Most People Don’t Know There’s A Fountain Of Youth Hiding Deep In Pennsylvania’s WoodsTucked away in the woods of North Park near Wexford, Pennsylvania lies an attraction that relatively few know about: a Fountain of Youth. It borders on mythological, yet this small designated stone structure has become a landmark for photographers and explorers alike. Here’s more on this spring house structure and how you might find it:The Fountain of Youth is located in North Park, at 10127 Kummer Rd, Wexford, PA 15090.
The springhouse was constructed in the 1930s in the style of a Roman cavern, complete with an archway made of stone and, of course, the center disc which reads “Fountain of Youth.”
The structure is home to a spring, which until the 1950s was used as a local water source. Today, visitors will notice a warning sign that the water has not been treated.
Step inside to the cool, cave-like interior and on the back wall, you’ll notice the space where the pump was broken off after the water was considered unsafe.
You’ll then exit the space facing west, the direction that, according to local folklore, represents the struggles of middle age, the sacred feminine, and the power of water.
Whether or not you believe in the healing properties of this site (as the water itself is not safe to drink), there’s no denying its fascinating history and symbolism.
If you plan on visiting the Fountain of Youth, you’ll be in for a bit of a hike. Be sure to wear shoes that you can walk through the woods with.
The best way to access the Fountain of Youth springhouse is by parking along the small gravel pull-off and continuing along the path leading down to the creek.
TRUCKEE, Calif. —Western stagecoach companies were big business in the latter half of the 19th century. In addition to passengers and freight, stages hauled gold and silver bullion as well as mining company payrolls.
Stage robbery was a constant danger and bandits employed many strategies to ambush a stagecoach. Thieves rarely met with much resistance from stage drivers, since they had passenger safety foremost in mind. The gang was usually after the Wells Fargo money box with its valuable contents. Passengers were seldom hurt, but they were certainly relieved of their cash, watches and jewelry.
Before the completion of the transcontinental railroad over Donner Pass in 1868, the only transportation through the Sierra was by stage. Rugged teamsters held rein over six wild-eyed horses as they tore along the precipitous mountain trails. The stagecoaches were driven by skilled and fearless men who pushed themselves and their spirited horses to the limit.
One of the most famous drivers was Charles Darkey Parkhurst, who had come west from New England in 1852 seeking his fortune in the Gold Rush. He spent 15 years running stages, sometimes partnering with Hank Monk, the celebrated driver from Carson City. Over the years, Pankhurst’s reputation as an expert whip grew.
From 20 feet away he could slice open the end of an envelope or cut a cigar out of a man’s mouth. Parkhurst smoked cigars, chewed wads of tobacco, drank with the best of them, and exuded supreme confidence behind the reins. His judgment was sound and pleasant manners won him many friends.
One afternoon as Charley drove down from Carson Pass, the lead horses veered off the road and a wrenching jolt threw him from the rig. He hung on to the reins as the horses dragged him along on his stomach. Amazingly, Parkhurst managed to steer the frightened horses back onto the road and save all his grateful passengers.
During the 1850s, bands of surly highwaymen stalked the roads. These outlaws would level their shotguns at stage drivers and shout, “Throw down the gold box!” Charley Parkhurst had no patience for the crooks despite their demands and threatening gestures.
The most notorious road agent was nicknamed “Sugarfoot.” When he and his gang accosted Charley’s stage, it was the last robbery the thief ever attempted. Charley cracked his whip defiantly, and when his horses bolted, he turned around and fired his revolver at the crooks. Sugarfoot was later found dead with a fatal bullet wound in his stomach.
In appreciation of his bravery, Wells Fargo presented Parkhurst with a large watch and chain made of solid gold. In 1865, Parkhurst grew tired of the demanding job of driving and he opened his own stage station. He later sold the business and retired to a ranch near Soquel, Calif. The years slipped by and Charley died on Dec. 29, 1879, at the age of 67.
A few days later, the Sacramento Daily Bee published his obituary. It read; “On Sunday last, there died a person known as Charley Parkhurst, aged 67, who was well-known to old residents as a stage driver. He was, in early days, accounted one of the most expert manipulators of the reins who ever sat on the box of a coach. It was discovered when friendly hands were preparing him for his final rest, that Charley Parkhurst was unmistakably a well-developed woman!”
Once it was discovered that Charley was a woman, there were plenty of people to say they had always thought he wasn’t like other men. Even though he wore leather gloves summer and winter, many noticed that his hands were small and smooth. He slept in the stables with his beloved horses and was never known to have had a girlfriend.
Charley never volunteered clues to her past. Loose fitting clothing hid her femininity and after a horse kicked her, an eye patch over one eye helped conceal her face. She weighed 175 pounds, could handle herself in a fistfight and drank whiskey like one of the boys.
It turns out that Charley’s real name was Charlotte Parkhurst. Abandoned as a child, she was raised in a New Hampshire orphanage unloved and surrounded by poverty. Charlotte ran away when she was 15 years old and soon discovered that life in the working world was easier for men. So she decided to masquerade as one for the rest of her life. The rest is history. Well, almost. There is one last thing. On November 3, 1868, Charlotte Parkhurst cast her vote in the national election, dressed as a man. She became the first woman to vote in the United States, 52 years before Congress passed the 19th amendment giving American women the right to vote.
The fire station in Soquel, California, has a plaque reading: “The first ballot by a woman in an American presidential election was cast on this site November 3, 1868, by Charlotte (Charley) Parkhurst who masqueraded as a man for much of her life. She was a stagecoach driver in the mother lode country during the gold rush days and shot and killed at least one bandit. In her later years she drove a stagecoach in this area. She died in 1879. Not until then was she found to be female. She is buried in Watsonville at the pioneer cemetery.”
In 1955, the Pajaro Valley Historical Association erected a monument at Parkhurst’s grave, which reads: “Charley Darkey Parkhurst (1812-1879) Noted whip of the gold rush days drove stage over Mt. Madonna in early days of Valley. Last run San Juan to Santa Cruz. Death in cabin near the 7 mile house. Revealed ‘one eyed Charley’ a woman. First woman to vote in the U.S. November 3, 1868.”
In 2007, the Santa Cruz County Redevelopment Agency oversaw the completion of the Parkhurst Terrace Apartments, named for the stagecoach driver and located a mile along the old stage route from the place of his/her death.
There was also a book written about Charley called “Charley’s Choice – The life and Times of Charley Parkhurst,” written by Fern J. Hill that might be of interest.
Bucks County, PA boasts many scenic spots, but there’s only one place to get an above-the-trees, bird’s-eye view of the surrounding countryside and Delaware River.
Rising 125 feet in the air atop Bowman’s Hill and offering a 14-mile view on a clear day, Bowman’s Hill Tower is a favorite stop for locals and tourists alike.
The Tower is located near the corner of Rt. 32 (River Road) and Lurgan Road, a few miles south of New Hope, PA.
The History of Bowman’s Hill Tower
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Tower is that it existed during General George Washington’s day. In reality, it was just built of local field stone in 1929-31 to commemorate what may have been a lookout point for Washington’s troops to watch for enemy activity on the Delaware River. Today, historians consider using Bowman’s Hill for a lookout to be more oral tradition than documented fact, however.
Construction of the Tower took nearly two years to complete. More than 2,400 tons of materials were used, including 1,200 perches of native stone from the hill and nearby stone fences, cut stone from local quarries, 517 tons of sand and 225 tons of cement. Workers excavated 15-feet deep so that the 24–foot-squared base would rest on a bedrock foundation. With construction done entirely by the Washington Crossing Park Commission employees, the total cost of the Tower was $100,000, including labor and materials.
Soon after the tower’s construction, workers planted 28,300 seedlings in the area to reforest the hill like people thought it would have been in Washington’s time. Some of those seedlings have become today’s towering trees on Bowman’s Hill. Due to the Tower’s height, lightning strikes were an ongoing problem. To improve safety and eliminate damage to the Tower, the National Lightning Protection Company of St. Louis, MO installed a lightning protection system on the building. Then the tower was vandalized (for the copper). The broken copper cables that visitors see hanging down its sides were part of this system. With the installation of new cables that are not copper, the system still operates today.
In the early 1980s, the Bowman’s Hill Tower underwent extensive restoration. An elevator was installed that takes visitors three-quarters of the way to the top, although it still is necessary to climb the last 23 steps to reach the outside observation deck. Previously, visitors had to climb a spiral staircase all the way to the top of the Tower. Today, visitors can choose which way they would like to reach the top.
So, what’s the mystery?TheNAME!
There is no definitive source for the name Bowman, however there are several theories:
The original name was Beau Mont which was paired with Belle Mont, a similar hill in New Jersey. There was a John Beaumont who owned the original land in 1783. His tract of land can be seen in the Upper Makefield township building.
The hill was named for Thomas Bowman, an English merchant who conducted trade up and down the Delaware River in the 17th century.
The hill was named for a John Bowman, a friend of Jonathan Pidcock, the first European settler in the area. Pidcock’s farm was located in the northeast end of the hill, from which Revolutionary War soldiers encamped on the farm, then owned by a Robert Thompson.
Or perhaps Bowman refers to a Doctor John Bowman (possibly the same John Bowman as above), allegedly ship’s surgeon to Captain Kidd. Dr Bowman was thought to have retired to eastern Pennsylvania after his time at sea and is said to be buried somewhere on the hill. The legend goes on in claiming that pirate treasure may be buried on the hill.
Note: The only burial placard on the hill commemorates a John Pidcock, early settler of the area, and not Dr. Bowman.
For whatever reason this hill was named, it’s a lovely lookout spot—even if George Washington never used it, Captain Kidd’s doctor never heard of it and there isn’t any buried treasure there!
I found this at the New Orleans website: Fun Facts About Mardi Gras!
New Orleans History & Rituals
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is quite the spectacle – but there are a lot of hidden secrets and behind-the-scenes magic that bring the celebration to life. Ever wondered what the most coveted throws of Carnival are, or why an array of colorful ladders line St. Charles Avenue? Learn all about Mardi Gras in New Orleans with these 12 fun facts.
Mardi Gras is more than just a day, it’s an entire season. Carnival season begins on Twelfth Night (January 6) and ends on Fat Tuesday. It’s during this time period that king cakes make their debut – and fly off the shelves all season long.
Mardi Gras Indians’ elaborate “suits” are hand-sewn with thousands of beads and take all year to make. A new suit is made each year.
Colorful ladders with seats line St. Charles Avenue on parade days so that children can get a clear view. Parade-goers use the ladders to hold their spot prior to the parade starting.
Krewes choose a different theme for their parades each year, with some krewes keeping their themes secret until their parade is rolling.
According to Arthur Hardy, a premier authority on Mardi Gras in New Orleans, items have been tossed off floats since at least 1871. During the Twelfth Night Revelers parade, a masker costumed as Santa Claus aboard float No. 24 threw gifts to the crowd. In 1884, Rex started using medallions instead of trinkets. These medallions are represented by today’s doubloons: aluminum and anodized in many different colors.
“Throw Me Something, Mister” are the magic words used to catch all the throws at Mardi Gras parades.
Zulu coconuts, Muses shoes and Krewe of Iris sunglasses are some of the most desired signature “throws” of the season. Revelers go all-out in attempts to catch these, including dressing in colorful costumes, making posters and holding out butterfly nets and targets for float riders to throw to.
There is a city ordinance in Orleans Parish that prohibits Mardi Gras from being commercialized. No corporate sponsorships are allowed on floats. All expenses are paid by krewes and riders.
Beads “grow” on trees during Carnival season in New Orleans. Tree-lined St. Charles Avenue transforms into a Mardi Gras wonderland by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.
Float riders are required by law to wear masks or face paint.
Traditionally, the Mayor of New Orleans hands over the key to the city to Rex, the king of Carnival, on Mardi Gras Day.
To officially end Carnival celebrations, New Orleans police officers on foot and mounted on horseback move through the crowds on Bourbon Street at midnight on Mardi Gras Day. The Mayor often joins.
You haven’t been to Hershey until you’ve taken the free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour. The tour − an indoor ride in a Hershey’s Kiss-shaped car − allows visitors to understand how Hershey’s chocolate is made and enjoy a free chocolate bar at the end. Better still is the marketplace at Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can purchase Hershey’s candy (including treats you don’t typically find at your local food store); candy-themed souvenirs; and signature smoothies, milkshakes and pastries. You can also make a personalized treat at the Create Your Own Candy Bar station, solve a sweet mystery in the 4D Chocolate Movie and enjoy wine and chocolate or beer and chocolate pairings seasonally.
Hersheypark features 15 roller coasters (and counting) − including Laff Trakk, the first indoor, spinning glow coaster in the U.S. The amusement park also features an outdoor water park and kiddie rides, plus rides and attractions the whole family can enjoy together. When it’s time for a break, order one of the park’s famous King Sized Shakes, available at Simply Chocolate. The one-of-a-kind amusement park is especially magical at Christmas, when the park hosts Hershey Sweet Lights, a 2-mile, illuminated drive-through tour, and Christmas Candylane, where guests can sip hot cocoa and meet Santa and his reindeer.
The Hotel Hershey
The Hotel Hershey is an especially popular destination for romantic escapes and girls getaways. Part of the Historic Hotels of America, the regal resort offers indoor and outdoor swimming pools, golf, tennis, fitness facilities, a kids club, five restaurants and a spa. Guests can choose to stay in beautifully appointed guest rooms, suites or cottages, plus the hotel offers perks like complimentary admission to Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story’s Museum Experience. Reviewers say the staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful, and that the food is great.
When planning your summertime visit to Hershey, be sure to check the schedule at Hersheypark Stadium where big-name concerts are typically hosted from June through September. The outdoor venue offers food and beverage concessions and − the ultimate splurge − VIP Sky Suites. Hersheypark Stadium has hosted everyone from Dead & Company to the Jonas Brothers. Reviewers say the bathrooms are tiny, but clean and widely available.
One of the first attractions to open in Hershey, ZooAmerica was established in 1910. More than a century later, the zoo has expanded to house a couple hundred animals across a variety of species and support several wildlife and environmental conservation efforts. For an extra-special experience, book a behind-the-scenes photography or after-hours tour of the zoo. ZooAmerica is located within Hersheypark and admission to the zoo is included in your park pass.
Stop and smell the roses at Hershey Gardens. That’s exactly what Milton Hershey intended for visitors when he requested to “create a nice garden of roses.” Aside from fragrant flowers featured in seasonal and themed displays, Hershey Gardens offers a whimsical children’s garden with interactive play structures and a butterfly atrium where you can get up close with butterflies − so close they might land right on your head or hands. Guided walks and gardening classes are also available. Reviewers say the gardens are not only beautiful, but also relaxing.
The Falconry Experience
Did you know you could interact with falcons in Hershey? Offered at The Hotel Hershey and available to both guests and the general public, The Falconry Experience features free-flight and simulated hunt demonstrations, and the chance to have birds of prey land right on your hand. Group and family sessions are available, and kids ages 12 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Reviewers say this is one of the most unique experiences they’ve ever had.
Water Works at Hershey Lodge
Hersheypark isn’t the only place with a water park in the area. Hershey Lodge has an indoor water park called Water Works, with a zero-entry pool, a spray zone, a water-dumping bucket and more. Especially fun for young kids, the water park is exclusive and complimentary to guests of the hotel. Before you book your stay, check out the hotel’s packages, which combine overnight accommodations and Hersheypark tickets in one rate.
Grey Towers National Historic Site, also known as Gifford Pinchot House or The Pinchot Institute, is located just off US 6 west of Milford, Pennsylvania, in Dingman Township. It is the ancestral home of Gifford Pinchot, first director of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and twice elected governor of Pennsylvania.
The house, built in the style of a French château to reflect the Pinchot family’s French origins, was designed by Richard Morris Hunt with some later work by H. Edwards Ficken. Situated on the hills above Milford, it overlooks the Delaware River. Pinchot grew up there and returned during the summers when his later life took him to Washington and Harrisburg. His wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, made substantial changes to the interior of the home and gardens, in collaboration with several different architects, during that time.
In 1963 his family donated it and the surrounding 102 acres to the Forest Service; it is the only U.S. National Historic Site managed by that agency. Three years later the Department of the Interior designated it a National Historic Landmark. Today it is open to the public for tours and hiking on its trails; it is also home to the Pinchot Institute, which carries on his work in conservation.
Building and grounds
The mansion itself is a three-story L-shaped fieldstone chateau. Conical roofed towers at three of the corners give the property its name. A service wing juts out from the fourth corner. As originally built, it contained 43 rooms, with the first floor featuring a large entrance hall, billiard room, dining room, library and sitting room. Bedrooms were located on the second floor, with more on the third floor plus storage spaces and children’s playrooms.
The house boasts a number of outbuildings. On the 303 acres of the combined parcels that made up the original estate, there are 48 total buildings, structures and sites, all but eight of which are considered contributing to its historic value. These include nearby cottages known as the Letter and Bait Boxes, a unique outdoor dining facility called the Finger Bowl, a Forester’s Cottage used as a residence by the Pinchot descendants, an open-air theater, the former Yale School of Forestry’s summer school, and a white pine plantation established by Gifford Pinchot.
The Finger Bowl
In the early 1930s, Cornelia Pinchot hired William Lawrence Bottomley to create a unique addition known as the Finger Bowl, an outdoor dining area consisting of a raised pool surrounded by a flat ledge. Chairs were pulled up to the ledge and food was served from bowls floating on the water. It was sheltered by a wisteria-covered arbor supported by 12 stone piers. In the late 1930s, Gifford Pinchot started the White Pine Plantation to reforest some old farmland near the mansion. He was particularly interested in that species since it was the dominant tree in the forests of Pike County and had been heavily harvested during the previous century.
After his mother died in 1960, Gifford Bryce Pinchot donated the building to the Forest Service, as the family had planned. The agency intended to use the house as a conference center, and had to replace some interior walls that had suffered insect and water damage. Various other rooms in the wing and second floor were converted to storage or office use, and the swimming pool was filled in, in 1979, when it became a safety and maintenance problem. A parking lot was built to the northwest.
The Pinchot Institute, which also has a role in administering the site, was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on September 24, 1963. That same year Grey Towers was one of the first sites declared a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
In 1980, the USFS realized how much its renovations had damaged an architecturally significant structure and began trying to undo some of the changes it had made. It developed a plan to restore the house and estate to a condition similar to the way it had been in Pinchot’s era, in consultation with the Park Service’s Harper’s Ferry Center, and hired staff with expertise in landscape and architecture. After a brief closing for this renovation, it reopened on August 11, 2001, Gifford Pinchot’s birthday. The state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Natural Resources also made a $2 million grant available for renovations to the entrance, entry road and parking facilities. In 2007 the USFS restored the swimming pool.
This 5-story bookstore in Pennsylvania, Baldwin’s Book Barn is a book lover’s dream! Need an escape from reality? Pull up a chair and open one of the thousands of rare books that sit on the shelves of the best bookstore in Pennsylvania. Book lovers won’t be the only ones enchanted by Baldwin’s Book Barn. This five-story bookstore in Pennsylvania, with its slanted ceilings and curved doors, provides ample opportunity to meet new people and explore a part of PA’s rich past.
Time seems to stand still at Baldwin’s Book Barn. Nestled among the rolling farmlands in West Chester, the barn was built in 1822. The Book Barn, originally opened in Delaware in 1934, moved to the old barn in Pennsylvania in 1946.
Lilla and William Baldwin, who founded the famous bookstore, lived on the property in a converted milk house.
Today, Baldwin’s Book Barn beckons book lovers, historians, and curiosity seekers with its five floors of rare, out-of-print, and antiquarian collection of books.
But, that’s not all. You’ll also find an impressive collection of used books, maps, and prints among the more than 300,000 items that line the bookshelves.
In fact, you never know what treasures you will find on the bookshelves. Looking for a favorite book from childhood? A long out-of-print masterpiece you’ve always wanted to read? You just might find it at Baldwin’s Book Barn, what may be the largest bookstore in Pennsylvania.
Guests are invited to pull up a chair, sit back, and read for as long as they want during business hours. Don’t be surprised if one of the resident kitties rubs up against you as you read and relax.
Baldwin’s Book Barn welcomes shoppers daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Whenever we travel home, we pass through Williamsport, PA. It’s a larger city in PA with a lovely historic district, a vast commercial district and The Little League Museum. The crown jewel of Williamsport was West Fourth Street in the 1800s. The city was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country. This was due to the lumber business and the lumber barons that contributed to the boom in home and church construction. Many of these homes can still be seen today!
The A.D. Hermance House
The Rowley-Hermance Company manufactured woodworking machinery. This 20-room building is an example of the Richardsonian-Romanesque style of architecture. The interior features beautiful cherry and oak hand-carved wood work by Giovanni Ferrari.
The Peter Herdic House
This home was built in 1854 and changed hands several times, but remained a single-family dwelling until 1957 when it was converted into apartments. A fire destroyed portions of it in 1977, but it was renovated and restored and turned into a restaurant. The home features ornate plaster moldings and arches, acanthus columns and a mahogany stairway that curves three floors to a cupola.
The Hiram Rhoads House
Designed by Eber Culver in the late 1880’s for Hiram Rhoads, the man responsible for bringing the telephone to Williamsport, this building is an example of the Queen Anne style. This house has many notable features such as an upstairs bathtub which is encased in mahogany, a solid pecan floor in the living room, and the most magnificent chandeliers in the city.
There are plenty more houses on Millionaire’s Row that have now been converted to apartment buildings and no detail is available about them.But I have included a bunch of the pictures I could find.
In 2008, I was living with HB and SIL in a house in Manassas, VA on a major roadway with a lot of traffic, although it was only a two-lane road. It was Christmas but it was unseasonably warm that year. HB and SIL were watching TV and, of course, I was sitting at my computer, which was directly in front of a window.
All of a sudden, I heard a loud crash and looked up to see that an SUV had crashed into a tree across the street. It hit the tree and bounced back; I saw the driver’s door open and a man got out, with an obvious leg injury – he fell up against the SUV and kind of rolled down the side of it towards the front of the vehicle.
By the time I got up and went to the door, I could no longer see him. Behind the house across the street was a large wooded area – there was a driveway running down the side of the house towards the back. We called 911 to report it and then we all trooped outside to look; a woman had pulled over into our driveway so we chatted with her while we waited.
Within 5 or 10 minutes, the cops arrived and began searching for the driver, who was nowhere to be found. They told us the SUV had just been stolen from someone down the street. I told them that he was obviously injured but that was all I knew. They searched and searched and searched, and finally determined that he must have gone down the driveway into the woods. So they sent a car around to the other side of the woods to search from that side. They even had a helicopter up looking for him.
After about 45 minutes, another cop car pulled up with a canine unit. They brought the dog out and had him jump into the SUV to get the man’s scent. He jumped back down and went directly to the tree at the front of the SUV!
Turns out, the guy had buried himself in the leaves and was there the whole time!!!! They had never even looked there!!! We also found out he was an illegal – sometimes I swore half of Manassas was made up of illegals, there were so many, including MS-13!
HB and SIL had already made their decision by then to move to Nebraska. She was pregnant with Piper and wouldn’t be able to work and SIL had been laid off from his job. I had not yet decided to join them but, in March of 2009, I also lost my job as General Manager at ResoleAmerica. I decided God was telling me it was time to go home!!!!
Today, the house is known as the Winchester Mystery House, but at the time of its construction, it was simply Sarah Winchester’s House. Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Born around 1840, Sarah Winchester grew up in a world of privilege. She spoke four languages, attended the best schools around, married well, and eventually gave birth to a daughter, Annie. However, tragedy struck in her late twenties when Annie died, followed by the death of Sarah’s husband William more than a decade later. After William’s death in 1881, Sarah inherited roughly $20 million (over $500 million in 2019 dollars) as well as fifty percent of the Winchester Arms company which left her with a continued income equal to $1,000 a day (or $26,000 a day in 2019 dollars).
Newly in possession of a massive fortune and struggling with the loss of her husband and daughter, she sought the advice of a medium. She hoped, perhaps, to get advice from the beyond as to how to spend her fortune or what to do with her life. Though the exact specifics remain between Sarah Winchester and her medium, the story goes that the medium was able to channel dearly departed William, who advised Sarah to leave her home in New Haven, Connecticut, and head west to California. As far as what to do with her money, William answered that too; she was to use the fortune to build a home for the spirits of those who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles, lest she be haunted by them for the rest of her life.
In 1884, Sarah Winchester purchased what would later become known as the Winchester Mystery House. At the time of the sale, the house was a small unfinished farmhouse, but that quickly changed. Winchester hired carpenters to work around the clock, expanding the small house into a seven-story mansion. Due to the lack of a plan and the presence of an architect, the house was constructed haphazardly; rooms were added onto exterior walls resulting in windows overlooking other rooms. Multiple staircases would be added, all with different sized risers, giving each staircase a distorted look. Stranger so was the fact that many of the alterations seemed pointless. Staircases would ascend several levels then end abruptly, doors would open to solid walls, and hallways would turn a corner and end in a dead-end.
Additionally, Winchester insisted that the home be built exclusively out of redwood – however, she didn’t like the look of the wood, so she insisted it be covered with a stain and a faux grain. By the time the house was completed, over 20,000 gallons of paint had been used to cover the wood. By the turn of the century, Sarah Winchester had her ghost house: an oddly laid out mansion, with seven stories, 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 panes of glass, two basements, three elevators, and a mysterious fun-house-like interior.
Anyone who set foot in the home could tell that no expense had been spared. Gold and silver chandeliers hung from the ceilings above hand-inlaid parquet flooring. Dozens of artful stained-glass windows created by Tiffany & Co. dotted the walls, including some designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. One window, in particular, was intended to create a prismatic rainbow effect on the floor when light flowed through it – of course, the window ended up on an interior wall, and thus the effect was never achieved.
Even more luxurious than the fixtures were the plumbing and electrical work. Rare for the time, the Winchester Mystery House boasted indoor plumbing, including coveted hot running water, and push-button gas lighting available throughout the home. Additionally, forced-air heating flowed throughout the house.
Unfortunately, in 1906, an earthquake struck San Jose, and the Winchester Mystery House sustained a hefty amount of damage. Thanks to the floating foundation (a foundation that equals the weight of the surrounding soil) the entire house was saved from collapse. The top three floors were ultimately removed, leaving the house with only four stories, as seen today.
Throughout the years-long construction of the Winchester Mystery House, Sarah Winchester would never confirm that she was building a haunted house. However, stories and rumors swirled throughout San Jose.
The contractors who worked on the house reported Winchester having daily seances with local mediums, in an effort to reach “good spirits.” These “good spirits” were reportedly consulted to find out how to best appease the spirits whom she was allegedly building the house for. These spirits are reportedly what called Winchester to make so many illogical additions to the home.
Far after the construction was completed, Winchester continued to make efforts to appease the victims of the Winchester rifles. Out of the 13 bathrooms in the home, only one was functional, in an effort to confuse any ghosts wishing to haunt a spigot. Furthermore, she would sleep in a different room every night in the Winchester house, and use secret passageways to get from room to room so that no spirits could follow her.
In the years Sarah Winchester lived in the house, the residents of San Jose whispered about its strange construction and even stranger inhabitant, but it was in the years after her death that the wild stories became even wilder. After her death in September of 1922, Sarah Winchester left all of her belongings to her niece, Marion, who had served as her personal secretary later in life. However, the Winchester Mystery House was never mentioned in her will, adding to the mystery of the home. After appraisers deemed the house worthless due to its strange design, damage from the earthquakes, and long-winded construction, Marion took everything in it and auctioned it off. The current owners of the house claim it took six weeks to empty the house of all furniture, though the report is uncorroborated.
After the house was emptied, a local investor purchased the home for a cool $135,000. Just five months after Sarah Winchester died, the Winchester Mystery House was opened to the public for tours.
Inside the home…some of it looks quite lovely…some is just bizarre.