Morning sunlight warms the northeast corner of the historic Kelley House in these two photographs, taken 115 years apart. Located at 45007 Albion Street, the house was one of the earliest built in Mendocino on a prime spot overlooking the ocean.

Woman reading book on garden bench

Eliza Kelley in her Garden, 1909. (Gift of Margaret Kelley Campbell)

In the black and white photograph from 1909, Eliza Kelley, then 84 years old and Mendocino’s oldest living pioneer, reads a book in a sunny spot in her garden. The rustic charm of her surroundings, with shrubs and climbing roses, frames her serene spot on a slat bench. The doorway to the right leads to her back porch and the rear entrance to her home. The high fence alongside Albion Street offers a barrier from the bustling livery stable located just across the way.

Eliza arrived in Mendocino in 1855, the bride of William H. Kelley. The previous year, Kelley had purchased William Kasten’s extensive real estate holdings, which included the land north of Main Street and west of Lansing. The Kelley family initially settled in Kasten’s house at the corner of Albion and Kasten Streets, now part of the Mendocino Hotel Garden Suites, where their first child, Emma “Daisy,” was born. In 1861, they moved to their newly constructed home further east down Albion Street, where Eliza lived until her death in 1914.

Sunny corner of a house and garden with picket fence

Kelley House Museum Garden, 2024. (Photographer: Robert Dominy)

The color photograph of the Kelley House Museum, taken over a century later, shows that roses and other flowers still adorn the garden. The rose seen behind Eliza in the earlier photo could be the same double pink, fragrant Madame Lombard rose that grows beside the museum today. The high solid fence has been replaced with a charming picket fence, and the back porch now serves as the main entrance to both the museum and the research office.

Daisy Kelley MacCallum also left a significant mark on the Kelley House garden, though she lived across the street in the MacCallum House. She was an enthusiastic horticulturist, planting over 200 varieties of roses in her own garden and sharing her passion with the community. Many of the heritage roses that still bloom throughout Mendocino were planted by her, including those on her mother’s property. 

Daisy was one of the first members of the newly founded American Rose Society, and the Kelley House Museum archives include some of her plant catalogs and gardening books, marked with her notes, offering insight into the flowers that interested her. 

When Robert O. Peterson, founder of the Jack-in-the-Box fast food chain and owner of the Mendocino Hotel, donated the Kelley House to Mendocino Historical Research, Inc. in 1975, the garden was in dire need of restoration. Three dedicated gardeners took on the task, and under the thick tangle of blackberry vines and long overgrown shrubs, they discovered old walkways, towering camellia bushes, and long-forgotten rose bushes with branches ten feet long. Their efforts gradually revealed a garden that once thrived under the loving care of past inhabitants.

Today, the Kelley House stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Mendocino’s pioneers. The morning sunlight that once warmed Eliza Kelley in her tranquil garden continues to shine on a cherished piece of local history, connecting the past with the present through the simple beauty of a well-tended garden.

Today! 11am – 3pm. Celebrate the Fourth of July on the Kelley House lawn, offering the best parade viewing spots! DJ SlySir will spin your favorite dance music while you enjoy margaritas, wine and beer, plus non-alcoholic options and popcorn. Burgers and more will be available from the Alley Grill food truck. Admission is FREE, though we appreciate all donations! Thank you to our generous sponsors North Coast Brewing Company and Harvest Market.