Originally the Sonora Inn was named the Hotel Victoria and billed as “the finest hostelry in Northern California.”
The hotel opened in April 1896, occupying a prominent position on Washington Street. Its construction began in 1895 by Philip Cavalero, a stonemason, and Giovanni Ventre. It was built of stone quarried from the hills of Tuolumne County.
They designed the structure with two ground floor storerooms and two upper stories for lodging. Through the center of the building was a solid stone wall, extending from the basement to the roof, with only one door connecting the two rooms on the ground floor. The reason for this, according to the partners, was in the event they might have a disagreement, all they would need to do would be to close the connecting doorway and each man would take half of the building. The two Italians began to have financial problems. At this point, Captain W.A. Nevills, owner of the prosperous Rawhide Mine, took over the property and hired architect and builder Hugh Braunton of Stockton.
The main building contained the dining room, bar and billiard rooms, reading room, kitchen, parlors, and about 36 bedrooms. The basement included storage rooms, ice chest, bakery, laundry, and meat room.
The interior woodwork was all of redwood, with the exception of the staircase, which was mountain mahogany. The hotel had both gas and electrical fixtures. The total cost to build the hotel, including furnishings, was $100,000.
An annex was later added, two stories in height. The space between the main building and the annex was converted into a courtyard. Two spacious verandas extended across the entire front of the building, and an octagon tower was added to one of the front corners.
A fire in 1911 destroyed the annex, but later a concrete building was erected, where the ground floor was a dry goods store and the upper portion were rooms for the hotel.
In the 1920s, a third infill building was added between the two main structures, and the balconies were removed.
In 1931, brothers Charles and Eric Segerstrom opened the hotel after renovating the building. At that time the name was changed to the Sonora Inn. The brothers combined the existing structure into a single Spanish/Mission Colonial Revival style, which was very popular at the time, and added Sonora’s first elevator.
Since the beginning of the hotel’s existence, it has housed many different shops at the street level including: a stage company, grocery store (Mallard’s), shoe and clothing stores, various saloons and restaurants, and a Western Union office.
— Betty Sparagna, Tuolumne County Historical Society Landmarks Committee