The Ford House, THEN and NOW

The south side of the Ford House facing Mendocino Bay, c. 1867. (Gift of Alice Earl Wilder, Alice Earl Wilder Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

Jerome B. Ford was one of the pioneers who came to Mendocino in 1852 to establish the lumber mill at Big River. In April 1854, he returned to Connecticut to marry Martha Hayes. They arrived back in Mendocino on July 4 after a journey of 25 days, coming by way of the Isthmus of Panama. While Ford traveled back east to get married, Edwards C. Williams built the Ford House and the newlyweds were its first occupants.

South side of the Ford House, September 2021.

Between 1856 and 1866, the Fords had six children: Jerome Chester, Catherine, Charles, Ella, Susan, and Persis (who died as an infant). In “Childhood Memories of Catherine Ford Rea” Catherine described the Ford House, ”originally a nine room house; living room-parlor, office and bedroom on ground floor. Three bedrooms up stairs – kitchen, dining room, pantries and dairy room below. Later a wing was built on, putting kitchen and dining room on ground floor, with maid’s room and large bedroom over dining room and store room.” The house “faced the bay, so we had an unobstructed view of the ocean from Kent’s Point to away beyond our harbor and a close watch was kept for vessels coming up the coast, or smoke showing a steamer further out. Our life was mainly connected with this southern exposure.”

The Ford family moved to Oakland in 1872 to give their children better educational opportunities.

In 1972, the State Department of Parks and Recreation acquired the land for the Mendocino Headlands State Park, which included the Ford House. Reconstruction work was completed in 1980, and today, the Ford House serves as the Visitor Center for the Mendocino Headlands State Park.

Mendocino Book Two by Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins – Meet the Ford family, founders of Mendocino. Learn about Henry Meiggs and the Mendocino Lumber Company and years of early local history. $19.