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Santa Rosa's West End a portrait of community

  • Cosmo Sutcliff plays with his dogs, from left, Rusty, Shadow and Mork, at the park at the DeTurk Round Barn, one of the landmarks in the West End Santa Rosa neighborhood. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat))

In a hectic world, people might pine for a bygone era when folks sat on their front porches for most of an evening and greeted their neighbors as they walked by.

That place still exists, and it's not far away.

In Santa Rosa's West End neighborhood, not far from downtown and just north of historic Railroad Square, residents have spent the past couple of decades recapturing the area's charm.

“The neighborhood is one of the oldest in Santa Rosa,” said Allen Thomas, a West End resident and one of the organizers of the district's weekly seasonal farmers market, running 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 15.

Lying between West College Avenue on the north and West Sixth Street on the south, with North Dutton Avenue to the west and Davis Street to the east, the area still contains homes built in the late 19th century.

“This was one of the first subdivisions of the City of Santa and dates back to the 1880s, probably 10 years after the railroad came ...” Thomas said.

The neighorhood's best-known landmark is the DeTurk Round Barn on Donahue Street, built in 1891 by wealthy winery owner and horseman Isaak DeTurk.

While most of the area is residential, its boundaries touch on the 6th Street Playhouse, housed in a renovated 19th-century cannery building, and Chop's Teen Club, formerly the site of the much-loved Lena's Restaurant.

Nearby stands a current local favorite, Stark's Steakhouse, on the former site of Michelle's, another beloved longtime neighborhood restaurant and hangout. Both Lena's and Michelle's were Italian restaurants, and remained as reminders of the neighborhood's Italian heritage, long after the area's demographics began to change.

“At the turn of the century, and into the 1920s and '30s, the West End was primarily an Italian neighborhood. There were immigrants who came to work at the cannery in Railroad Square,” Thomas said.

“In the 1970s and '80s, the neighborhood declined a little bit, and in the mid-'80s, a neighborhood association banded together to raise the quality of life,” he added. “That spirit is still prevalent in our neighborhood.”

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