A week before Christmas in Sonoma County history

17 December 2020

On Dec. 21, 1970, the Church of One Tree was dedicated as the site of the Robert L. Ripley memorial museum. Ripley, born in 1893 in Santa Rosa, started his career as a cartoonist at Santa Rosa High School and became a newspaper cartoonist in San Francisco and New York. His internationally popular “Believe It or Not” cartoon feature ran from 1918 until his death in 1948. In December 1947, Ripley purchased the Church of One Tree from the First Baptist Church of Santa for the purpose of creating a museum. The one-of-a-kind structure was built from the lumber of one redwood tree felled near Guerneville in the 1870s.

That same year, on Dec. 23, Jessie Rosenberg gave Santa Rosa $50,000 for a fountain on the east side of Courthouse Square as a tribute to her late husband, Fred. It was one of many gifts to the city by the Rosenberg family. In 1964, they donated the old Tower Theater property on Fourth Street as part of the site for the Central Sonoma County Library. In 1975, $100,000 from the will of the late couple was released to the Santa Rosa Foundation for “city beautification.” Fred and Max Rosenberg founded Rosenberg’s department store in Santa Rosa in 1907.
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