This article was originally published in the Mendocino Beacon on May 29, 1975. We reprint it here to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kelley House.
The first open house at Kelley House last weekend was an auspicious occasion in the sense that it surely was a good omen for the future. The sun shone, the Mendocino High School Band played, the American Flag was presented (by Don Carpenter for the American Legion to James O’Donnell for Mendocino Historical Research), old-timers sat on the benches to enjoy the ceremonies, the garden path beckoned some, children tumbled on the grass, and the ice-cream and lemonade stands were busy.
Stationed inside the Main Street gate on the old driveway, Alden Rice, in duster and cap, was ready in his 1914 Chalmers, painted Brewster green (its first owner was John Ross, superintendent of the Mendocino Lumber Company), to take people for a spin around town. For two days, he drove happy passengers around the streets as they waved at bystanders and tooted at friends. A modest fellow, Alden never will toot his own horn regarding his place in Mendocino’s history. His grandfather Rice was a pioneer of the 1850’s and his grandfather Milliken was a prominent early doctor.
Responsible for the success of the weekend were many members and friends beginning with Helen Bedell and Barbara Bird (an MHR board member), who answered a plea for volunteers to help scrub down walls and windows. What a job that was! Kathy Neigum contributed a large can of Amway window cleaner that, having done its work, exposed a name scratched on one window: Elise.
Charlene Wills acted as coordinator for planning and secured the lemonade dispensers: Barbara Dennis, Alicia Corvin and Tim Furey. Gardeners Bonnie Key and Lea Anderson neatened the grounds, and Lea provided the blue table and benches. She also supplied the home-canned blackberries for the ice-cream, and it was so delicious and popular that, for the next party, they will make twice as much. Blayne Link and Betty Adams assisted on Sunday.
Indoors, the main attraction was Nannie Escola’s fine collection of ship pictures. The exhibit was titled “Ships of the Redwood Coast” and was on two walls, one devoted to “sailers,” the other to “steamers.” Two model ships added to the interest of the display: Herman Fayal’s schooner Bobolink and James O’Donnell’s steamer Cacique. Toni Lemos was chief hostess in that room, assisted by Connie Gomes, Florence Dahl and Anne Foote.
In the library room, visitors were welcomed on Saturday by Aldine Gorman, on Sunday by Elspeth Smith and Mamie Mendosa. Mamie was wearing not one but two beautiful watches that belonged to her aunt Etta Hatch Gordon. Ruth Eshelman’s scrapbook of MHR’s history has its own place on the round table in the library; [there are] 36 pages of photographs, drawings by Daryl McClure and Lee Burleson, and all the newspapers. Ruth calls it Book I. She has assembled this expensive book as her donation to MHR, and MHR thanks her for it.
Ruth was in charge of the DAR table in the other room across the hall where she showed the other fine scrapbook she has compiled on the Mendocino Chapter of the DAR. Her helpers at the booth were Aldine Gorman, Susan Pierce, Jane McCarthy and Vivian Dow.
In the same room were three large panels with historic pictures of Greenwood and Cuffey’s Cove, put up by the Greenwood Hobbyists, who are compiling the history of their area in a most gratifying and professional manner. Flower arrangements all over the house were the gift of Helen Pray from her garden which is well known for its beauty.
At large were directors Beth Stebbins, Dorothy Bear, Al Nichols, and staffers Nancy Curtis, Mike MacDonald and Carson Bauman. Mike was the one with the camera, Carson was the one with the hammer, and Nancy was everywhere, talking to people, running messages, change, ice, directions. Many signs were her handiwork.
Members Dr. and Mrs. George Bettencourt came from the farthest distance and brought with them several family heirlooms for the Kelley House. George’s mustache cup was a high school graduation gift, another cup was part of his mother’s dinner set, and a plate had the 1911 Christmas greeting of the Jarvis & Nichols Store. The linens were the kind we never see anymore.
Yes, it was a favored grand opening. Even the girl who reported her watch missing came back to say she had found it in the grass. On Tuesday morning, the restoration crew, under the able direction of Francis Jackson, was back on the job.
The Kelley House Museum is open from 11AM to 3PM Thursday through Monday. If you have a question for the curator, reach out to email@example.com to make an appointment. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly.