Freelance Writer, Ghostwriter for business, finance, technology

freelance writer, finance writer, ghostwriter, copyeditor, freelance editor Sharon Rockey is a freelance writer/ghostwriter for print and on-line media. She writes and edits for business, finance, technology, lifestyle and the arts. Visit her on-line portfolio and contact her for your next project.

    Reprinted from Sonoma Living Magazine - Cover Story

    From Foundry to Fine Art:
    A Spectacular Transformation

    The garden rooms - formerly the maintenance yard.
    (Portion of main house visible in upper left of photo.
    "But the real surprise comes when you learn that these very walls once housed a welding foundry where white sparks flew and hot steel was shaped."  

    by Sharon Rockey
    If you didn't come to Sonoma for the wine, chances are you came for the history. In a town that enjoys a perennial love affair with the past, a casual stroll around the Plaza brings you up close and personal with many distant memories. The carefully restored historical sites are nostalgic reminders of the way things were.

    But neatly tucked away from the more common attractions are the remains of a much different piece of Sonoma's history. More recent in vintage and not likely to be romanticized in tourist brochures, this site has been so artistically transformed there is barely a trace left to reveal what once took place within its walls.

    When you first enter the home you feel the sensation of having just stepped through a frame into a work of art—a work which contains its own private live-in art museum. The cold gray concrete block exterior of the building conceals its richly appointed interior. But the real surprise comes when you learn that these very walls once housed a welding foundry where white sparks flew and hot steel was shaped.

    The transformation is the work of Richard Peters, an architect with more than a fair share of creative ideas. Richard received his Master's degree in architecture from Princeton University in 1958 then migrated to the Bay Area where he spent the next 35 years teaching in the architectural department at UC Berkeley. During his tenure, he managed his own architectural firm, Peters, Clayberg and Caulfield and was a noted lighting consultant for buildings that ranged from the Cannery in San Francisco to the recently completed Haas Business School at UC Berkeley.

    Dick had designed wineries in Alexander Valley and felt drawn back to the wine country. He drew up architectural plans for a simple single story concrete block house and set off in search of the perfect property.

    While driving through Sonoma, he took a wrong turn and spotted a "For Sale" sign in front of Matthew Escobar's former welding foundry. Fortunately Dick had the well-trained eye to recognize the possibilities in these unique concrete block structures. He liked the gracefully shaped roof line and a large pull down metal delivery door. "I thought it might be novel to be able to drive your car right into your own living room", Dick jokingly recalls.

    He purchased the property and began the massive reconstruction. Under the masterful eyes of Don Shull and Tim Yarlott, the contractors for the original house, the restoration was completed. Ron Wellander landscape architect and contractor, installed the beautiful "garden rooms" in what was originally the maintenance yards surrounding the building complex.

    The foundry office, with a ceiling constructed of inverted boat staves, was joined with a large open welder's workspace by an enclosed entry. Skylights were installed in the high ceilings letting natural light flood the entire interior.

    Virtually every foot of wall space is covered by a diverse collection of fine arts and crafts from around the world. The collection includes etchings and paintings, Mexican Folk Art, Rose Canton pottery and small paintings by Dick's grandmother. The dining room walls are covered with paintings of ships and the shelves were installed to display numerous bottled boats.

    One thing remains as a visible symbol of the old foundry—"The Heavenly Gate". This twelve foot high iron gate had been the entrance to the original foundry and now stands erect between two brick courtyards. With added vibrant color and sculptured adornments, the gate has become an artistic centerpiece for the garden area.

    In the short time Dick has lived in Sonoma, he's become a familiar face and a positive contributor to the community. Concerned with preserving the city's charm, he is a member of a citizen's coalition helping chart a course for intelligent future development and planning. With his community spirit and a living showplace, Dick is on his way to becoming part of the history and charm of Sonoma.

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