Historic Buildings and Water Tower

South side of Albion Street, 1966. Double tank water tower and surrounding structures on the south side of Albion Street near the corner of Kasten Street. At this time, the water tower housed an artist’s studio. The building to the left was a laundromat, then later the “Compass Rose.”

April 25, 1965 – Artist Esther Nichols was killed in a tragic traffic accident on Interstate 5 near Albany, Oregon. She had traveled to Oregon to deliver a stained glass window she had completed for a church there and to attend a religious retreat in Beaverton. Esther was on her way back to her home in Mendocino when the accident occurred. A rear tire on the car she was driving blew out, causing the small sports car to careen out of control into the freeway median, hit a culvert, and roll over several times.

Esther had visited Mendocino in 1964 to take Dorr Bothwell’s Color and Design course. While she was here, Bill Zacha was converting the water tower located on Albion Street near Kasten (most recently occupied by Loot & Lore) into a novel home. The space was described by the Beacon as “three levels, each with a practically 360 degree visibility through the windows. The tiny top floor room can look out over Mendocino, all the way to the ocean.” The levels were connected by a spiral metal staircase that arrived in pieces “like a great tinker toy set,” and a group that included Ted and Jean Spazek, Jim and Anna Louise Myers, Bob and Sue Erlenkotter, Chuck Stevenson, Dorr Bothwell, Erma Gillaspie, Jennie and Bill Zacha, and Esther helped install the staircase.

The water tower became Esther’s studio and home. People were so curious about the finished tower that she proposed a studio tour for the 1964 Mendocino Art Center Fair. The tour, which also included the studios of Dorr Bothwell and Charles Stevenson, was the highlight of the fair, with 172 people touring the three studio apartments.

Esther was an enthusiastic member of the Mendocino Art Center and devoted many hours to assisting with major projects and working in the gardens. In addition to her volunteer work at the Art Center, Esther was involved in Catholic Action and St. Anthony’s Guild and taught weekly catechism classes for young children. A special mass was celebrated at St. Anthony’s Church in Esther’s memory, and she was buried next to her husband in Denver, Colorado.

Join us for a special tribute to the beloved actress Angela Lansbury on Friday, May 5, 5pm-8pm. The evening begins with a hosted reception at the Blair House Inn, followed by a screening of clips from Angela Lansbury’s career at the Matheson Theater. $60 Members, $70 for General Public.