Hay wagon with six horses in front of the Mansion House Hotel in Mendocino, c. 1882. Two women are standing on the second floor balcony and many men are posing in front of the hotel. The corner of J. D. Johnson’s undertaker business can be seen on the left. (Emery Escola, Emery Escola Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

In 1882, O. B. Ackerman, an architect and builder from Willets, built a 36′ x 68’ hotel for A. T. Rogers on the southwest corner of Little Lake and Lansing streets. 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.”

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. 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.

However, 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.

The Volunteers: History of the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department by Walt McKeown and Linda Wilson – Recounts the great fires since 1870, countless heroic rescues and the camaraderie and struggles involved in keeping an all volunteer force intact from 1887 to the present day. $15.