National Register of Historic Places in Sonoma County

National Register #00001180: Sonoma State Home 7 June 2004
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National Register #00001180
Sonoma State Home
AKA Sonoma State Hospital
AKA Sonoma Developmental Center
15000 Arnold Drive

The California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children was privately founded in Vallejo 1883 "to provide and maintain a school and asylum for the feeble-minded, in which they may be trained to usefulness."

The Home was taken over by the State of California just two years after its founding. By 1890, the institution, having outgrown facilities in Vallejo and then Santa Clara, purchased 1,670 acres of rural land south of Glen Ellen. On November 24, 1891, the Home relocated its 148 residents, transporting them here from Santa Clara in a specially hired Southern Pacific train.

During the years from 1918 until 1949, over five thousand patients were involuntarily sterilized here.

The Home has undergone three name changes: from the California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children to Sonoma State Home in 1909, to Sonoma State Hospital in 1953, and to Sonoma Developmental Center in 1986. As the name grew gentler over the years, no doubt the care also grew gentler.

Today, the Sonoma Developmental Center is administered by the California Department of Developmental Services and "provides services and support to children and adults with developmental disabilities [to include] mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and related conditions."

In 1914, Jack London published the story, Told in the Drooling Ward, depicting an institution not unlike the Sonoma State Home which is located only a few miles from London's Glenn Ellen ranch.

Here's a brief excerpt:

My name's Tom. I'm twenty-eight years old. Everybody knows me in the institution. This is an institution, you know. It belongs to the State of California and is run by politics. I know. I've been here a long time. Everybody trusts me. I run errands all over the place, when I'm not busy with the droolers. I like droolers. It makes me think how lucky I am that I ain't a drooler.

I like it here in the Home. I don't like the outside. I know. I've been around a bit, and run away, and adopted. Me for the Home, and for the drooling ward best of all. I don't look like a drooler, do I? You can tell the difference soon as you look at me. I'm an assistant, expert assistant. That's going some for a feeb. Feeb? Oh, that's feeble-minded. I thought you knew. We're all feebs in here.

But I'm a high-grade feeb. Dr. Dalrymple says I'm too smart to be in the Home, but I never let on. It's a pretty good place. And don't throw fits like lots of the feebs. You see that house up there through the trees. The high-grade epilecs all live in it by themselves. They're stuck up because they ain't just ordinary feebs. They call it the club house, and they say they're just as good as anybody outside, only they're sick. I don't like them much. They laugh at me, when they ain't busy throwing fits. But I don't care. I never have to be scared about falling down and busting my head. Sometimes they run around in circles trying to find a place to sit down quick, only they don't. Low-grade epilecs are disgusting, and high-grade epilecs put on airs. I'm glad I ain't an epilec. There ain't anything to them. They just talk big, that's all.

Makes a Tea Party Patriot nostalgic for the way we were before ObamaCare.

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