PRESERVING HEALDSBURG’S HISTORY
Consider Holly Hoods Healdsburg’s History Hero
Formally, Hoods serves as executive director of the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society on Matheson Street. But really, after 25 years working as a historian here, she has more of a commanding knowledge of the city’s past than just about anyone else. And she’s working to protect that history every day. “I’m one of those people who is lucky enough to get paid to learn,” she said. “Every day I learn something new.”
Hoods moved to Sonoma County from Santa Cruz back in 1994 to get a master’s degree in cultural resource management at Sonoma State University. After a few months of school, she took a part-time curatorial assistant job at the Healdsburg Museum for $7.50 an hour. She loved the job so much that she stuck around well after her schooling was finished. She worked her way all the way to the top.
Today the 59-year-old native of Northbrook, Illinois, spends her time curating exhibits and working with locals who have questions about the past. Recent (and pre-pandemic) exhibits have spotlighted old photographs, old toys, and old agriculture equipment.
A current digital exhibit spotlights a vigilante lynching that occurred in Sonoma County in 1920 after a local sheriff and resident of Healdsburg was killed in the line of duty. (In case you’re wondering, the exhibit isn’t really geared toward young kids.)
Hoods, who lives in an 1892 farmhouse on the outskirts of town, says her favorite aspect of working with local history is studying the many lives of Healdsburg over the years. “Healdsburg has shown a real adaptability over the years,” she said. “Some people make the mistake of thinking that the best Healdsburg was the day before the day they got here. But ours is an evolving community, and people have driven that change.”
To this end, she says the current development boom in Healdsburg is certainly not the city’s first. In 1895, Healdsburg wanted to become the San Francisco of the north. In the 1920s, there was a push to make Healdsburg a vacation destination and get people to put down roots. In the 1970s and 1980s, another development boom triggered a push to resuscitate the then-vacant plaza, with local organizers pushing to call the square the “Plaza of the Flags.”
Looking forward, Hoods believes new projects such as Mill District and North Village will become integral parts of the fabric of the community, adding more depth to our already eclectic city. Despite this growth, Hoods says she expects Healdsburg to retain its small-town vibe. “Businesses come and go, Healdsburg gets bigger and more modern, but many people around here still call Healdsburg a town,” she quips. “It’s one of my favorite things about this place. There’s something intimate and cozy about it that makes us call it a town. I hope that never changes.” Check out a gallery of images of the History Museum below.