Black and white photo of historic house and water tower

Bever House, c. 1932. (Kelley House Collection)


Color photo of historic house and enclosed tower

Bever House, 2023. (Photographer: Robert Dominy)

These two images, taken about 90 years apart, show the Bever House on Little Lake Street across from the Art Center in Mendocino. This home was built in the 1880s for brothers Benjamin and Samuel Bever. They were born in Bates County, Missouri in the 1840s. Their father, a farmer and Methodist Episcopal minister, first moved the family to Kansas, but chose to take them west following his wife’s death. In the fall of 1860, Samuel and Benjamin traveled across the plains to California with their father, brothers, and sister, arriving in Mendocino in 1861.

Benjamin worked in lumber mills along the coast, while younger brother Samuel, who was a teenager when he arrived in Mendocino, first worked for W. H. Kent on his farm in Little River. Later, Charles Pullen hired him to work in the woods, and eventually he accepted a position in the Mendocino mill. In 1878, the brothers opened the Central House (today’s Mendocino Hotel) on Main Street. Their brother, Robert, oversaw the hotel’s livery stable, while Benjamin’s wife, Mary, was the hotel’s hostess. 

Two years after opening their hotel, the brothers purchased an empty lot on Little Lake Street from Manuel Zeferino Silveria, and they constructed a small cottage there. The house was leased out as a rental property while the Bever brothers lived in their hotel on Main Street. Over the years, the home was rented by many families, including long-time Mendocino Postmaster William Mullen and Professor R. Y. Glidden, the first principal of Mendocino High School.

After more than 25 years in the hotel business, the brothers announced their retirement in 1904 and sold the Central House, taking up residence in their cottage on Little Lake Street. At this time, the dwelling was renovated and enlarged, enclosing an L-shaped porch on the front of the house and adding another porch in the rear. The water tower seen in the first photo was added in July, 1904.

Mary and Benjamin celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a gathering of close friends at their home in January 1916. Following the deaths of Mary in 1917, Samuel in 1919, and Benjamin in 1921, the remaining Bever siblings offered the house for sale in 1923: “Lot with 120 feet frontage contains fine garden, windmill and tank tower; house well built and furnished and contains steel range, hot water boiler, bath and numerous other conveniences.” Oliver and Selma Olson of Albion purchased the home later that year. The Olsons must not have liked the included furnishings, though, as they immediately offered to sell “a quantity of good furniture, including beds, dressers, etc.; also a fine steel range.”

Oliver passed away in 1956. Selma continued to live in the house until 1976, when she moved to her daughter’s home in Fort Bragg, and the Bever House was sold. In 1977, David Onstad remodeled the home and added a concrete foundation. The foundation of the water tower was also rebuilt that year.

By 1989, the 85-year-old water tower was deteriorating, and new owners Don and Wendy Roberts demolished the original structure, replacing it with a three-story enclosed water tower on the same site. Bill and Jenny Zacha praised the Roberts for creating a plan that was “aesthetically and architecturally correct.” The new building serves as a guest house and vacation rental. In 2019, the property changed hands again; Adron Harris and Diane Snell now own the historic Bever House.

The museum is open from 11AM to 3PM Thursday through Monday. Contact the curator at to make an appointment for more information. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly.