Healdsburg Plaza named one of 'most beautiful town squares' in U.S.

When Harmon Heald laid out the map for Healdsburg more than 150 years ago, he never could have known that one day the plaza he created would be designated one of the country's best.

In yet another accolade bestowed on Healdsburg by a magazine and website, Travel and Leisure last week named the town's plaza as one of "America's Most Beautiful Town Squares."

The list of 13 squares around the country singles out the Healdsburg Plaza for its trees, fountains and copper-roofed gazebo, which "add to the stately charm."

The publication said the picturesque squares they identified occupy a special place in the hearts of their communities and often have surrounding colorful shops and cafes.

Unlike some cities, Healdsburg doesn't have a landmark courthouse or city hall in its plaza, but it is considered about as perfect as they come in the eyes of urban designers.

It isn't sliced in half by a busy street, like Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square.

Even the historic 8-acre Sonoma Plaza, a throwback to the Mexican era and an even older Spanish-style layout, is considered to be much larger than the ideal size of the 1-acre Healdsburg square.

"Healdsburg is a little more intimate," said Lois Fisher, an urban designer and Windsor planning commission chairwoman, who added "It is very poetically sized."

Fisher, who specializes in creating walkable communities, said the nearby buildings with varying heights of one to three stories provide a sort of encircling wall, "a sense of outdoor room" that lends a feeling of safety and protection to people who congregate there.

The sidewalks are wide, and the shops and restaurants that ring the square have enticing doors every 30 feet or so.

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