Hi, I will post my essay about the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, USA.
Winchester Mystery House
I personally prefer Italianate or Stick Style for the affordability and their simplicity, but for some people who actually want to visit Victorian house in the Bay Area, I would like to Introduce Winchester House.
Winchester House is a tourist spot in San Jose, CA. (525 South Winchester Boulevard) You can drive to go or go with a tour bus from San Francisco. I am not but, but I think I can call as a Romanesque Revival of its 7 stories, massive structure. But it is surely Victorian style. It used to be a house of Mrs. Sarah L. Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, from 1884 until her death in 1922. She died when she was 82. What it attracts tourists about that was not exactly about the architecture and garden, but it is more about the story of Mrs. Sarah’s insane and cursed life. Sarah was never be a church woman, but rather spiritual. After her husband, and her daughter died, she inherited her husband fortune of his rifle and other companies. The house was cost $5,500,000. (of the 1884 money worth.) She was a paranoid by seeing ghosts and the fact that the fortune was coming from the rifle called, “Gun that Won the West”. She believed a spiritual medium that the lives of her husband and her baby daughter had been taken by the spirits of those who killed by the guns. The medium said to her that unless she would begin building a mansion for the spirits on which work would never stop nor ever be completed. She had kept building the mansion for 38 years, adding rooms from 18 rooms to 160 when she was dead. It was said that carpenters’ hammers were kept going day and night every day. I don’t think economically, I am able to live in the house like that, but it is a good example of money and house had changed people’s life.
I actually visited there in 1994, and I am reading and referring the catalogue and its website. I visited there with my friend, when my English was poorer than now, and I didn’t have much interest of architecture, but I was just amazed about Mrs. Sarah made interior design like an one of these ninja house (that trick enemies of samurai) in Japan. I want to know about it now, because my English became better, also I am more interested in architecture. She created the storage space that nothing would able to store. She put a sky-light frame by the room door that nobody would be able to walk in. There is a hidden door inside a wall to go up and down and hide from the spirits. There are several stairways that lead to nowhere, but ceilings. Even her servants got lost, because of the complexity of interior and numbers of hidden rooms. Many of her creations do not make sense, but assumingly she made it to scare the spirit away.
Technically, I think she knew very well of the fashion of architecture and interior design. it is beautiful of the use of the materials. She used the West African mahogany woodwork for the floor design, and the French Lincresta wall covering. Paneling was made with redwood, but painted to give the maple texture. She used stained glass for windows and doors. She also converted some of what we learned about mansard roof into the greenhouse by making 13 glass cupolas. She had a beautiful garden outside the house, but she also put plants that her servants used to take care, make them easier to get sunlight from the top of the towers. The house had limited central heating and relied primarily upon 47 fireplaces for warmth. Thirteen fireplaces were wood-burning; the other were gas burning. Ecologically speaking, for one woman with her servants, I think she consumed too much energy for warming up the huge mansion! Amazingly, even though she was not a professional architect, she had 3 elevators, two powered by water pressure, one by electricity, which was one of the first fully automatic elevators on the West Coast.
More interestingly, she placed Greek mythology statues and all kinds of flowers around the world. After knowing the fact of European influence of its mansion, the palm trees lining up in the garden look like California original insisted by her.
It is a historical site to show the architecture and garden, but many of the rooms are still incomplete, so with the tourist’s expense, I think they want to complete as she planned.