Sonoma Developmental Center

The Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) is a large, state-run facility in California, United States, serving the needs of people with developmental disabilities. It is located in Eldridge in Sonoma County.

Sonoma Developmental Center--Main Building
Sonoma State Home, Main Building, 15000 Arnold Dr., Eldridge, CA 6-12-2010 6-03-39 PM.JPG
Sonoma Developmental Center is located in California
Sonoma Developmental Center
Sonoma Developmental Center is located in the United States
Sonoma Developmental Center
Location15000 Arnold Drive
Eldridge, California
Coordinates38°20′50″N 122°31′7″W / 38.34722°N 122.51861°W / 38.34722; -122.51861Coordinates: 38°20′50″N 122°31′7″W / 38.34722°N 122.51861°W / 38.34722; -122.51861
Area1,670 acres (7 km2)
NRHP reference #00001180
Added to NRHPOctober 6, 2000


It opened at its current location on November 24, 1891, though it had existed at previous locations in Vallejo and Santa Clara since 1884.[1]

The facility's current name dates from 1986. Former names include:[2]

  • California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children (1883)
  • Sonoma State Home (1909)
  • Sonoma State Hospital (1953)
  • Sonoma Developmental Center (1986)


1883 - First home opened at White Sulphur Springs near Vallejo.

1884 - Fasking Park, Alameda County.

1885-1891 - The Home was located in Santa Clara, California, near the intersection of Market and Washington Street.

1891 - A new site for the Home was purchased from former State Senator William Hill for $51,000. Two railroads ran through the site until World War II. The superintendent was Dr. Antrim Edgar Osborn.


1891- Antrim Edgar Osborn, M.D.

1900 - William. P. Lawlor, M.D.

1903 - W. J. G. Dawson, M.D.

1919 - Frederick Otis Butler, M.D.

1949 - M.E.Porter, M.D.

1918 - A Spanish influenza epidemic killed dozens of inmates. Dr. Lawlor was also killed.

The Home had primarily four types of residents: the mentally handicapped, the epileptic, the physically disabled, and the "psychopathic delinquent." From almost the start, the Home was overcrowded.

In 2000 the main building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[3]

The hospital at Sonoma Developmental Center is where the majority of forced sterilizations took place in California

Closure and Reuse PlanEdit

In 2015, the State announced the closure of SDC by the end of 2018. This meant the relocation of more than 300 residents, and the development of a reuse plan for the property.[4]

The October 2017 Nuns Fire had a dramatic impact on SDC, necessitating a mandatory evacuation of hundreds of residents and staff, and burning the eastern third of the property along California State Route 12. The main area of SDC withstood the fires, and the remaining residents all moved back in; however, the fire forced a major interruption of the State's site assessment process.

In May 2017, the State hired Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) to provide architectural and engineering services to prepare “a comprehensive existing conditions study and an opportunities and constraints summary and analysis for SDC.”

The State incorporated a strong community engagement plan as part of the WRT contract. In order to ensure that the site assessment was based on the best available data—and that the analysis is designed to answer the most pressing concerns of the local community—WRT created an SDC Community Advisory Committee (CAC). This Committee is composed of a broad range of local stakeholders, and its purpose is “to provide comments to the WRT team on the Site Assessment findings and to offer input regarding the opportunities and constraints for the SDC site.”

The first meeting of the CAC was September 28, 2017. Ten days later, the fires raged through the North Bay, and WRT's goal of producing its reports and holding a series of community meetings by the end of 2017 was lost in the tumult of wildlife disaster response. After a three-month delay, CAC scheduled a meeting with WRT on March 22, 2018. After the cancelled September CAC meeting, WRT had planned to finish the site assessment, presenting the findings one more time to the CAC, and then holding a public meeting in Sonoma where the whole community would be briefed on this critical information. According to the new timeline, after the CAC meets in March, the public meeting is likely to happen in mid-April.[5]

Research ResourcesEdit

The State Archive in Sacramento have extensive holdings on the early history of the Home. Including patient registers, photographs, maps, and records. The Gosney Archive at Caltech in Pasadena, CA contains information about sterilization from the 1920s. The SDC does have some historical resources, but these are not open to the general public.



Fictional WorksEdit

  • The Center provided the setting for Jack London's short story Told in the Drooling Ward (1914).[8]
  • Downloadable version of Jack London's short story Told in the Drooling Ward (1914) with an introduction by Ed Davis[9]
  • The book In All Things: A Return to the Drooling Ward[10] is a fictionalized account based on the author's experiences while training as a psychiatric technician at the former hospital.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History of Sonoma Developmental Center".
  2. ^ "National Register #00001180: Sonoma State Home in Eldridge, California". Retrieved 2008-03-29.
  3. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings October 13, 2000". Retrieved 2008-03-29.
  4. ^ "Transform SDC". Transform SDC.
  5. ^ "SDC Site Assessment Process Resuming After Long Delay". 15 February 2018.
  6. ^ Miroslava Chavez-Garcia (21 February 2012). States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California's Juvenile Justice System. University of California Press. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-0-520-95155-6.
  7. ^ California. Office of State Controller (1912). Annual Report of the State Controller, State of California, for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30 ... Office of the Controller, State of California.
  8. ^ Wiley, Walt (1988-11-19). "Bookstore for Jack London Lovers". Lodi News-Sentinel. p. 7. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  9. ^ bookfunnel. "Jack London's Told in the Drooling Ward (1914)". Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  10. ^ Kirkus Review. "In All Things: A Return to the Drooling Ward". Retrieved November 24, 2014.

External linksEdit