It’s been awhile. I’ve been super busy with work in California and just haven’t had a lot of time to write. I have been able to see quite a few cool places: San Francisco, Hearst Castle, Tahoe National Forest hiking trails, Old Sacramento and a number of Gold Rush towns. I hope to share those awesome adventures on this blog in the near future but in the mean time I thought I’d do a simple post on one building.
A few weekends ago, I drove into downtown Sacramento to get a hair cut (a lob for those concerned) and that resulted in me getting dessert for lunch, exploring a used bookstore, and taking a number of photos of a few cute tiny Victorian houses in the area.
One of the houses I photographed had a “name” or maybe more of a label “label,” called “Winters House.” I figured if the house has a name, it must have a story, and this house does.
Winters House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria C, which means its architectural significant! Winters House is important because of it’s Queen Anne-Eastlake style and because of its size. It’s one of the largest Victorian homes left in Sacramento!
The home was constructed in 1890 for Herman Winters, a local successful merchant, who was a German immigrant. When the home was constructed, it was located on the outskirts of Sacramento in an area considered to be the, “gypsy camping grounds” (words from the National Register nomination, not mine). Through the rest of the 1890’s the area developed into a residential area outside of the city- kind of like suburbs; today the area is known as Mid Town.
Winters hired experienced craftsmen to give the three-story home many intricate, wooden, ornamental details. The home has an asymmetrical front facade with key elements including: the bay window, stained glass windows, a sunburst pediment, scroll work sunbursts, brackets, lower porch balustrade, various shingle and wooden patterns, and overall delicate spindle work. According to the National Register nomination, the interior also consists of intricate details such as carved mantel spindles, tile work surrounding two fire places, and trim details. The home exemplifies what it means for a building to be a Queen Anne- Eastlake Victorian home.
Winters passed away in 1904 and his money, store, and home were divided between his widow and his two children from his first marriage. His widow, Effie Winters, inherited the home and put a lot of money into maintaining the home during her life. For example, Effie had the home elevated by ~ 2 feet in 1909 to build a flat under the first floor.
The interesting story of the home lies with Effie Winters. Apparently, Effie’s wealth and eccentricities did not sit well with her brother, Frank. In 1911, he petitioned the courts to get here declared incompetent. Luckily, the courts ruled in Effie’s favor based on her success in managing her inheritance from Herman. But that didn’t stop Frank’s crusade to have his sister declared of an “unsound mind.” Effie passed shortly after her brother petitioned the courts and when her will was read, Frank contested it because the primary beneficiary was L. S. Jones, her minister. The court records indicate that there was an investigation into the life and mental well being of the deceased Effie Winters. Records show that she had had a severe accident in 1901 when she was thrown from a buggy and hit a street car. She was unconscious for a number of days and when she finally pulled through, she had bouts of physical and mental distress; at least once, spent time in an asylum in Stockton, CA where she claimed to be the wife of Jesus Christ; she eventually was released. Her minister and others gave testimony to her character and lifestyle. It seems that those testimonies were not enough though and a postmortem autopsy was performed for examine her brain. Based on the testimony of five doctors who claimed Effie had a “small” brain, which meant she was of an “unsound mind” during life and in writing her will.
From the court finding, Frank, inherited the home she had lived in during her life. He did not keep the house for long and the Winters House went through a number of owners. That is until 1998, when the new owners began the long process of restoring the home to its former glory and getting the home placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Resources and Further Information:
All of the information on the Winters House came from the National Register Nomination, prepared by Vickie M. Cosentino, 1998. See the following links for more information on the home and to see the National Register Nomination in its entirety.