National Register of Historic Places in Sonoma County
The Sonoma State Home, Main Building, is the oldest remaining building of California's first facility for the education and care of developmentally delayed children.
Sonoma State Home dates back to 1883 when the California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble-Minded Children was privately founded in Vallejo.
In 1885, Califonia took over the home and moved it to Santa Clara. In 1891, the Home relocated its 148 residents here, transporting them from Santa Clara in a specially hired Southern Pacific train. In 1909, the name was changed to Sonoma State Hospital.
Between 1918 and 1949, over five thousand patients were involuntarily sterilized here.
In 1986, the name was changed to Sonoma Developmental Center. As the name grew gentler over the years, no doubt the care also grew gentler.
Source: NRHP nomination.
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.