December 9, 1882 – The formal opening of the Mansion House was celebrated with a Grand Ball. This large hotel was located on the southwest corner of Little Lake and Lansing streets and was constructed by Willits architect and builder O. B. Ackerman for proprietor A. T. Rodgers.

The Beacon described the hotel as “three stories in height and well built. On the first floor at the right of the entrance is the general sitting room, on the left the ladies parlor, further on is the dining-room, kitchen, bath-room, with hot and cold water, and other offices of the house. On the second floor are some ten bedrooms well furnished, the two front rooms being large, with bay windows and fireplace. On the upper floor are some twelve rooms, all of good size and with large windows admitting plenty of light and air.” The dormer windows in the upper story offered a fine view of the ocean.

Three story hotel

Mansion House Hotel, c. 1882. Hay wagon pulled by six horses is stopped in front of the Mansion House Hotel in Mendocino. Two women are standing on the second floor balcony, and many men are posing in front of the building. The corner of J. D. Johnson’s undertaking business can be seen on the left. A very tall flagpole is in front of the hotel near the street. The hotel’s water tower is barely visible at the left rear of the building. (Gift of Emery Escola)

By 1899, the hotel was owned by John Miller, who had acquired the property through foreclosure on a mortgage. In the early morning hours of July 4th, 1899, a fire began inside the Mansion House, and quickly spread to the rest of the town, resulting in the community’s second-largest fire. Burning embers blew as far south as Little River, and the volunteer fire department had its hands full as buildings to the south, east, and west of the hotel caught fire. In the end, only the hotel and its stable, along with two nearby residences, were lost. The Beacon noted that all of these buildings were insured.

In 1983, Don Burleson wrote in his Mendocino Memories column, “Jim O’Donnell, then a small boy living across Lansing Street, remembers the occasion. Arson was suspected and Jim says he and his mother saw, in the morning darkness, a man running from the building before the alarm was sounded.”

The insurance company for the Mansion House claimed that the fire was caused by arson and refused to pay. Miller sued, and in 1906, seven years after the fire, the court ruled that the insurance company had been unable to prove arson and awarded Miller the insurance amount plus interest, totaling $7,000.

New Exhibit! Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mendocino Historical Research Inc., now known as the Kelley House 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 to preserve the town’s many stories and artifacts. On display are some of the earliest donations made to MHRI: census records from the 1860s, clothing from the Kelley family, the Ford family’s Bible, materials from Bear & Stebbins’ first exhibit “Mendocino Homes,” Anne Kendall Foote’s bespoke wallpaper reproductions, and photographs of the activists whose labor restored the house and whose contributions have supported the Kelley House over the years. 45007 Albion Street, Mendocino. Thursday-Monday, 11am – 3pm. Now until February 26.