Sign of the Bear
435 1st Street West
The building with a large flat front is the Sign of the Bear, a kitchen store. This style of building is called a “false front.” The large flat area above the building makes it look bigger than it really is. You can see more buildings like this farther down 1st Street West.
Sign of the Bear has been in business since 1972. Before that it was a music store. And about a hundred years before that, there was a Chinese laundry next door. In fact at one time, there were two Chinese laundries on this side of the Plaza.
Chinese workers came to California to help build the Transcontinental Railroad. After they finished that job (1869), hundreds moved to Sonoma to clear and plant fields, make wine, wash clothes and open businesses. Nearly 20% of the people who lived here were Chinese before the Chinese Exclusion Art of 1882 forced them to leave.