Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eureka! – The Carson Mansion and the Victorians of Humboldt County

I recently returned from a 4 day trip to Eureka in Humboldt County. Humboldt is near the very tippity-top of California. I was there to see the latest Cornerstone Theater Production, Jason in Eureka. Cornerstone created an original play specifically for the community of Eureka, ‘cause that’s what they do. But this play was of special interest to me because the themes were the very themes of this blog: making an old house into a livable home, gentrification, class identity, imperialism. More about the play in a later post. Today, it's about the houses.

Eureka is the site of The Carson Mansion, reputed to be one of the most photographed houses in America.
One's first view of the Carson Mansion inspires gasps –

Built for the lumber baron William Carson, the Carson Mansion was built in 1885 in an over-the-top Queen Anne style. It’s way over the top. Way. I imagine the architect coming to Mr. Carson with his first blueprint. "I want more," is Carson’s reaction. The architect goes away and returns with a new blueprint with "more." "I want more," is the response. The architect tries again and again the answer is the same until finally, more is enough.

I don’t know if that’s how it happened but it seems unlikely that house resulted from the architect’s first plan or that the extreme degree of design started with the architect.
From what I’ve read, Mr. Carson was a generous man who treated his employees well. But I can’t help but think that the excess of this house is about an expression of ego. It’s got to be, right? Or maybe he was just enthusiastic.

Maybe for all of us who put work into making our homes more glorious than how we found them, the end product is an expression of ego. Or maybe we’re all just enthusiastic about our homes. Or maybe both. There’s no law that says it can’t be both.

I was hoping to get a tour of the Carson Mansion but there are no public tours. The house is now owned by The Ingomar Club and is closed to the public. Apparently, that conforms to Mr. Carson’s wishes. I’ll have to content myself with the virtual tour on the Ingomar Club web site and remain one of the little people posing just outside the fence (but I am not one of those pictured below).

The Carson Mansion is the most famous Victorian in Eureka but the County is full of lovely (and livable) restored Victorians. This one, the Pink Lady, is right across the street from the Carson Mansion and is known as the Carson House -

In just driving around town we saw this treasure–

with all that cute, cute detail -

And this one, which seems to be an architectural doily -

And this one, which appears to be in the process of getting new front steps -

and then there was this one, whose lawn could use a good watering -

and then there was this colorful beauty -

How do these people keep up with the painting maintenance?

And in the neighboring community of Ferndale, another lovely town with more beautiful Victorians, we came across this Bed & Breakfast -

I know where I want to stay on my next visit -

Mmm. Delicious Gingerbread.


modernemama said...

Adding Eureka to the architectural tour of the USA I'm planning in my dreams

Why S? said...

I hope you make it there, Modernemama. I think you'll really like it. Architecture and redwoods too.

Jayne said...

Wow, the Carson Mansion is gorgeous! And those Painted Ladies--wow again!

NV said...

My. God. Those places are awesome. I wish my house had that kind of architectural detail. *Sigh. * Can’t say I’m hep on all of the colors though. (I’m meat and potatoes about food and clothing/paint colors. I know. Boring.)

If you care about your house and you’re crazy enough to take on all the projects that some of us are, I think it’s definitely an expression of ego. For all the insanity, there’s no kind of satisfaction quite like the satisfaction of saying, “Yeah, I did that.”

You made me laugh on the gingerbread reference. We were either at HD or Lowe’s about this time last year and the mother asked where their gingerbread was and the girl directed her to the CHRISTMAS stuff. Guffaw.

Anonymous said...

Oh I love these old houses. The Victorian period is my favorite.