image of 1950's Monte Rio, CADowntown Monte Rio, California,  in rural west Sonoma County was a bustling community at one time.  During the Big Band era, the downtown boasted at least three hotels, several saloons, restaurants, dance hall, railroad station, etc.  The North Pacific Coast R.R. delivered as many as fifteen thousand visitors on a summer weekend with holidays such as the 4th of July seeing that number doubled.

After the last train pulled out in 1935, you witnessed a decrease in tourists, but you still had plenty of activity.  The photos show Main Street during the early 1950’s.  On the south side (top pic), you had various businesses including the Pink Elephant bar, Heinlein’s Cafe, entrance to amphitheater, Knotty Room diner, Noonan’s Market, and Lee Torr Jr.’s Real Estate and Insurance (now Burger’s Construction Shop).

Downtown Monte Rio:

On the north side of Main Street (bottom pic) in downtown Monte Rio, Bartlett’s grocery store was and still is the primary store for the locals. At the intersection of Moscow Rd. and Main Street was Stella’s Bakery.  Further north of the bakery on Moscow was the old Post Office (now the Russian River Historical Society).  To the east of Bartlett’s was Lara’s Garage (now Noel’s Automotive Service) and Chevron gas station.  Next door and near Dutch Bill Creek was Yee’s Chinese restaurant.  We shouldn’t forget across the bridge where a rollerskating rink/cafe once stood adjacent to the existing Rio Theater.  Next door was Ramona’s hamburger stand while Kohler’s Hardware was across the street (now Napa Auto Parts).  Remember the Union 76 Gas Station in front of Fern’s? 

I’m seeking stories, descriptions, etc. of the above places.  If you have a memory of downtown Monte Rio during the 1950’s and/or 1960’s, I would very much like to hear it.  You can reach me at  With your permission, your name and story will appear in my March online newsletter.   Thank you.