Group of people standing around a tennis net with buildings in the background

March 25, 1896 – A tennis tournament was held on the property that is now the Mendocino Art Center. The Beacon reported, “The strife for the supremacy in the tennis contest last Saturday was a very interesting affair, and highly exciting at times. Our sporting reporter was present from the tossing of the coppers, and states that during the first inning Julius Allen and his accomplice were the victors. Their victory was, however, short lived, a new deal was called, and another couple went to bat. Professor Townsend showed a tendency to crowd his opponents into the rope – or the fish-net affair that separated the combatants – and the referee had to caution him in regard to fouling. First blood was awarded to Professor Stuckey and his pal, but they had evidently been overtrained, and could not keep up the rattling pace, and were finally compelled to rotate from the ring. The referee declared Professor Townsend and Miss Mollie Norton the victors.”

This is a photograph of the tennis tournament held March 25, 1896 on the Lauriston A. Morgan property (site of the Mendocino Art Center in 2022), located between Little Lake and Covelo Streets. The names of the people are listed on the back of the photo. Best estimate matching them to those in the photo are, left to right: Etta Norton, Elsie Maxwell, Julius Allen, Unidentified, Debo Wallace, Chas Morgan, Allie Switzer, Byron Clark, Mr. Collins – School Principal, Oleva Clark, Irving Townsend – Assistant High School Principal, Mollie Norton (Moore), Florence Jarvis, and S. F. Stuckey. The child in front is unidentified.

The Kelley House Museum has documented five tennis courts in town, starting here at the Morgan residence on Little Lake Street in 1892. While it became the site of the Art Center in the 1960s, from 1890 until it was destroyed by fire in 1956, a large mansion occupied the site. Its outbuildings included a glass conservatory, a carriage house (which became the Art Center’s main gallery), an elaborate water tower and windmill in the northwest corner, and enough flat lawn in front of this small barn to set up a court and net. By 1896, enthusiasm for the game had grown enough to organize the Lawn Tennis Club composed of 17 members, with Mr. Morgan as president.

The 1.5-story barn behind the players is located east of the mansion. While the barn isn’t evident on the 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, the structure does appear on subsequent ones starting in 1894, and also on the 1898, 1909, and 1929 maps. On the hill to the right is the Mendocino High School, built in 1894, and its very tall water tower. Note the row of cypress trees planted as a windbreak behind the barn and to its right. This site was near the highest elevation in Mendocino. (Gift of Evelyn Larkin, The Evelyn Larkin Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

New Exhibit! Neighbors Across the Pond – Vintage Photographs & Objects from the Ford & Kelley Family Collections. Exhibit includes glass bottles, dolls, and clay pipes excavated from the historic Kelley Pond. Thursdays through Sundays, 11 am to 3 pm. Located at 45007 Albion Street, Mendocino.