Welcome to Kelley House Museum!

About the Kelley House Museum

The mission of the Kelley House Museum is to collect, preserve and share the rich history of the Mendocino Coast. Founded in 1972, Kelley House Museum, Inc. maintains a beautiful house museum and gardens, as well as the Mendocino Coast’s only museum-quality storage facility and staffed research office. Our research archives represent over 150 years of Mendocino coastal history. Collections include historic photo collections, local genealogical data, research documents and publications. Over 3000 entries of maps, documents, books, photographs, oral histories and artifacts from our collection are searchable through our site.

The Kelley House Museum is an historic house museum in the heart of Mendocino, California, a picturesque town of 1,000 people. The home was built in 1861 by William Kelly (sp), one of Mendocino’s founding fathers, and now contains 19th Century furniture. The ocean-view home sits on an acre of gardens, with a pond and three resident geese. William had the pond built and stocked so that the neighborhood children could fish.

Did You Know?

We offer Walking Tours of the Mendocino National Historic Preservation District. Tours leave from the Kelley House Museum every Saturday and Sunday at 11 am, and last for 1 1/2 hours.

History Mystery

Mendocino Teenagers

Mendocino Teenagers

This photograph was taken around 1958. It belonged to a collection of photographs from Dee Lemos, who taught English at Mendocino High School for many years. It is probably the Art Department at the High School but who are these fellows?


Father Time and the Maiden Big River Logjam Racing on the Mendocino Headlands in the 1930s The J.M.Griffith in Mendocino Bay Kwan Tai Temple Loggers working a Tall Redwood Closeup of Loggers on a Redwood Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Wells Fargo Stage in Mendocino Logging Camp on Big River

Around the House
—Director’s Blog—

“A Sunday Afternoon With”

August 11th, 2014 by Staff

It’s not often a tiny town on the Mendocino Coast becomes the focus of an anthropologist writing a Masters thesis…but that’s what happened in Comptche!



Hippies Sign


“Finding Common Ground” is Lisa Gruwell Spicer’s in depth look at the back-to-the-land hippie immigration into Comptche in the 1970’s and she will share her stories August 24 at 4 p.m. in the Kelley House Museum at “A Sunday Afternoon with Lisa Spicer.”.

In the early 70s, immigrants (hippies) brought conflict and new ideas to Comptche. How was a Finnish old timer to react when “we’d go down to our favorite swimming hole and there were a bunch of nudies down there?” But some of the ideas the newcomers brought, like consensus thinking, were useful.

Come and be fascinated at “A Sunday Afternoon With” on August 24th, with Lisa Gruwell Spicer at the Kelley House Museum. A seven dollar donation is requested.

Change and History

August 5th, 2014 by Staff

Horse Team With Wagon

One of the common remarks from visitors coming to the Kelley House Museum is “This whole town is a scene from the past. It’s like nothing has changed from the old days.” While it’s true that much has been preserved, it could hardly be less accurate that nothing has changed. Our entire economy, the routines of daily life, and especially the ways we communicate have all been dramatically transformed in the last several decades. Great effort has been made to conserve our historic homes and buildings, and as a result we retain that charming atmosphere of a bygone era. That is a part of our history, yet history itself is a record of constant revision, evolution and adaptation.

If you browse through the extensive vintage photo collection in the Kelley House Museum archives, you will see stately buildings where now there are none, houses now moved or altered (some radically, as in adding a second story) and once-muddy roads and fields, today replaced by neat sidewalks and paved parking lots. The constant hum of our electrified and “networked” world (which we barely notice) was totally absent not so long ago. When the sun went down at the end of a day, the soft glow of lamps and candlelight appeared in windows. Fires were lit to warm the house and cook meals, and books were read or conversations held to wind down the evening. If our ancestors could see us today, they would likely be puzzled to see so many people walking the streets, heads down, intent on small, luminescent screens in their hands. How amazed they would be to learn that the screens connect us to nearly all of the information in libraries around the world, provide the latest news within seconds, amuse us, link us instantaneously to our friends wherever they are, and on and on.

While history is yesterday and may seem distant to some, it remains relevant in that it reminds us of the road we’ve traveled. It reflects the good and the bad: the great ideas, and the mistakes. It informs and instructs us. It is well worth preserving.

The Kelley House Museum is unique in this region as a trusted custodian of the stories, images, and artifacts unique to the Mendocino Coast. As we move forward, we at the Kelley House are planning exciting changes, with the full awareness that we must continue to honor the traditions and sensibilities so distinguishing of this marvelous place.