A Brief History of Healdsburg

Centrally situated among the Russian RiverDry Creek and Alexander valleys, Healdsburg has made a name for itself as the heart of Northern California’s world-class wine region. Our charming town hasn’t always been about wine though.

Why Healdsburg?

Healdsburg’s namesake, Harmon Heald, made his way to the area for the same reason so many people did — gold. During the California Gold Rush of 1849, people from across the country came to make their fortune, but many found farming a more profitable venture than gambling on finding a vein of gold.

In the 1850s Heald, originally from Ohio, built a small general store and opened a post office in what is now downtown Healdsburg. He hired a surveyor, laid out a town grid around a central plaza, and sold off lots. With a population of 300, the town was incorporated in 1867.

The fertile valleys encouraged farming, and the railroad established Healdsburg as a prosperous agricultural district. Soon, grape, hops and lumber became central to the local economy. The wine industry continued to grow until 1919 when Prohibition put an end to that, and prunes took over as the main crop of the Healdsburg-area valleys through the first half of the twentieth century. In 1900, there were 4,000 acres of prunes; and by 1920 that number had increased to 21,500 acres.

Healdsburg’s agricultural history

Over the decades, prunes became less popular — and profitable. In the 1970s, orchards began being replaced with vines. However, winemaking has steadily grown in volume and reputation and has become the pulse of local agriculture and economy.

Healdsburg today attracts tourists yet retains locals who also appreciate our small-town charm. The plaza, with its music, markets and community events is still the hub of downtown. Step into the Healdsburg Museum next time you’re in town to find out more about our rich history. It has one of the finest regional collections of Pomo and Wappo Indian artifacts, tools, clothing, paintings, and historical newspapers, maps and photographs.

The Healdsburg Museum
Wednesday — Sunday
11:00 am — 4:00 pm
FREE Admission

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