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(Editor?s note: This is part of a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)

Shortly after Denny Murray purchased a home in the D Street neighborhood, Halloween rolled around, and although his family hadn?t moved in yet, they wanted to be sure to be home to pass out candy for the kiddies.

?So, we bought a couple bags of candy,? he said.

Murray, who had been living in the peaceful serenity of Sonoma Mountain, didn?t have any clue that Halloween on D Street had developed into an event of gargantuan, carnival-like proportions.

Murray?s bags of candy were gone in a flash ? and yet the kids kept coming and coming and coming, every one expecting a tasty treat.

?We?ll never get caught in that situation again,? Murray said, laughing.

David Sherman, a brand-new resident of the 500 block of D Street, had a similar experience last year.

?We bought hundreds of dollars worth of candy, and it was gone in about 45 minutes. We were overwhelmed, but we?ll be more prepared next year. It?s expensive, but worth it,? he said.

When Jo and Donald Leroy moved to their home on the 500 block of D Street six years ago, they didn?t have any idea that they were in ?Halloween Central? until a neighbor told them. On the big day, the couple decided to set up tables in their front yard to distribute candy. They gave away one piece to each child, and by the end of the evening, had distributed 2,015 pieces!

?Ever since I can remember, Halloween has been a big thing here,? said Chris Cort, who grew up in the neighborhood in a home on the 800 block of D Street. He recalls it becoming a much bigger thing in the mid-to-late 1980s.

On Halloween, the area is known not only for the deluge of children and their accompanying parents, but also for the unique ?theme? decorations at most of the homes.

?We do a kind of Cirque du Soleil theme, with a juggler and clowns,? Cort said. ?But I?m afraid it?s too scary for the little kids and not scary enough for the bigger ones.?

Alan Sandy, who has resided on the 900 block of D Street since 1988, dresses up as Abraham Lincoln ? complete with tux, black bow tie and top hat ? as he greets trick-or-treaters and chats with passersby in front of his home.

Lawrence and Stephanie Cowell transform their home on the 900 block of D Street into ?Cavity Cove,? a pirate?s den with treasure chests, chains and vultures.

Like the D Street neighborhood itself, Halloween has the distinct feel of a mid-1900s America, when life was simpler and neighborly gestures were commonplace.

?One year, I went trick-or-treating with my grandkids. I left a big basket full of candy on the front porch, and when I came back the basket was still there and there was still candy left. The people are so polite and nice, and there is never a mess the next morning,? said Shirley Pollock, who has experienced 19 Halloweens since moving to a home on Grossland Way.

?Everybody here is very friendly, and willing to help out. It?s the kind of neighborhood you?ve always heard about,? she added.

The people

The neighborhood dates back to the late 1800s, and Census figures show that in 1880 it contained an eclectic mix of residents, including a merchant, saloon keeper, teacher, brick mason, fireman, farmer, gun and lock smith, shoemaker, stock dealer, banker, butcher, photographer and lawyer.

An occupational mix still exists in the neighborhood, which has housed prominent Petalumans such as investor H. T. Fairbanks; attorneys Edward S. Lippitt, John Lounibos and Leroy Lounibos; and businessmen A.F. Tomasini, Carl Behrens and Magnus Vonsen.

?Almost from the get-go, D street was the place to live,? said retired Col. Jack Schwartz, who grew up on F Street and now resides in a home on Laurel Avenue.

?At the time, everyone (in Petaluma) had chickens, and of course, there were no zoning laws,? he said, recalling his boyhood. ?All of a sudden, there were all these upper-scale homes and some still had chicken coops in the back yard.

?A. F. Tomasini had an aviary with some exotic birds in his back yard. He also had quail and goldfish. The kingfishers would eat the fish, so he had his hired hand stand guard with a shotgun. One day, he shot at the kingfishers, but killed some of the quail. That raised a few eyebrows, and Tomasini was furious.?

In some homes, several generations of families currently are living under the same roof that their ancestors did, and many adults who grew up in the neighborhood have never moved away.

?When I grew up, this was a big Italian neighborhood, with a lot of old-time residents,? Marie Girolo said. ?I?ve lived on D Street my whole life, and went to school with some of the people who still live here. There hasn?t been a lot of turnover.?

?In our little cul de sac, there are mostly older people,? Pollock said. ?I?ve lived here for 19 years, and I?m still considered one of the newcomers.?

?So, historically, a lot of verbal folklore about the neighborhood has been passed on. There has been an attempt to preserve it: That?s what makes Petaluma what it is,? said Lawrence Cowell.

But new generations have sprung up, bringing fresh batches of children.

?We now are seeing a few younger families and some grandchildren,? Pollock said.

As these families have moved to the neighborhood, it has gained greater ethnic diversity.

From 1990 to 2007, the percentage of Caucasian residents slipped from 93.4 percent to an estimated 86.3 percent, while residents of multiple races climbed from 3.1 percent to 9.1 percent and Hispanic residents increased from 10.2 percent to 14.4 percent.

Many of the neighborhood?s residents historically have been among the most affluent in Petaluma, and this trend has continued. Homes with an average household income over $75,000 rose from 12.6 percent in 1990 to an estimated 42.1 percent in 2007, and the median household income soared from $36,408 to $64,560.

During this period, the portion of residents with a bachelor?s degree or graduate degree increased from 25.6 percent to 45.5 percent and residents over 45 years old rose from 30.4 percent to 43.6 percent.

The homes

While many residents have been highly successful, perhaps the neighborhood is most renowned for its wide variety of intriguing homes.

?Walking down the street, you can see that it has a broad variety of homes, built from the 1880s to the 1970s. The street provides a very visual architectural timeline,? said Katherine Rinehart, a local historian who wrote the book, ?Petaluma: A History in Architecture.?

?I like the architectural aesthetics, with the varied styles of homes,? Cowell said. ?And people take a keen interest in the stewardship of their homes.?

?I feel very fortunate to live here, and think that everyone here feels that way to some extent. So, I feel responsible to keep my yard looking nice,? Cort said.

The D Street neighborhood contains many of the most historically significant homes in Petaluma, including stately Queen Anne-style Victorian houses, built in the late 1800s and early 1900s with customary elaborate and eccentric features. Other architectural styles in the neighborhood include Stick Victorian, Period Revival and Italianate.

This blending of architectural styles gives the street a historical feel.

?What I love about D Street and the neighboring streets is the warm feeling of history and Petaluma?s roots,? said Terri Hohener, who has lived on the 600 block of D Street for the past 20 years.

Brainerd Jones, Petaluma?s most famous architect, designed many of the homes along D Street, typically utilizing several architectural styles and adding amusing, idiosyncratic twists.

Other prominent architects ? including Albert Farr, Julia Morgan and the team of William Curlett and Walter D. Cuthbertson ? also designed homes on D Street. And a talented local landscaper, Wallace Mann, designed several residential gardens on the street during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The neighborhood has caught the eye of directors of films and commercials, who like the nostalgic appeal of the homes. Whereas homes in cities such as San Francisco, Sonoma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol were hit hard by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many of the older homes in Petaluma weren?t affected and retain an untouched look.

One of the homes on D Street was used in the movie, ?Peggy Sue Got Married,? and another house was used in a Japanese film.

?A few years ago, some people came to my home and said they wanted to use it for a movie on Japanese television,? Cort said. ?They said that it looked like the Colorado home where JonBenet Ramsey was murdered, and wanted to use it to re-enact the scene.

?I agreed to let them do it. None of the crew members spoke a word of English, although they used American actors, of course.?

The traffic

One of the few things residents don?t like about the D Street neighborhood is the increasing traffic. The street provides the main access point to Petaluma from the west.

?People don?t understand that this is a residential street,? Girolo said.

?Traffic has increased, and there are a lot of trucks and motorcycles, so most people use their homes as a sound wall,? Sandy said. ?People here get used to it, though. And I?m rather deaf, so it doesn?t affect me much.?

?It?s difficult to get across the street to get to know neighbors on the other side,? said Eric Grosser, who has lived with his partner, Lyn, on the 500 block of D Street since 2000.

But the street certainly provides the flood of visitors from the west with a grand introduction to Petaluma.

?Everyone agrees that D Street is a pretty impressive entry into town,? said Donald Scott, a resident of Brown Court.

(Contact Dan Johnson at dan.johnson@arguscourier.com. Staff members Corey Young and John Jackson and historian Katherine Rinehart contributed to this story.)

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