History, Growth and Development
The first known permanent European settlement of Santa Rosa was the homestead of the Carrillo family, in-laws to Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who settled the Sonoma pueblo and Petaluma area. During the Mexican period, the family of Dona Maria Carrillo built an adobe house on their land grant, the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa, just east of what later became downtown Santa Rosa.
Allegedly, however, before the Carrillos built their adobe in the 1830s, Spanish / Mexican settlers from nearby Sonoma and other settlements to the south raised livestock in the area and slaughtered animals at the fork of the Santa Rosa Creek and Matanzas Creek, near the intersection of Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue. Because of its use as a slaughtering place...the confluence came to be called La Matanza. This is supposedly the origin of the name of Matanzas Creek.
After California became a state, Santa Rosa grew steadily early on. According to the U.S. Census, in 1870 Santa Rosa was the 8th largest city in California, and county seat of one of the most populous counties in the state. Despite heavy devastation in the earthquake of 18 April 1906, which essentially destroyed the entire Victorian downtown, the city's population did not greatly suffer.
Famed director Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller Shadow of a Doubt in Santa Rosa in 1943; the film gives glimpses of Santa Rosa in the 1940s. Many of the buildings in downtown Santa Rosa that are seen in the film no longer exist, due to major reconstruction following an earthquake in September 1969. However, some like the rough-stone Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot and the prominent Empire Building, built in 1910 with its gold-topped clock tower, do still survive.
Santa Rosa grew substantially in the 25 years after the end of World War II, in 1945. The population enlarged by 2/3 between 1950 and 1970, an average of 1,000 new residents a year over the 20 years. Some of the increase was from immigration, and some from annexation of portions of the surrounding area.
When the City Council adopted the City's first modern General Plan in 1991, the population was about 113,000. In the 21 years since 1970, Santa Rosa had grown by about 3,000 residents a year — triple the average growth during the previous twenty years.
Today's population is more than 167,000.