Our Collections


Photo Archives

The Kelley House has over 6,000 entries and over 4,000 photographs dating as far back as 1850. These  images, covering the entire Mendocino Coast and inland to Comptche, include schools, people and families, events, logging, railroads and ships, as well as scenes of community life from the county’s early days to recent years. A significant portion of this collection consists of original photographs collected by Nannie Escola with her son, Emery, from local photographers such as Perley Maxwell, H. Howard Wonacott, W.T. Fitch, Ira Perry and A. O. Carpenter.


The Artifact Collection consists of china, textiles and everyday objects such as bottles and medicines belonging to local Mendocino residents. Many of these objects made their way from the East Coast of the United States to Mendocino via San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Examples of these include the original Jerome Ford Family chinaware and Kelley Family clothing.


The Archive Collection includes maps, documents and other original sources from individuals and businesses on the coast. Historical maps include the original Sanborn Fire Insurance maps created in 1890, ledgers used by the Kent Family Ranch (Spring Ranch) listing products bought and sold in the 1880’s, employment records from the Caspar Lumber Mill, school registers from Mendocino area schools from 1884 – 1974 and many ledgers from the numerous hotels and businesses that operated on the Mendocino coast.

Research Library

The Research Library includes books and periodicals, files on families, towns and local subjects, telephone directories and The Mendocino Beacon on CD-ROM beginning in 1887. Unique periodicals include the Mendocino Robin, Ridge Review, Country Women, Big River News, to name a few. The Kelley House Genealogy resources consist of photographs, news clippings, obituaries and family documents. Also available are Census records, voter records, school registers and “Births and Deaths on the Mendocino Coast” from 1889 – 1989.

Special Collections

The following list represents just a few of the special collections housed at the Kelley House. It is far from inclusive and will continue to grow as records are cataloged.

Mendocino Historic Preservation District Inventory

In 1973, the town of Mendocino was designated a Historic Preservation District by the County of Mendocino. In 1975, the State Office of Historic Preservation decided to take a historic resources inventory and Mendocino Historical Reserach Inc. (Kelley House) was asked to inventory historic properties and sites in Mendocino. This collection contains the original resource materials and documentation of historic structures in the town of Mendocino researched and compiled by Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins and updated in 1999 by Eleanor Sverko. The collection surveys 86 buildings and sites and includes photographs, histories, site maps and real estate transactions.

Big River Conservation Project

News articles, letters, documents, videos and publicity materials, donated by Steve Antler, documenting the process and acquisition of Big River estuary from Campbell Hawthorne Timber Management Company in 1999 and the creation of Big River State Park in 2000.

Special Collections (continued)

Caspar Lumber Company Collection

Photographs, administrative papers, employments records and ledgers pertaining to the operations of the Caspar Lumber Company and the company town of Caspar which operated from 1861 to 1956. Included are deeds, mortgages, right of way agreements, land maps, journals, and registers donated to the KelleyHouse by the late Verda Wakerley. The collection also contains reproductions of historic logging photographs printed by Harry Wakerley.

Mendocino Headlands

Organizational papers, letters and news clippings documenting the movement, lead by Emmy Lou Packard and others, to create the Mendocino Headlands State Park from 1968 – 1972.

Mendocino Whale War

Articles of Incorporation, letters, posters, flyers and news clippings on the efforts of Byrd Baker and others to stop the killing of whales off the Mendocino Coast from 1974-1977.

Mendocino Incorporation Papers

This collection includes transcripts of LAFCO hearings, boundary maps, feasibility studies, general information and a scrapbook of news clippings of the efforts to incorporate Mendocino into a city in 1988.

Nannie Escola Collection

A collection of handwritten notes and newspaper clippings on ships and logging on the Mendocino Coast. Nannie, together with her son, Emery Escola, also collected hundreds of historical photographs of people, places, events and commerce as well as photographs of local photographers who worked here.

Emery Escola Collection

Glass negatives created by Mendocino photographer, Perley Maxwell in the early 1900’s as well as approximately250 historical photographs taken on the Mendocino coast. These images depict Mendocino life and the people who lived here as well as the ships, rivers and Point Cabrillo Lightstation.

Mendocino Ocean Sanctuary

News clippings from 1990 documenting the efforts of Mendocino county activists to designate the coast of Mendocino as an Ocean Sanctuary off limits to oil drilling and exploration.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Created in 1890 and updated in 1909 for William Heeser, the Sanborn Map Collection depicts the commercial, industrial and residential sections of Mendocino. The maps were designed by surveyor D.A. Sanborn to assist fire insurance agents in determining the degree of hazard associated with a particular property. These maps show the size and shape of buildings as well as the location of watertowers, tanks and other sources of water. The maps also indicate widths and names of streets, property boundaries, and building use.

Mendocino and the Movies

Hollywood filmed 58 films – 17 silent and 41 sound – on the Mendocino Coast from 1916 to 1994. Local resident and author of “Mendocino and the Movies”, Bruce Levene donated his collection of movie posters, large and small, from The Island of the Blue Dolphins to Pontiac Moon to the Kelley House to create this unique collection. Twenty nine movie and television scripts are included in this collection.