The property at 15655 Arnold Drive is a prized area of Sonoma Valley, just minutes from Historic Sonoma Plaza. When the Spanish came north in the early 1800’s, it was here in Sonoma Valley, a place the indigenous people called the Valley of the Moon, or Valley of Many Moons, that they choose to settle and establish in 1824 the last and most Northerly mission in a chain of 21 missions, built in California by Father Junipero Serra and priests of the Franciscan order.
The priests coming to Sonoma were led by Father Jose Altamira, who had expressed that the existing missions in Yerba Buena (now San Francisco) and San Rafael were poor locations for climate, health and agriculture.
No doubt the Spanish recognized and valued the same fertile soil, wonderful climate, game, wild-life, hot springs and abundant natural resources as had the Miwoks; Wintuns, Wapo and Miyakmahs, Pomos, Koskiwok, Patwin indigenous peoples, approximately 5000 of whom had thrived in this, their valley home for roughly 12,000 years.
Leaving his post as commandant of San Francisco’s Presidio in 1823, 27-year-old Lt. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo took charge of overseeing the transition of the “mission – outpost” in Sonoma to a full-fledge settlement, the first secular pueblo (town) of the newly formed country, Mexico. He was responsible for laying out the grid work of streets centered around an 8-acre central Sonoma Plaza, a national monument and still the largest plaza in California, that defines Sonoma to this day.
As Vallejo’s military rank rose to General, so did his power and wealth in Sonoma. He eventually amassed his 67,000 acre Petaluma Ranch that included a portion of verdant lands in western Sonoma Valley, of which the property is a part. This land was transferred several times but in the later 19th century was deeded to Colonel George Hooper who was responsible for the extensive cultivation of the property’s vineyards and orchards. His wife Maria, named the property “Sobre Vista” meaning “a view from above.” Even in those early days, the property was noted for producing international award winning white wines and olive oil.
Rudolph Spreckles, heir to the Spreckles Sugar fortunes, purchased Sobre Vista from Colonel Hooper around 1900 and proceeded to increase his holdings by purchasing adjoining properties and improve the property with man-made lakes, farmhouses, barns and a stable for racehorses. Rudolph Spreckles deeded the property to the wife of his brother Adolph, Alma de Bretteville Spreckles. This history surrounding Alma and Adolph, that includes her nude modeling, the couple’s extravagant parties, overseeing the building of San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor, and their many altruistic and philanthropic endeavors is fascinating, legendary and worthy of more than we can address in this short description.
However, regarding Sobre Vista Farms, Alma was determined to construct the “San Simeon of the North” and in the 1930 hired an army of construction workers to transform the property with world-class lodging, paved roads, electricity and even a golf course. Here Alma and Adolph entertained some of the most famous and influential people of their era.
The main Spreckles Residence, gardens and outbuildings of Sobre Vista Farms are still found up Sobre Vista Road on the rising land just west of the Arnold Drive Property. The lovely rolling hills and fields of the Arnold Drive property are part of the valley landscape that Sobre Vista overlooks. There is even speculation that the Spreckles used part of the 77 acre Arnold Drive property as a race track for their horses.
The 77 acre ,15655 Arnold Drive property is one of the largest remaining blocks of land of the original Sobre Vista Farms and it encompasses all the virtues of climate, natural beauty and agricultural vitality that made the Valley of the Moon so desirable to all those that have come before.