A common RVing term is to refer to a regular home as “sticks and bricks.” We no longer have a “sticks and bricks”, having sold it in May, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a good home. We’ve seen two of them in the past week!
While staying near San Jose, California, we toured the Winchester Mystery House. This house has 160 rooms and we saw 110. We also saw stairs that went into the ceiling, doors that opened to nowhere, switchback stairs and on and on. The mystery is – why is the house so odd?
The prevailing theory is that Sarah Winchester, widow of the Winchester Rifle family heir, was very concerned about spirits and often held seances. She was told by a medium that she would be pursued by the spirits of those who fell victim to Winchester guns. She believed that she needed to find and continue to build onto a house to confuse the spirits that would try to find her. She started with an 8 room farmhouse outside of San Jose and construction continued 24/7 for 38 years, stopping only at her death in 1922. Obviously, she was perceived as being somewhat eccentric.
But, she was also very business savvy. She had plenty of money given her 1880’s $20,000,000 inheritance and $1000 per day stipend for life. Yet she operated 160 acres of land in orchards, selling prunes, so the estate was self sustaining. She had many innovative systems in her home and on her farm.
At 160 rooms and 24,000 square feet of mazed rooms and hallways, the Winchester House is dwarfed by the second “sticks and bricks” we toured!
Actually the Hearst Castle can’t rightly be called “sticks and bricks.” Due to earthquake concerns along the central California coast, the Hearst Castle is made almost entirely of reinforced concrete.
William Randolph Hearst’s family had camped on the hilltop overlooking the ocean for years and it was his favorite spot in the world. The family ranch stretched for thousands of acres along the coast up into the hills. As an adult, he had wanted to build “a little something” up there but his mother would not allow it because she felt he might over do it. She knew her son.
After his mother’s death, he contracted with a female architect in San Francisco and they worked together on the estate for 28 years. Building and furnishing continued until his death at age 88, and yet some still remains undone.
As a child Willie Hurst traveled with his mother to Europe and spent 18 months experiencing all the culture they could absorb. Much of his fascination with art and architecture began with that trip. The architecture of the castle and grounds is described as Mediterranean Gothic and the home is furnished with European art, much of which was purchased after World War II. One tour guide said that while Hearst encouraged people to “buy American”, he was buying half of Europe.
Of course, with his publishing and movie empire, the castle hosted all the important people of the day.
A few miles down the coast from the Hearst Castle is a rookery for elephant seals. There were 100s! It is calving season so there were quite a few babies. We definitely enjoyed that stop.
Another activity we enjoyed in this area of the coast was connecting up with friends from Boise. Friends Greg and Jackie were in the area for a vacation and invited us for dinner. We were then able to meet their friends, Joyce and Debra.
It is so great to see people from home while we are on the road!