The legacy of Louis Golton

Sonomans heading south on Broadway from Four Corners pass by the Valley’s only high school, established at that site in 1923. The original building still stands and is in use.

Just north of it at the intersection of MacArthur Street toward the rear of a derelict building site surrounded by chainlink fence they can see the old wooden building that was Sonoma Valley High School from 1908 to 1923. Before that, it was the site of Cumberland College.

The 1923 high school site came into being, because that old structure was in such terrible shape, it had to be replaced. Walls were crumbling, plumbing was defective and the heating system consisting of 12 wood-burning stoves created poisonous fumes.

Community leaders, including the editor of the Index-Tribune, enthusiastically supported a bond issue to build a new high school at an estimated cost of $115,000.

The bond issue passed by a vote of 428 in favor to 192 against. In 1922 the building contract was awarded to Larsen and Siegrist of San Francisco who came in with a low bid of $108,777.

The new school opened in January of 1923. The auditorium in the new school was also used for basketball games, and was eventually named in honor of Louis H. Golton, 33, who became the school’s principal in 1918 and pushed hard for a new high school. When the community responded by passing a bond and completing the new high school in 1923 at its current Broadway location, he remained as principal until his death in 1940.

A popular and dynamic community leader, Golton continued to lobby for additional buildings, athletic fields and other improvements at Sonoma Valley High School. And the community responded by approving additional tax measures and supporting numerous fund-raising events.

Golton died in March 1940 of a heart attack while returning from a meeting of school principals in Southern California. His funeral, attended by a standing-room-only crowd of Sonomans, current and former students, was held in the gymnasium named in his honor.

Golton Hall was still used as the SVHS gymnasium when I started high school there in 1956. But thanks to Golton’s vision and tireless lobbying for the school’s expansion and improvement, there was plenty of land available years after his death for a new gym (Pfeiffer Gym), John Glaese Hall (a new entertainment auditorium) and most recently, brand new athletic fields, including a soccer and football stadium, plus a new swimming pool complex on the site.

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