The Kelley House still has one of the best views in town, only fitting for a house built to lure a bride from the bustling civilization of Canada’s Charlottetown to the untamed wilderness of Mendocino. It worked, and Mrs. Kelley lived in this lovely home for the rest of her long life. Its gardens and lawns sweep down toward Main Street, with the ocean waves beyond.
A journey back in time through Mendocino history in beautifully preserved 1850’s home
You’ll feel as if you are back in those long-ago pioneer days when you step into the Kelley House. Though built by a wealthy man, the house has a homey feel, and the rooms are cozier than you might expect. The many tall windows take advantage of the scenery. Upstairs, you’ll find furniture and artifacts belonging to the Kelley family in their former bedrooms. Look for the daughters’ initials scratched into the glass of their bedroom window.
In addition to the permanent collection showcasing Mendocino’s past, there are special, rotating exhibits throughout the year, usually with a theme and often paired with a Sunday afternoon talk which complements or expands on the exhibit. Recent exhibits highlighted historic cookbooks, Victorian fashions, shipwrecks, and a fascinating collection of items found in Kelley House pond when it was drained and restored, including bottles, pipes, and small china dolls known as Frozen Charlottes. These dolls were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, and depicted a young girl who refused to cover her ball gown with a coat when attending a New Year’s ball and did not arrive alive at the festivities. A rather curious choice for a child’s toy!
You can learn more historical oddities during the Kelley House’s popular and entertaining walking tours of the village. A knowledgeable docent leads the tour, replete with scandal, gossip, and intrigue, all in this small and beautiful town. Don’t miss the MacCallum House, Mr. Kelley’s wedding gift to his daughter, which boasted the town’s first “sprinkle bath” (shower). Now an inn and restaurant, it is still a showcase. The church Mr. Kelley built to keep his pious wife out of his business affairs is now an organic food store.
The Kelley House Museum is located at 45007 Albion Street in the village of Mendocino. The museum is open from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm Friday through Monday. Walking tours are on Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:00 am. No reservation is necessary. The walking tours last about two hours and cost $10 per person. Call (707) 937-5791 for more information.