A mansion that would befit any Victorian Ghost story is in our own backyard! Please read the fascinating description of the house from their website that I copied below. Under that will be the Meet-Up details.
Winchester’s Building Methods
According to legend, Mrs. Winchester enacted a nightly séance to help with her building plans and for protection from “bad” spirits. While she sometimes drew up simple sketches of the building ideas, there were never any blueprints….or building inspectors! In the morning, she would meet with John Hansen, her dutiful foreman, and go over new changes and additions.
During the early years of construction, this resulted in some awkward and impractical concepts such as columns being installed upside down – though some suggest this was done deliberately to confuse the evil spirits.
But this is how the Winchester Mystery House™ became known as “the house built by the spirits.” John Hansen stayed with Mrs. Winchester for many years, redoing scores of rooms, remodeling them one week and tearing them apart the next.
It is doubtful whether John Hansen ever questioned his boss. Mrs. Winchester may have been trying to confuse evil spirits, or simply making mistakes, but there were no budget ceilings or deadlines to meet. This resulted in many features being dismantled, built around, or sealed over. Some rooms were remodeled many times. It is estimated that 500 rooms to 600 rooms were built, but because so many were redone, only 160 remain. This naturally resulted in some peculiar effects, such as stairs that lead to the ceiling, doors that go nowhere and that open onto walls, and chimneys that stop just short of the roof!
Once a room was completed, and most importantly, not targeted for further alterations, it was adorned with some of the best furnishings money could buy. Mrs. Winchester appreciated beauty, and she was a woman with exquisite taste. Freight cars loaded with gold and silver plated chandeliers, imported Tiffany art glass windows then valued up to $1,500 each, German silver and bronze inlaid doors at twice that amount, Swiss molded bathtubs, rare precious woods like mahogany and rosewood, and countless other items were docked onto a side track at San Jose. Everything was then transported to the house where much of the material was never even installed. At the time of Mrs. Winchester’s death in 1922, there were rooms full of ornate treasures still waiting to find a niche in the massive home.
Among the most remarkable features of the house are the parquet floors. One craftsman worked for thirty-three years doing nothing but building, installing, and tearing up the floors! They are made of mahogany, rosewood, teak, maple, oak and white ash, arranged in impressive mosaics. Mrs. Winchester’s favorite bedroom, the one in which she died, has a notably special floor. It is laid so that the sunlight streaming through the windows appears to change the dark strips to light, and then back again, when viewed from the opposite ends of the room.
Though Mrs. Winchester could be very frugal in her approach to building, at times she was extravagant as a person could be. The mansion’s dazzling art glass windows are a good example of her exquisite taste. Many were made to order in Austria and imported by Tiffany’s of New York. They are spectacularly designed, utilizing both concave and convex glass “frames” inset with glittering “jewels.” Mrs. Winchester herself designed the special daisy and spiderweb patterns that are embedded in many of the window. The daisy was her favorite flower, and some believe the spiderweb pattern had a special occult meaning for her.
The finest cabinetmakers toiled for years, using richly polished woods, to create built-in chests with deep drawers and tremendous bins and lockers. Inside were stored the rarest satins and silks; hand-embroidered linens from China, Ireland, and the Philippines; and bolt upon bolt of elegantly woven cloth from Persia and India. Legend has it that Mrs. Winchester bought whole bolts of material so that nobody else in the valley would have the same pattern.
Hall of Fires
Because of the mansion’s immense size, it contained forty-seven fireplaces and seventeen chimneys. One rambling section in particular, the Hall of Fires, was designed to produce as much heat as possible – perhaps to ease Mrs. Winchester’s extreme arthritis. In addition to many windows that let the sunlight stream through, the three adjoining rooms have four fireplaces and three hot air registers from the coal furnace in the basement.
The Grand Ballroom
Mrs. Winchester’s elegant Grand Ballroom is built almost entirely without nails. It cost over $9,000 to complete at a time when an entire house could be built for less than $1,000! The silver chandelier is from Germany, and the walls and parquet floor are made of six hardwoods – mahogany, teak, maple, rosewood, oak, and white ash.
The most curious element of the Grand Ballroom are the two leaded stained glass windows, each inscribed with a quote from Shakespeare. The first, “Wide unclasp the table of their thoughts,” is from Troilus and Cressida (IV:5:60). The lines are spoken by Ulysses, and refer to Cressida’s sometimes flirting nature. The second, “These same thoughts people this little world,” is from Richard II (V:5:9). The imprisoned Richard means that his thoughts people the small world of his confinement. Nobody knows for certain what these lines meant to Mrs. Winchester. While they apparently held some special meaning for Mrs. Winchester, their significance remains a mystery today.
Ironically, the ballroom was probably never used to hold a ball. According to one story, Mrs. Winchester once heard that a celebrated orchestra was performing in San Francisco. She invited the musicians to play at her home, but scheduling conflicts prevented the visit. In any case, Mrs. Winchester sealed off the ballroom after the earthquake of 1906.
Excited yet?! We get an amazing discount ($19 per person instead of the normal $30) for a group of 15 or more (7 day advance notice is required) so please RSVP at least a week before the meet-up so I can make arrangements for us. Children under 5yrs old are free with a paying adult.
**Please note, due to the architecture, the mansion tour does not accommodate wheelchairs or strollers (though the Garden Tour does).**
Also, they say this mansion is haunted and sightings/experiences are very common so please be prepared (a Black Tourmaline crystal and/or a fearless attitude will be sufficient).
Disclaimer: If you RSVP yes for this event, you agree not to hold the organizer and group of Adventures in History legally or financially liable for any damages incurred by accidents and/or damage to property (personal or from the site) while attending the Meet-up. You also agree to follow the rules of the site/event we are visiting.