One of the unique things about California and Vallejo in particular, is that its "history" dates back only 150 years or so. That’s not very long ago when compared with other parts of the United States or Europe. But nevertheless, the story of Vallejo’s past can be seen all around the city - at Mare Island, in the downtown area, and in the city’s heritage and historic districts located in central Vallejo and near the Vallejo waterfront.
The Vallejo Heritage District was one of the first nationally registered districts west of the Mississippi. The district contains houses and structures which showcase Vallejo’s rich and varied architectural history. Most of the homes in the district were built between 1860 and 1890 and show the elegant style of what has become known as the "Working Man’s Victorian." Imaginative craftsmen carved houses out of wood and integrated the major styles of Queen Anne, Eastlake, Italianate, and Stick into the unique houses that are standing today. Builders and owners of these houses thought nothing of using elements of several styles to create elaborate and distinctive combinations.
The majority of the houses are located in the "Old Town" section of Vallejo, starting Georgia Street and radiating outward. The neighborhood is loosely bounded by Capitol, York, Marin, and Monterey Streets. Although the houses are not open to the public, visitors can do a self-guided walking or driving tour of the area. As always, a good place to start any kind of historical tour of Vallejo is the Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum, located at 734 Marin Street in downtown Vallejo.
In addition to the Heritage District, Vallejo has another area of vintage homes. The St. Vincent’s Hill Historic District is a 33-square block area surrounding St. Vincent’s Catholic Church and bounded on the south by Florida and Carolina Streets, on the east by Sonoma Boulevard, on the north by Tennessee Street, and on the west by Mare Island Way.
The historic significance of this district lies in its growth as a workingman’s neighborhood for shipbuilders at the nearby Mare Island Naval Shipyard. It is expressed in a wide variety of architectural styles beginning with the Greek Revival cottages of the 1850’s and 1860’s.
Because of their close proximity to downtown, the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, and the waterfront, many of these older homes have been selected for extensive restoration in recent years. This has been helped by the fact that the area continues to offer buyers some of the most attractive real estate prices in the San Francisco Bay Area. An active group of residents, the St. Vincent’s Hill Neighborhood Association, meets monthly to assist members with ways to improve the district.
Additional Vallejo neighborhoods of architectural interest include Vista de Vallejo, an eclectic mix of romantic styles dating from the 1930’s; Bay Terrace and Vallejo Heights, a 1900 subdivision featuring Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival homes; and Washington Park, an intricate sampler of vintage architecture of the early 1900’s.