If you are going to take a trip to San Francisco (or live in the area in the first place), you owe it to yourself to take a quick trip down to San Jose. Not just because it’s a funny name for a city, because the city itself isn’t as funny as the funny sounding name might lead you to believe, but because it’s got almost as much history as San Francisco has itself, and there’s no greater history (or mystery) to be found than the architectural singularity of the former home of the reclusive plutocrat Sarah Winchester who built the fabled Winchester Mystery House, formerly known as Sarah’s house.
Sarah Winchester was a really great lady, not just for what she did for the history and development of the very cleavage of San Jose’s silicone valley, but for her commitment to running a progressive and profitable farm. Sarah Winchester, the obscenely wealthy heir to the Winchester Rifle legacy, was not just an eccentric philanthropist and founding grandma of modern architectural insanity, but she was also a steadfast student of the school of technology and a business lady bent on making her farm world renowned, even (if not especially) because of the severely maddening magnitude of her other-earthly peculiar home.
She had a farm, she sold her dried fruits, she paid her workers well, but let’s get to the point already, that ain’t why she got famous one darned bit. Her claim to fame is that she built and owned one of the first mega-mansions and the only true to life mystery house known to the western world. I’m telling you man, the house she left for the tourists of the world is like nothing else you could ever hope to see, and you have to go see it right this minute, because it’s only open for a limited time.
From the time she bought the humble farm house until she died 38 years later, construction took place 24-hours a day, every day and night, and no one can tell you with absolute certainty as to why she did it.
With more windows than the Empire State Building and well over a mile of up-and-down stairs walking through the 110 publicly available (of 160 total) rooms, the house speaks of all kinds of American architectural bonkerness. She installed windows to walls, cupboards to hallways, stairs to ceilings, and installed the most gorgeous stained glass windows (many of which would cost a working many two to three years wages) in oddly hidden closets, annexes, attics and other such strange places.
In all fairness, the Winchester Mystery House, no matter how cool it is, really isn’t a place for guys my size. We get a bit bored on the tour, anxious only to run around all crazy-like, but kids from about age eight and up love it like crazy, indeed, like the very craziness it is, but there’s something for everybody. The thing I appreciated most was that Sarah herself was a modest 4’10”, and as a barely 3-footer myself, I found the proportions of the house to be roomy. The gigantadults around me on the tour suggested the scale might have been better suited to smaller people, but as a smaller person, I found that it all fit me perfectly well.
Above – From the shrubs to the lattice to the ivy to the groovy 70s color scheme, this house is as fancy as it is unique as it is peculiar as it is big.
If you have dozens of millions of dollars and are easily swayed by the passing suggestions of cut-rate psychics, I suggest strongly that you hear whatever it is that your goofy mind wants to hear, so long as it leads you to begin many decades of construction on a house that will never be appreciated by you, your servants, your one friend you’ll permit to enter, or your solitary attorney. It may seem like a huge waste of money, but don’t worry, it is. The upside to the equation is that you may very well buy your immortal place in the very dank and stanky crotches of history… annals, if you will.
Personally, my favorite part was the fountains, which, get this, squirt water out without end. I also liked the video game arcade. Come on, what can I say, I’m only three years old!
But the reason you need to go see it right now is because the house looks very differently than it did before the Great Quake of 1906. She rebuilt it quite differently, and even though it weathered the 1989 quake in uncommon form, it is in a quake laden hot zone. If the big one hits tomorrow (which many, prominent conspiracy theorists insist it absolutely will) the place may come down or suffer damages that close it forever to the public… you are the public, and this is your chance to witness utter and udder madness from the inside-out or outside-in or upside-down or rightside-up… I don’t know, man, it’s pure craziness here!
The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 S. Winchester Boulevard, San Jose and tours with seasonally adjusted hours. For current hours and admission fees, checkout their website at www.winchestermysteryhouse.com for all the info you could hope to suffer.
Above – I was tricked in to pointing to the house by a clever combo of coersion and photographic trickery. In truth I was really just pointing to the fountain, which — if you read the article you know — is my favorite thing about this wacked-out (e)State of Bonkerness.