Golden Gate Bridge and Mystery Mansion

By | April 7, 2009

I liked seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It was a mostly sunny afternoon when we got there, and we intended to walk or bike across to get the full experience. But we took the wrong exit or something and so we ended up below the bridge, looking up at it. I took a few pictures, sat and admired it for awhile, and then we were back on our way, to San Jose.

The Winchester Mansion in San Jose is an amazing place with many oddities. The introduction on the website goes like this, “In 1884, a wealthy widow named Sarah L. Winchester began a construction project of such magnitude that it was to occupy the lives of carpenters and craftsmen until her death thirty-eight years later.”

Basically, Mrs. Winchester believed in spirits, and thought that in order to appease them her house needed to be worked on 24/7. She had her workers build both strange and beautiful things, the former to confuse the bad spirits, and the latter probably because she had the money, a $20,000,000 inheritance. For example, there are staircases that lead to solid ceilings, cupboards that are only a few inches deep, elaborate stained glass windows, and intricate woodwork.

The place is now a marvel to tour—a rambling collection of rooms and interesting things to see.

This is a picture of a picture of the mansion. You can only see a tiny bit of the front. The building extends to the side and back for a long ways. In addition to the gardens and fountains you can see, there are also gardens in the back that contain many exotic plants. The Winchester Firearms Museum, “one of the largest Winchester Rifle collections on the West Coast,” is also in the back of the house. I’m not all that interested in guns, but I did take a look at them.

While you are allowed to wander the gardens and the museum on your own, you have to be part of a tour group to check out the inside of the mansion. They say it’s because they don’t want you to get lost in the many winding rooms…

So Tom and I signed up for the 65 minute Mansion Tour. This brought us through 110 rooms and let us see things like “a window built into the floor, staircases leading to nowhere, a chimney that rises four floors, doors that open onto blank walls, and upside down posts,” among other things.

Our tour guide was a chubby young man who tried too hard to be funny and failed miserably. He kept telling canned jokes and then reminding us we were supposed to laugh, after being greeted by embarrassed silence. Eventually people caught on and gave him the little fake laugh every time they thought it appropriate. He was sporadic in what he showed us, giving us lots of time in one room, with plenty of (read too much) explanation about what we were looking at, and then hustling us through the next five rooms with barely a word.

So the tour wasn’t very good, but the mansion and everything in it was really neat. Unfortunately, I think it took away from the mystery to be guided through. Part of the beauty of the place would be doing your own exploring. That way you would have to discover on your own which stairs lead to nowhere and which doors open into thin air, etc. I think that would be much more exciting than being herded through like a group of cows being told where everything is.

Anyway, here are a couple shots from inside the mansion. The lighting was very low, so a lot of my pictures came out blurry. So if you want to see more, you’ll have to go there yourself!

Elaborate woodwork in the ballroom. I set the camera on the floor and did a long exposure so the details would be more clear. Too bad half the picture ended up being floor instead of wall! (I cropped the floor, but I couldn’t add more wall.) Then I had to run to catch up with the rest of the group.

This is an incredibly expensive Tiffany Stained Glass Window. It costed more than most people paid for an entire house back in the day. It’s set in a north-facing wall, so it never sees sunlight—another of Mrs. Winchester’s strange ideas.

Finally, here’s an old-fashioned wood-rimmed tub!

Hope you enjoyed my tour! Come back again soon!

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One thought on “Golden Gate Bridge and Mystery Mansion

  1. joan j

    I’ve heard of this mansion, it’s so cool to get a glimpse of it. I agree that it’d be fun to take an unguided tour of it!

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