The Brien House on the south side of Little Lake Road, southeast of the Joshua Grindle House, 1962. (Donated by Jeanette Hansen, Jeanette Mendosa Hansen Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

John Brien arrived in Mendocino in the winter of 1863-1864 at the age of 19. He worked on a ranch in Cuffeys Cove for a short time, but soon returned to Mendocino, where he worked for the Mendocino Lumber Company for 50 years, first on the river and later in the mill.

The Brien House was located just east of today’s Community Center on the south side of Little Lake Road. The year that the Brien House was built is unknown, but the first record of this home’s existence was in 1880, when L. J. Berry and family rented the Brien residence.

In 1888, the property was offered for sale at $1500 and described as a house with 2.25 acres adjoining the grammar school grounds. The offer included a barn and other outhouses and had “first class water,” a perfect title, and the possibility of subdividing the property into seven parcels. The Briens must not have been able to find a buyer, though.

The dwelling remained in the Brien family until 1919 when John’s widow, Mary Brien, sold the house to James and Edith Cruttenden who had recently moved to Mendocino from the San Francisco Bay Area. The Cruttendens attempted to sell the property in 1926, also unsuccessfully.

Title to the Brien House was granted to Edith in the 1930 Cruttenden divorce decree. Edith married Ernest Madeira in 1935 and resided in the Brien House until her death in 1957. Ernest remarried in 1959, and the following year, the State of California purchased the property from the Madeiras to make way for the relocation of Highway 1.

California only needed the land, not the buildings. A public auction was held in 1961 to sell the house, detached garage, four storage sheds, barn, chicken coop, water pressure system, and a TV antenna. Buyers were required to remove the buildings from the property within 6 weeks. The Brien House didn’t sell though – the house was demolished in 1964.

Walking Tours of Historic Mendocino – Join our expert docents for a stroll and lively commentary. You’ll pass by early pioneer homes, historic meeting places, and buildings that make up the the Mendocino Historic District.