When I asked my friend Heather what she knew about the history of her charming old house on Calpella Street, she said, “Not much.” It was built in 1882, according to the plaque in the front window, and a couple years ago an elderly gent named Andy Brown came by with his niece to see the house in which he had grown up. She learned a bit from him, but was still in the dark about her house’s genealogy. As a Kelley House operative with access to its rich archives, I was in a position to help her. 

Two people stand outside a two-story house with a wooden fence in front

First, I looked in the museum’s Structures File, which has information on every address in Mendocino. There I learned that in April of 1881, William Heeser sold a lot on Little Lake to one Francisco Valadao. Mr. Valadao then engaged J.D. Johnson, the carpenter/undertaker who built many of Mendocino’s structures, to construct a house, which fronted on Calpella Street. I also learned that the Valenas bought the house in 1919, the Granskogs lived there in the 30s and 40s, and that Mamie and Joe Brown bought it in 1947.

With that info, I went to the Family Files: folders full of notes, photos, and newspaper clippings on nearly every family that ever lived here. The Valadao folder told me that Francisco Valadao came to California in 1876, when he was about 20, from the island of Flores in the Azores. His future wife, Maquelina Salvador, arrived in 1879, when she was 20, and they were married that year in Mendocino. Francisco was a teamster for the lumber company. He and Maquelina had nine or ten children over the next 15 years, eight of whom survived infancy. 

In 1919, Francisco and “Lina” moved to Oakland so she could be treated for diabetes. There they lived with one of their daughters, Carrie, then Mrs. Joe Fraga. Lina lasted another five years, dying in 1924—unfortunately, about the same time that insulin was made available to the general public—but Francisco lived on until 1938. 

The Valenas and some or all of their eight kids lived in the house in the 20s. Gaspar and Bernardina Valena married in Italy in 1908, came to the U.S. in 1909, and settled in Mendocino. Gaspar was a “laborer in a lumber yard.” At first, they lived “in the flats,” but purchased the Valadao house in 1919. We know that Bob Valena was a student in the 1926 Mendocino Grammar School class, but by the 1930 census, the Valenas had moved to Santa Rosa. 

Joseph and Albertina Granskog hailed from the Bothnian coast of Finland. They were married in San Francisco in 1906 and headed for Mendocino, where they moved in with Joseph’s sister, Sophia Burbeck, and her family on Albion Street. In 1909, Joseph opened the Eagle Saloon on Main Street (just west of where Out of This World is now), but his timing was lousy and he lost his business when Mendocino “went dry” later that same year. The Granskogs then returned to Finland with their son, Hugh. A daughter and son were born there in 1911 and 1913. 

Joseph returned to Mendocino in 1912, though Albertina and the children stayed behind, and he converted his old saloon into the Bay Front Garage, where he sold and serviced cars, and ran a transportation business. Apparently, however, he continued to sell hootch there too because he was arrested for “illicit selling of liquor” in June of 1913 and fined $100. After Joseph died of influenza in 1919, Albertina returned to Mendocino with their children in 1920. They lived in various places, including a property next to the Bay Front Garage, then being run by the two Granskog sons, and perhaps in the rented Valadao house, but it wasn’t until 1937 that Hugh Granskog’s father-in-law, J. L. Johnson, purchased the house.

Mamie and Joe Brown bought the house in 1947 from Johnson. Joe was the first Mendocino-born (1888) owner of the house and worked as a trimmer for the lumber company. The Browns had four kids (Betty Lou, Joe Jr., Andrew, and Blossom). Joe died in 1961, but Mamie not until 1993; shortly thereafter, her heirs sold the house to Heather’s family. It was Andy and his niece (Betty Lou’s daughter, Carolyn Schaller) who visited Heather and got her wondering about her house’s past. For a small donation, the Kelley House can do for you what we did for Heather!

If you would like to know more about your house’s genealogy, contact the Kelley House curator (curator@kelleyhousemuseum.org) and arrange a time to drop by. The Kelley House Museum is open from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM Thursday through Sunday. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly; for the tour schedule, visit www.kelleyhousemuseum.org.