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Famous historic mansions in Sonoma County now and then

Fountaingrove's Commandery, built for the men in the Brotherhood of the New Life Community, burnt to the ground in the 1880's (Press Democrat archives)

JANET BALICKI WEBER ,

Sonoma County was bustling with development at the turn the 19th century with luxury mansions springing up here and there to accommodate established residents and wealthy San Francisco elite.

Colonel Mark McDonald, who made his money in road construction, became one of Santa Rosa’s most famous early citizens. In the 1860s he purchased and subdivided the 160 acres of land in what became McDonald Avenue. The beautiful Victorian homes, many of which are still standing today, are some of the county’s best reminders of an opulent bygone era.

The landmarks on this famous street are not alone in our county, there are many marvelous mansions sprinkled throughout the Redwood Empire, each linked to an interesting story of the wealthy homeowner who commissioned the estate.

Click through our gallery above to see more of the opulent homes built in Sonoma County at the turn of the 19th century.