History of The Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites
The Mendocino Hotel is the only remaining Hotel from a time when Mendocino was a booming port for the logging trade. The original structure of the Hotel, dating to 1878, remains today and encompasses the lobby, the lobby bar, the dining room, the kitchen and upstairs rooms.
The Hotel itself speaks much about the town and its history. It originally opened as The Temperance House in a time when the town was burgeoning with 20,000 people (as compared to 1,000 today). It was considered, according to current Hotel management, as “the one bastion of good Christian morals in a town of loggers.” Mendocino was reportedly home to 19 saloons during the logging industry’s heyday, and there was no shortage of pool halls and “fast houses” in town, either.
Early settlers from Maine, Connecticut and Nova Scotia sailed around Cape Horn to find the western coastal wilderness already populated with Indians, Chinese and the rough loggers, but built homes and eventually brought their wives to the region. Thanks to these early settlers from the East Coast, many of the buildings in Mendocino bear striking architectural resemblances to houses, shops and church steeples of small New England towns.
In 1975, R.O. Peterson purchased the run-down hotel and retained a cadre of designers and local artisans and craftsmen to authentically restore it. Mr. Peterson gave the designers carte blanche to purchase as many period antiques as they felt were necessary to give the Hotel the right atmosphere. Approximately 90% of all the pieces date to the late 19th century. Most of the remaining 10% represent items commissioned specifically for the Hotel.
When the dining room was designed, many special items were added to give it a warm, welcoming, relaxing space: period wallpaper by Schumacher, a rug custom designed and woven to simulate an authentic piece from the era, period mirrors, ceramics, original oil paintings, an enormous sideboard purchased in England, and a 1920s coffee machine.
Of special note are the glass screen/room dividers. The crests of the British towns were placed in walls dividing first and second class passengers in British railway stations in the late 19th century. Mr. Peterson purchased the crests, had them shipped to Mendocino and the wooden frames were built locally to house these beautiful glass pieces. Other screens in the room that have decorative glass in them are also original pieces, although older than the crests.
A beautifully-carved oak antique bar was moved in during the remodeling and is towered over by a stained glass dome measuring 6 x 9 feet. Mendocino’s pioneering families have provided photographs so each Suite presents the history of a Mendocino founder. A carefully-tendered Victorian garden with dozens of rare roses and other plants from the 1880s, some original and some newly planted, surrounds these suites.
The Garden Suites are located in and around the Kasten-Heeser House, on Albion Street behind the main Hotel building. This is the first house to be built from lumber from the Mendocino mill, acquired in an exchange between Henry Meiggs and William Kasten for claim to the headlands, plus $100. Kasten sold it in 1854 to William Kelly for $2650, who lived there until completion of his larger home (which is now the Kelley House Museum). Originally built as a small saltbox, the Kasten-Heeser House has been altered significantly by several additions. In 1861, it was purchased by the Heeser family, who lived there until 1966. (Heeser arrived in Mendocino in 1857.) He purchased the Kelly Farm and subdivided the land into affordable lots. He built several streets - Ukiah, Little Lake, Albion, Covelo and Calpella. At his death, William Heeser donated land to the high school. In 1960, his son Auggie, donated land to be used as State Parks.
The historic village of Mendocino, located on Highway One about 150 miles north of San Francisco, resembles coastal villages in Maine and gets the full blow of Alaska storms with summer fog filling fields and gullies much as in Scotland, giving it a dreamy if haunting and ghostly appearance. Ghosts, you say? Rumor has it, much as in the inns and castles of England, that the Hotel has its own ghost, a Victorian lady who haunts tables number six and eight in the dining room. She has been seen in one of the lobby mirrors and front desk personnel report that sometimes in the middle of the night their name is spoken behind them but no one is there….