Winchester Mystery House

I have always thought of the architectural folly as a quintessentially English concept. Today we visited an American folly, perhaps predictably it was on a far larger scale than those in the UK. The Winchester House was built over a period of forty years by the widow of the Winchester of rifle fame. Apparently based on advice from a psychic she continued to add to the house in San Jose from purchasing it in 1884 until her death in 1922.

There was no overall plan so the house is a veritable maze with windows that look out in walls, doors that open into space, a staircase that leads to a ceiling, and a chimney that stops short of the roof. Aside from such oddities, there are some innovative features including a zinc floored conservatory on the second floor that drains to the garden below to reduce waste water. Mrs Winchester was also a collector of fine Tiffany glass and there are some beautiful stained glass windows; including one through which no sunlight falls as it faces north into a wall.

For a superstitious woman it is surprising that she seems to have liked the number thirteen. The number thirteen recurs throughout the house, a room has thirteen windows, the panels on the ceiling are split into thirteen sections, a closet has thirteen coat hooks.

It was a fascinating and enjoyable trip, well worth the drive to San Jose. The gift shop was the usual collection of tat, though one sign did make us think of Ilegirl; “She who dies with the most shoes wins.”

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Published in: on 28 June, 2008 at 19:00  Leave a Comment  

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