Yes we know the way to San Jose! We went there to visit the Winchester house! www.winchestermysteryhouse.com
This is the farmhouse bought by Sarah Winchester in the late 1800’s – widow of the Mr. Winchester who although a shirt manufacturer, also became the owner of a company, that under his leadership developed the Winchester Rifle. She was a very spiritual woman who believed a medium who told her that in order to appease the spirits of all those who died as a result of the Winchester rifles, she needed to keep building a house. She bought an 8-roomed farmhouse just outside San Jose and spent the next 34 years adding to and changing it; remodelling over 600 rooms in the process. Her team of carpenters and plumbers worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week for those 34 years…changing rooms or what? The result is a bizarre mansion that now has 160 rooms – though the labyrinth is exaggerated by the route guided tour – the house is fascinating. Shallow stairs (inch to inch and a half risers), made because in her later years she was plagued by arthritis, take you almost nowhere; doors open onto walls or 8’ drops, windows overlook internal rooms several feet below, cupboards with a couple of inch depth and a series of passages that only confuse. Parts of the house were never finished and still remain so today. She was a very rich lady who, at the turn of the century was earning $1000 a day! (She paid her workers $3 a day, which was well above average at the time) She had exquisite taste and used the very best everything, Tiffany windows abound and still sparkle in the sunlight, the ballroom, though never finished is magnificent. In many ways she was ahead of her time, she had 13 bathrooms (13 was a number she seemed to be obsessed with – 13 coat hooks in the closet, 13 windows in one of the bathrooms etc etc.) she had lifts and replaced the gas lighting in the house with electricity. We couldn’t help but wonder what her life was like and if she was a lonely figure or a driven one. Sadly there is no paper trail to reveal her thoughts and plans. Perhaps she can take some solace from the thousands of visitors who wander through her beloved house today.
We had a late lunch in delightful part of town, Santana Row; where tree lined streets abounded with restaurants and high-end shops. On a sunny afternoon sauntering along admiring the flowers and plants that also graced the pavements, was a lovely way to end the day.
On Wednesday 11th we decided to check out a huge flea market that we had read about – you know us – never ones to miss a bargain! Well, we could have bought virtually anything we wanted: clothes, hats, boots, bags, belts, plants, pots, pans, tyres, veg, fruit, fabric, furniture in fact anything but fleas! – had the stalls all been open!! It was advertised as operating from Wed to Sun but was a very poor sight on the day that we chose. It had rained that morning – (our first precipitation for many months) so maybe the stallholders had rolled over in bed that morning thinking it wasn’t worth the effort – didn’t they know the Thornleys were coming? Well at least we didn’t spend any money!