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'Williamsburg of the West'

Eureka, CA  95501

Eureka, the Victorian seaport, where history is alive, well and beautiful

 

By Mike McPhate

New York Times/September 1, 2017

Eureka, CA -- An architectural historian once described Eureka as a West Coast version of Williamsburg, Va.

As Williamsburg has preserved it authentic colonial-era environment, so has Eureka with its Victorian and early twentieth century architecture.

Eureka, nestled on Humboldt Bay, has about 1,600 historically significant homes, no small amount in a city of just 27,000 people.

The unusually large stock is linked in part to the ebb of flow of the city’s economy, said Mary Ann McCulloch, president of the Eureka Heritage Society.

The Victorian homes went up during the boom era of the region’s timber and fish industries.

When lean times hit in the mid-20th century, many residents stayed put in homes that might otherwise have been torn down and replaced with more modern architecture.

In recent decades, a historical preservation movement has worked to restore the Victorians. 

The crown jewel is the Carson Mansion. Built in the 1880s for the lumber baron William Carson, the 18-room mansion is considered one of the grandest Victorian homes in America.

Three generations of Carsons lived in the mansion until the last heirs moved to San Francisco, leaving it unoccupied.

In 1950, it was bought for $35,000 by the Ingomar Club, an exclusive gentlemen’s club that occupies it to this day. (It’s since started allowing women).

Visitors who show up hoping to get a peek inside, however, are regularly let down. Tours are not allowed.

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(Visitors Bureau note: There is a little-known workaround for visitors to get inside the Carson Mansion. Contact us for details. 707-443-5097)