Copy of a Carleton Watkin’s photograph of the Mendocino Headlands showing the Freundt and Ford House on the south side of Main Street, c. 1863. View is to the northwest, with the Mendocino Bay behind the camera.

The Freundt House is on the left and the Ford House is on the far right. The Ford water tower can be partially seen on the far right. Buildings in-between are unidentified. The area between the two houses was cultivated gardens and pastures. Structures in the middle horizon are along Main Street. (Carleton E. Watkins (photographer), Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

The Freundt house sat on the Mendocino bluffs, on the south side of Main Street, overlooking Mendocino Bay. This house was built around 1855-56 by the Mendocino Lumber Company, and John Freundt lived there while keeping the company records.

“Mr. Freundt, a Frenchman and early partner . . . had a fine house handsomely furnished, a beautiful set of dishes, and kept a French couple, the woman to cook and the man for a gardener. The garden was a delight. It was laid out in many beds, with choice shrubs, roses, the finest selection even at this date, bulbs of various sorts. Outside the flower garden the grounds were quite formally planned and hedged with wild lilac. There were walks around the bluff with seats for resting in secluded nooks, wide paths from the house to the duck pond. On the side were strawberry beds, currants, red, white and black raspberries, sorrel for soup and salad, artichokes and various herbs we didn’t know the use of. The main house was separated from the kitchen and servants’ rooms. This part was later used for a private school when the Denslow family lived in the other portion of the place.” — From “Childhood Memories of Catherine Ford Rea (Being an account of growing up in Mendocino, California from 1857 to 1888).”

Charles Denslow was the lumber company’s bookkeeper, and he and his wife, Elmina, lived in the Freundt House after Mr. Freundt. The house, which also served as Denslow’s office, became well known to employees of the lumber company as he issued their paychecks at the end of each month there.

Over the years, other families, including Charles & Kate Knight and Elmer & Claire Strauss, lived in this home. By mid-1960, most of the company buildings on the south side of Main Street had been demolished, and in August 1960, the Freundt house was slated for demolition.

However, by the next spring, the plans for the destruction of the building had changed. The Beacon reported that on March 18, 1961, “Mendocino’s Historic Main st., was filled with cars double parked from Lansing to Kasten streets late Saturday afternoon, the news having got around that the old company dwelling on the ocean bluff was to be burned under the direction of Mendocino’s Volunteer Fire Department. The fire was started several times, and then extinguished by the fire boys to test their firefighting methods. […] However, when the firemen ceased their efforts at fire-fighting, the blaze towered in to the sky and was visible for a good distance.”

Visit our interactive digital exhibit, “South of Main: Discovering the Lost Buildings of the Mendocino Headlands.”