This is not a love story.
One Sarah Pardee married one William Winchester in 1862. From there, the whole thing unravels.
The Winchesters only had one child, and that child did not live long. The entire Winchester fortune was attributed to Mr. Winchester’s father’s business. Winchester Repeating Arms Company gave us the repeating rifle. This company had a tangled affair with the Henry Rifle, Smith & Wesson and a variety of other arms manufacturers during the 1800s. The manufacturing and designs were all entwined with each other and several law suits and civil fights ensued. The end result was the Winchester Rifle, regardless of how it came about. Since this story is about Sarah, we will skip over the Henry and Winchester fight. Suffice it to say, the Winchester was active in all the wars that required arms and is known as the “Gun that Won the West”.
Sarah dropped into a deep depression after the loss of her child and after only 19 years of marriage, she was a widow. She was alone. Her father-in-law died the year before her husband. She had an expense account of $22,000 a day by 2008’s standards. Her inheritance amounted to 50 percent of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. This is where it went badly for Sarah.
Sarah was so lost that she began to give way to her deepest fears. She was so afraid that the family had been cursed by the history of the rifle, that she began to make some terrible choices. She consulted spiritualists in Boston who told her that she was being haunted by those that had fallen from the Winchester. She was told to move west and build a house that never ended. The only way that she could escape her tormenters was to build and to continue to build. If she stopped building, she would die.
She bought a home in San Jose and started building. She added rooms with one door, she put doors on the outside of the second story, she built narrow steps and steep stairs. She just kept building. She had no plans other than to trap spirits and confuse them. Her hallways go nowhere, her doors open to walls and her staircases ended at walls. Since her only objective was to build, then just build. There did not need to be a plan. She was obsessed with the number 13, and it figures throughout the house. Amazingly, she lived there until the earthquake of 1906 where the home was damaged and she was trapped in her bedroom for a bit. She believed the earthquake was unhappy spirits that were trying to get her to stop decorating and keep building.
The earthquake drove her out of the house until repairs could be made. The front foyer is still not repaired. She continued to build for 38 years. The construction stopped on the house when she died in her sleep at the age of 83.
Now, Sarah is a sad tale, however, Sarah had a garden.
Her obsession with the house translated into a magnificent garden and grounds surrounding the house. There are rose bushes there today that were her original rose bushes. She brought in exotic flowers and trees. She built gazebos to sit in the garden. She designed the garden with the Victorian mindset, which includes topiaries and bronze statues.
She kept plants that were used for medicinal use – much like today’s California plants for medicinal use – her persimmons and peonies were for headaches and upset stomachs. She used her roses for eye lotions. The home still has the original English yew tree by the garage and the elm tree in the back of the home.
She loved her daisies and the gardens are filled with daisies.
She built fountains to placate spirits. She has four fountains on the property. She built statues to also appease the spirits. Her Chief Little Fawn is the statue she created in hopes of appeasing the spirits of all the Native Americans that were gunned down by her guns. Chief Little Fawn died trying to protect his home.
She also had a water tower, her own little community within the home, a large orchard, luxury vehicles and a large group of buildings on the grounds.
She is a sad tale, but she left a huge legacy of oddities and collections for the rest of us to gawk over. Her magnificent gardens are well tended, and her home has become a tourist attraction. She left her home and the belongings to her niece who raided the place of much of the furnishings. The belongings have been scattered to the winds, so we may never know what Sarah truly owned.
Her home is now known as Winchester Mystery House and is open to the public.
The following photos are all c jcleveland from a collection of photos that I took when I toured the home.
This is from the side gate of Sarah’s home.
Like it or not Sarah, this display shows the Gun that Won the West
Sarah’s beloved daisies in amazing glass panels. This is the front door way.
I am thinking that is not a restful place to sleep.
This bedroom still has damage from the 1906 earthquake. It was never repaired.
Doors to nowhere, stairs to nowhere and other oddities.
The trip to the Winchester home was only one stop in the “As Seen on TV” Tour of 2008. I saw the Travel Channel special on the home and put it on my list of places to go if I ever get to California. Here is the link to the original episode. You may be able to see this on Hulu or Netflix.
Book your tour here http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/
Oh, and if you want to see Tiffany
I will apologize for the clarity and condition of the photos. This was not an easy place to shoot. There were many dark winding areas that did not offer much light for a good photo. The gardens are beautiful though and enjoy the ones I did manage to get.
A view from the top.
Enjoy the tour
Julie and Blu