The 1906 earthquake devastated San Francisco and Santa Rosa, but Petaluma was spared. Because of that lucky twist of fate, we have outstanding examples of historic Iron Front buildings. These buildings, from the 1880s and 1890s, feature factory made fronts of cast or sheet iron. They were fabricated in San Francsico and shipped north up the Petaluma River.
On a sunny winter day, my father and I made a little tour of downtown Petaluma, spotting Iron Front buildings. Many of the iron structures are easy to locate by the ornate old foundry marks at the base. In some cases, the identification is not so clear, especially when the old metal is buried under layers and layers of paint.
We used a toy magnet (visible in red) to make the final determination in several cases, when the layers of paint were so thick, the columns appeared more like wood, than metal.