preservation of a historic resources’ integrity. It does not discourage further development of the Downtown area, however, provides the additional framework for new development that complements its surrounding historic fabric. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards includes Rehabilitation as a treatment for historic properties and is defined as the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values. A standard for Rehabilitation includes,
“New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.”
The former Carithers Department Store, located at the intersection of Western Avenue and Kentucky Street, is a contributing structure of the Historic Commercial District and is one of the most recent Rehabilitation projects in Petaluma’s Downtown area. The building is currently undergoing exterior and interior alterations for an adaptive reuse of its interiors to facilitate Amy’s Kitchen’s Downtown Corporate Office. The creativity in this adaptive reuse project of a historic resource supported its continued use in the Downtown while preserving its integrity as a contributing historic resource to the Historic Commercial District.