Sonoma State Home

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Sonoma State Home
Sonoma State Home
Established 1884
Construction Began 1891
Opened November 24, 1891
Closed December 31, 2018
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) George Sellon
Location Eldridge, CA
Architecture Style Victorian Gothic style
Alternate Names
  • 1891-1909: California Home for the Care and Training of the Feeble Minded
  • 1909-1953: Sonoma State Home
  • 1953-1986: Sonoma State Hospital
  • 1986-Present: Sonoma Developmental Center.


History by the California Department of Developmental Services:

Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) is the oldest facility in California established specifically for serving the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. The facility opened its doors to 148 residents on November 24, 1891, culminating a ten-year project on the part of two prominent Northern California women who had children with developmental disabilities.

In 1883, Julia Judah and Frances Bentley were responsible for forming the California Association for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children. Its aim was "to provide and maintain a school and asylum for the feeble-minded, in which they may be trained to usefulness."

The first facility was opened in May 1884, at White Sulphur Springs near Vallejo. Beset by problems, the association petitioned the California legislature for assistance, and a bill was passed calling for the creation of the California Home for the Care and Training of the Feeble Minded. The new board chose a 51-acre site in the town of Santa Clara to handle twenty residents.

When the Santa Clara home became inadequate a few years later, the legislature appointed a commission and appropriated $170,000 to purchase land, construct facilities and handle commission expenses. The commission included Captain Oliver Eldridge, after whom the community of Eldridge is named. Following lengthy legislative battles over the proposed funding, the commission selected the present site: a 1640-acre parcel which featured an ample water supply, drainage, and two railroad lines that passed through the property.

The facility at Eldridge has undergone many significant changes, including four name changes. In 1909, the name was changed from the California Home for the Care and Training of the Feeble Minded to the Sonoma State Home. In 1953, Sonoma State Home became Sonoma State Hospital; and in 1986, the name was changed to Sonoma Developmental Center. Over the years, the facility has expanded several times, including two major expansions: A thirteen million dollar expansion program was initiated in 1948, and another five million dollars was appropriated in 1956. The most recent renovation took place between 1979 and 1982, during which all the living units were renovated at a cost of about one million dollars per building, primarily to improve safety, privacy and individualized care.

Many changes over the last 110 years include attitudes, philosophies, values, and beliefs in regard to the treatment of developmentally disabled people. There is one constant that ties the present and the future to every epoch of the Center's history: As society's understanding of developmental disabilities has improved, SDC has consistently responded by improving services. Sonoma Developmental Center has always been and will always be committed to continuous improvement of its comprehensive array of therapeutic services.[1]

The Developmental Center was ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 to begin a three-year closure process, with an official shuttering date of Dec. 31, 2018. SDC had at its peak been home to more than 3,000 residents; its final clients left the Eldridge campus in mid-December, according to officials at the state Department of Developmental Services. First District Supervisor Susan Gorin has said that her constituents want to see the land dedicated to public open space. She has articulated a plan that would see the state grant the property to the county, and then see it transferred to the adjacent state and regional parks systems.

Images of Sonoma State Home[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Sonoma State Home


There are 1,418 people buried in an unmarked field and there are approximately 500 cremated remains of people interred in a vault on the cemetery. Sonoma hired a company to scan the cemetery to find the gravesites. They have a great detailed plot map of all the gravesites and have identified exactly who is in each gravesite.