Kelley House Museum ~ Exhibits

The Kelley House Museum is proud to present current, online and in person exhibits. Each one contributes to the rich history of the Mendocino Coast.


Kelley House Museum: Building a Home

Exhibit runs through February 26th, 2024

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mendocino Historical Research, Inc., now known as the Kelley House Museum. Building a Home pays tribute to the people who had the vision and determination to turn a dilapidated old house into a research center and museum. Meet founders Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins, who moved to Mendocino, fell in love with local history, then galvanized a community to establish a research center in order to preserve the town’s many stories and artifacts. On display in the exhibit will be some of the earliest donations made to the organization: census records from the 1860s, clothing from the Kelley family, the Ford family’s Bible, materials from Bear & Stebbins’ first exhibit, Mendocino Homes, and Anne Kendall Foote’s bespoke wallpaper reproductions.


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Mendocino Water Towers

Enjoy this eight-minute video tour of Mendocino’s water towers from 1880 – 2023. Historic and contemporary photographs of these iconic structures highlight the beauty and majesty of these famous landmarks.

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The Kelley Family

Meet the Kelley Family: parents William and Eliza, and their four children, Daisy, Russell, Elise, and Otis, along with their extended family. A beautiful, hand-embellished family tree helps visitors understand their relationships to each other. Among the exhibit’s highlights is a one-of-a-kind scrapbook with postcards, clippings, snap shots, and other memorabilia that reveal scenes from the family’s everyday life.

Look Tin Eli: The Mendocino Visionary Who Helped Shape the Chinese American Experience @ kelley house museum virtual exhibit

Look Tin Eli

The life of Mendocino-born visionary Look Tin Eli was one of national significance. As a teenager returning home from China in 1884, his illegal detention instigated a court battle, culminating in the state’s legal precedent granting full citizenship for all native-born Californians. This story, which starts with one man from a small coastal town, will take us from frontier California into the mid-twentieth century and illustrates the struggle for full citizenship by Chinese and Japanese immigrants.

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Angela Lansbury, Murder She Wrote 

During her career, Angela Lansbury featured in 60 films, 49 television series and movies, 21 stage productions, 2 radio shows, and 2 video games (for her voice acting as Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast). She received numerous awards throughout her career including 6 Golden Globe Awards, 6 Tony Awards (including a lifetime achievement award), a Laurence Olivier Award, and an Honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievements. She was also nominated for 3 Academy Awards, 18 Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Grammy Award.

One of the roles for which Angela Lansbury received the greatest recognition was as Jessica B. Fletcher in the TV series Murder, She Wrote, filmed in Mendocino.

south of main street exhibit

South of Main Street

Once a coastal prairie, then a bustling rail and lumberyard ringed by stores and houses, the south side of Main Street in Mendocino is now devoid of buildings. This exhibit uses historic photos and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to reveal the 20 buildings that used to line the south side of the street, including a jewelry store, Chinese stores, dwellings, a post office, and meat market.

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From Stump to Ship: Logging in Mendocino. 1852-1945

The California Gold Rush of 1849 created a building boom with lumber needed for houses, bridges, mining structures, and fences.  The size of old growth redwood trees, which are among the tallest on earth, made them prized timber. This slideshow explains how a tree was felled, milled into lumber, and then loaded onto ships that carried it to all parts of the world during Mendocino’s early years.

Video Tour of Kelley House Museum Second Floor

Because of the historic nature of the Kelley House, there is no elevator to the second floor. We asked students from Mendocino High School’s tech department to create a virtual tour so that those who aren’t able to access the upstairs exhibits can learn about the treasures within the Kelley family members’ bedrooms. We hope you enjoy their work and appreciate the interest they took in this project.


woven baskets

Pomo Basket Collection

Pomos lived along the Mendocino Coast for thousands of years prior to European settlement in 1850. On loan from the California Indian Museum are six examples of decorative gift and utilitarian baskets belonging to the Daisy Kelley MacCallum Collection.

then and now exhibit

Then and Now Photo Exhibit

“Then and Now” exhibit portrays the town of Mendocino and its surroundings by comparing scenes photographed approximately 100 years apart. The original photographs, taken by local, amateur photographer Perley Maxwell, were printed by the 2002 Mendocino High School photography class. The students then took modern day digital images of the same locations. These revealing images show how things have changed and how some things may never change.

The Frolic Shipwreck

In 1850, the Baltimore-built Clipper Frolic, en-route to Gold-Rush San Francisco from China, wrecked on a reef just north of today’s Point Cabrillo Light Station. Her story is among the most fascinating in California shipwreck history and is called “the most significant shipwreck on the west coast” by historians. Artifacts and interpretive materials from the shipwreck of the Frolic are on permanent exhibit.

We invite you to check out our online book store with over 30 titles devoted exclusively to Mendocino’s fascinating history.