Sonoma State Historic Park

 
General Vallejo's Home

"Lachryma Montis"

In 1850 Vallejo purchased some acreage at the foot of the hills half-a-mile west and north of Sonoma's central plaza. The land surrounded a fine, free-flowing spring that the lndians had called Chiucuyem (crying mountain). Vallejo retained this name for his new estate, but translated it into Latin, Lachryma Montis, (mountain tear). Grapevines were transplanted to the new site along with a wonderful assortment of fruit trees -- olives, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, figs, and many lemon and orange trees - as well as some strictly decorative trees and shrubs. The quarter-mile-long driveway entrance was lined with cottonwood trees and Castilian roses. A vine-covered arbor shaded a wide pathway around the pool into which the spring flowed, and a number of decorative fountains and delightful little outbuildings also graced the carefully tended grounds.

In 1851-52 the main house was built beside the spring and its pool. The two-story, wood-frame house was done in the very latest carpenter's-gothic, Victorian style highlighted by a large gothic window in the master bedroom, twin porches, dormer windows, and elaborate carved wooden trim along the eaves. Bricks were placed inside the walls of the house in order to keep it warm in winter and cool in summer. Each room had its own white marble fireplace. Crystal chandeliers, lace curtains, and many other furnishings including the handsome, rosewood, concert-grand piano, were imported from Europe. Along with several pavilions and other outbuiidings, Vallejo's estate also included a large barn and several houses for the working staff. Near the main house a special warehouse was erected in order to store wine, fruit, and other produce. The building was made of specially prefabricated timbers imported from Europe. Its walls were made of bricks that sonle say had been used as ballast on sailing ships. Eventually the building was converted to residential use and came to be known as the "Swiss Chalet". Today it serves as a museum and interpretive centeri for the Vallejo Home unit of Sonoma State Historic Park.

General Vallejo and his wife lived at Lachryma Montis for more than 35 years, although as time went by they were forced to live more and more quietly and unpretentiously as the General suffered one economic setback after another. Although he eventually lost nearly all of his vast land holdings, and was even forced to sell the vineyard and other "nonessential" acreage at Lachryma Montis, Vallejo remained unembittered. He was always extraordinarily generous and contributed as much or more than he could afford to family, friends, and causes in which ~he believed. During his last years he spent much of his time reading (at one time his library included some 12,000 books) and writing personal letters to his many children, friends and relations. During the

late 1870s he collected a large number of official Mexican government papers and wrote a five-volume History of California, all of which he donated to Hubert Howe Bancroft who was then assembling a comprehensive research library on California and Western regional history. Vallejo was also an active member and supporter of the California Horticultural Society. His death in 1890 at the age of 82 was widely noticed and lamented. After his funeral hundreds of mourners forsed a long procession that ceremoniously circled the plaza, paused before the site of La Casa Grande, and then proceeded solemnly to the little cemetery on the hill overlooking Sonoma. In 1933 the Vallejo home and some 20 acres of the original Lachryma Montis lands were acquired by the State in order to protect and preserve this historic site and its collection of historic artifacts and documents. Today the buildings and grounds are carefully maintained, and the house itself is furnished throughout with many of Vallejo's personal effects - as though the General and his wife had just stepped out for a moment. The museum, grounds, and the home itself (California Historical Landmark Number 4) are open for public viewing.