A Day at Muir National Historic Site / Plan Your Trip

A visit to the John Muir Historic Site is a must visit for anyone visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of San Francisco’s attractions are located on it’s peninsula or across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. The John Muir Historic Site is located in Martinez, California, about a 36 mile drive to the east and northeast of the city. To drive there will take a special effort but the drive is very well worth the time.

john muir home photo

John Muir Home

Directions from San Francisco is as follows : Eastbound I-80 (Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge) to eastbound Highway 4. Exit at Alhambra Avenue, turning left at bottom of the ramp. Cross beneath highway. The park is immediately on your left.

At one point in his life, John Muir lived in Martinez, California and worked as a farmer. Some may not be aware of this fact since Muir is best known as being a preservationist and the founder of the Sierra Club. Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar Scotland and migrated with his family to Wisconsin in 1849.

The John Muir National Historic Site is located in Martinez, whose land at one time was part of a large land grant doled out by the Spaniards and Mexicans. Large land grants were awarded throughout the Spanish and Mexican ruled territory.  The original Martinez land grant covered some 17,000 acres and reach as far as the San Francisco Bay.

muir historic site martinez california

Solarium in Muir Home

Dr. John Strentzel

Dr. John Strentzel, a noted horticulturist in Alhambra Valley, near Martinez and father-in-law of John Muir. was the owner and builder, in 1882, of the Victorian Italianate mansion which you can now tour. Later, this mansion served as the home of John Muir.

When the Strentzels resided in the mansion, John Muir and his wife resided in a Dutch Colonial home about a mile from the mansion. Muir was very active in his father in-law’s fruit orchard. When Dr. Strenzel passed away in 1890, the Muirs moved into the larger home.

This land in the Alhambra Valley was utilized as orchards. This small area of northern California had an ideal climate for orchards. Industry came to the area about the time of Muir’s death in 1914. This really marked the start of the decline of the orchard industry. California grew very fast during the mid to latter half of the twentieth century and the land increased greatly in value. As a result, much of the orchard land was sold to make way for development. What were once orchards is now dotted with homes, a story familiar to most of the area east of San Francisco and Oakland.

The Mansion

When John Muir died in 1914, his wife had passed away previous to that time, the original furniture from the mansion was removed by Muir’s two daughters. The National Park Service, with the help of Muir’s daughter Helen, refurnished the home with period furniture.

Washington palms are on both sides of the mansions entrance. These are members of the only native species  in California. There is also a Canary Island palm that grows next to the Muir house.

Touring the Muir Home

The first thing you want to do when visiting this historic site is to begin at the visitor center and watch the twenty minute film.

The Muir Home tour will show you the West Parlor (the formal parlor) , the Library, the Kitchen and Dining Room, the East Parlor and the Hall and Upstairs area. The second floor contains a series of bedrooms including that of John Muir’s, bathrooms and Muir’s Study and Study Annex.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Visit to San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill

Visit Old Town Sacramento / The Steamboats

California and the Old Spanish Missions

The Adobe Structure

There is an adobe structure on the property. This adobe structure was built on the property in 1849 by Don Vicente Martinez, the son of the commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco. The adobe which you can see today was never lived in by John Muir and his wife but was the home at one time of Muir’s eldest daughter Wanda and her husband.

muir orchards and grounds

Hiking trail at Muir National Historic Site

Touring the Grounds

When you follow the trail through the historic site, in addition to the Muir Home and the Martinez Adobe, there is plenty to see. The three separate areas include the Victorian garden, the orchard and the natural area by Franklin Creek. There is a self cell phone tour of the grounds. You may also wish to explore the hills where John Muir hiked with his two daughters. Mount Wanda is open daily sunrise to sunset and many enjoy picnics on this hill. Seasonal wildflower walks, camp fire programs, bird walks and full moon walks are available on Mt. Wanda. The visitor center will have information on all activities.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)



Visit Buffalo’s Theodore Roosevelt 1901 Inauguration Site

Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the United State on September 14, 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley. This marked the moment that Teddy Roosevelt was placed on the world stage and the nation in general was to learn much more about this very unique man.

This article tells of the events at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, why President McKinley was in Buffalo in September 1901 … where V.P. Theodore Roosevelt was at this crucial and fatal time and some of the historic site you can visit today related to the McKinley assassination and Roosevelt inauguration.

theodore roosevelt inauguration site buffao new yor

Site of the 1901 inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt

President McKinley’s assassination took place at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. In 1901, Buffalo hosted the Pan-American Exposition, which highlighted the cultures and achievements of Western Hemisphere nations.

Buffalo New York and Alternating Current Electricity

Buffalo, New York was a fitting site for such an event which also showcased new technology. Buffalo is located a short 20 miles from Niagara Falls and was one of the first American cities to enjoy electricity. The first hydroelectric generating station was built at Niagara Falls in 1881. The enormous energy derived from the water falls was ideal for generating electricity. In 1893 Westinghouse was brought in to design a plant at the falls that would generate alternating current. Three years later a large scale power system was opened.

Theodore Roosevelt in 1901

Theodore Roosevelt, the governor of New York, had been elected vice president in 1900 on William McKinley’s Republican ticket. This was McKinley’s campaign for a second term. At the turn of the century and prior, the office of the Vice-President was thought to be a steppingstone to oblivion. In other words, the office held no real power and it’s function was primarily social in nature. In Roosevelt’s case, some of his detractors welcomed his ascension to the Vice-Presidency thinking that this would silence the well known ex-Rough Rider and maverick politician.

electric tower exhibit at pan-american exposition

The Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo New York

As governor of New York, Roosevelt was in line for a shot at the presidency however William McKinley was an incumbent president and the Republicans were satisfied with him.

Teddy Roosevelt could have remained governor of New York until only 1902 therefore the V.P. position could take him to 1904 at which time he might ascend to the higher office. In reality, his detractors believed he would never be chosen as a 1904 Republican candidate.

Theodore Roosevelt really did not want to be vice president, but he was a confirmed political realist with presidential ambitions. His supporters liked the idea of he being Vice-President and presiding over the Senate and the national stage it offered.

All of this of course changed in a very short time. Elected Vice-President in 1900, Roosevelt would, much to the chagrin of his detractors and to the joy of his close supporters, become President of the United States in 1901.

The Day of the Assassination

It’s interesting to note that President McKinley had planned to attend the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo during May 1901 but changed the date to September. McKinley was known to enjoy meeting the public. Unfortunately he was not big on security. For a President that could be a fatal combination.

While shaking hands with the public McKinley was shot by an anarchist from the Cleveland Ohio area. Later it would be known that the anarchist had lost his job during the Panic of 1893 and turned to anarchism.

President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901. He would eventually die of his wounds on September 14th. Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt was on vacation at t in Vermont at the time of the shooting.  Upon hearing the news Roosevelt and others in McKinley’s cabinet headed to Buffalo. President McKinley appeared to be recovering and was conversational. Roosevelt then left Buffalo for a trip to the Adirondack’s thinking that McKinley would recover in time.

theodore roosevelt presidential portrait

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Portrait

As mentioned above, President McKinley died on September 14, 1901 from complications from the gunshots. The gunshots did damage to vital organs and infection set in. It was also determined at autopsy that the President was suffering from a degenerative heart muscle. Doctors at that time did not have the infection fighting tools they have today. In addition, it’s questionable whether the wounds were at first properly treated and traced which could have allowed the infections to spread.

While McKinley was fading fast Roosevelt was once again racing back to Buffalo from the Adirondack’s.

Theordore Roosevelt Takes the Oath of Office

On September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as the 26th president of the United States in Buffalo, NY. The inauguration took place at the Ansley-Wilcox House located at 641 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.

You may enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Building the Transcontinental Telegraph Lines / Sites to Explore

Building the Trans-Atlantic Cable and Historic Sites to Visit

Visit Theodore Roosevelt’s Inauguration Site

Today the Wilcox Mansion is a National Historic Site and open to the public.This is an excellent historic site and is a must see when in Buffalo New York.

where theodore roosevelt took the oath of office in 1901

Room at the Wilcox Mansion where Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as the 26th President of the United States

Now a museum, exhibits inside the Wilcox Mansion cover the assassination, the Theodore Roosevelt inauguration, the Pan-American Exhibition and life at the turn of the century. A tour of the mansion museum begins with a film and a tour of the bottom floor. On the tour you’ll be asked to take yourself back to 1901 America and experience what it would have been like leading up to president McKinley’s assassination. More exhibits are on the second floor including some touch screen interactive items.

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site is easy to reach being fairly close to I-190. There is also plenty of free parking. For more information including directions and hours of operation see website http://www.nps.gov/thri/index.htm

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)

Visit Boston’s Historic Paul Revere House

Boston Massachusetts is home to the house that Paul Revere lived in when he left on his famous ride to Lexington.This was the famous “Midnight Ride” where Revere alerted Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on the way to arrest them.

paul revere house boston

Paul Revere House, Boston MA

Boston’s Historic North End

This structure is the oldest building in downtown Boston. Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood, the North End, contains some of the city’s oldest buildings. The North End still has plenty of charm.  The windy, cobbled streets, jumble of architectural styles and the large number of historical sites make this 1/3 square mile of land a real pleasure to traverse.

The North End of Boston overflows with character and charm. Another description of Boston’s North End would be beautiful old architecture and a feeling of romance, plus a wide range of delicious food options.

The Paul Revere Home Line of Ownership

The Revere home, built around 1680, was the residence of well known silversmith Paul Revere and his family. The family lived in this house from 1770 to 1800. There’s a lot of history as to who occupied the house after it’s construction.

There are a lot of records available as to the line of ownership of the structure from it’s construction through the 1700’s.

The first occupant was reported to be a man named Robert Howard. Howard purchased the house in 1681.  Howard’s daughter apparently sold the home in 1741 to a Captain Henry Knox. Knox had mortgaged the home and lost it to a John Erving. Beginning in 1763, Erving rented out the home until 1770 at which time he sold it to Paul Revere. It’s unsure how long Revere might have resided in the house prior to him purchasing it in 1770 with a mortgage held by Erving. As mentioned above, Paul Revere lived in this house until 1800 at which time he purchased a larger home.

paul revere museum boston

Paul Revere House and museum

Historical Significance of the Paul Revere Home

The Paul Revere Home is significant for several reasons. As we know it was the home of a patriot who resided there during those crucial years leading up to independence and afterward.

The Boston Massacre was the killing of five colonists by British regulars on March 5, 1770. A patriot mob of workers and merchant seamen were in the street throwing snowballs, stones, and sticks, and a squad of British soldiers shot five of them. At that time there were about 4,000 British soldiers stationed in Boston which had a civilian population of about 15,000. The local anger at these killings resulted in a town meeting where citizens demanded that the soldiers responsible be tried for murder. In the end two soldiers were convicted of manslaughter. The British occupying army was also pulled out of Boston. Most historians believe that the Boston Massacre in 1770 ignited a series of events that eventually led to the Revolutionary War.

Three short weeks after the massacre Paul Revere produced an engraving named “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street“. The engraving shows a line of British soldiers firing into a group of Americans. Along with it is a poem most likely composed by Revere based on his engraving. The engraving and poem was based on an illustration of the Boston Massacre by artist Henry Pelham. It appears that Pelham engraved his own version of the Massacre and lent Revere some version of it, from which Revere made his engraving, adding at the top his title and at the bottom a heroic couplet and the names of those killed or who were expected to die.

Revere’s engraving was on sale within three weeks of the event. It was not intended to be an accurate depiction of the day, but served instead as a powerful propaganda tool that rallied the colonists against British policies.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Building the Trans-Atlantic Cable

Crossing the Atlantic With Marconi’s Wireless

The Paul Revere Home After Paul Revere

In the 19th century, hundreds of Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants settled in the North End and many lived in the Paul Revere House.

boston massacre engraving paul revere

A print of the Boston Massacre engraving produced by Paul Revere

The Paul Revere House Today

In the 20th century, the house was restored and converted to a museum. The site is owned and operated by The Paul Revere Memorial Association. Visit this historical site and learn more about the life of Paul Revere.

There is a red brick structure adjacent to the Paul Revere Home which was built about 1711 by glazier Moses Pierce. A shipbuilder by the name of Nathaniel Hichborn, Revere’s cousin, bought the home in 1781.

Revere’s Silver Shop at the Paul Revere House

Paul Revere was a master craftsman, highly praised for his work in silver. Paul Revere’s silver shop was the center of his professional life. In later years Revere became involved in other businesses such as copper and iron works. Learn about his trade, and view items he made during your visit at the Paul Revere House.

The Paul Revere House is located at Richmond and North Streets.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos of the Revere House from the Trips Into History Collection. Print of the Boston Massacre engraving from the public domain)

Your visit to Boston must include a Walk Into History along the Freedom Trail. You can start your Freedom Trail tour at the beginning, middle, or end and wend your way through the modern city streets. This is Boston’s (and your) indoor/outdoor history experience. The Freedom Trail has 16 official sites. Be sure to visit them all! – See more at: http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/freedom-trail/official-sites.shtml#sthash.fvCkuYml.dpuf
Adjacent to the Revere House stands the Pierce Hichborn House, a red brick structure built about 1711 by glazier Moses Pierce. In 1781 shipbuilder Nathaniel Hichborn, Revere’s cousin, purchased the Pierce home. – See more at: http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/freedom-trail/paul-revere-house.shtml#sthash.O9ryDpSi.dpuf

Leland Stanford Mansion / Sacramento CA

On the corner of 8th Street and N Street in downtown Sacramento California is a magnificent home that at one time was the residence of Leland Stanford, an east coast educated lawyer, one of the Big Four railroad men of California, a California governor, a United States Senator and the founder of Stanford University.

stanford mansion sacramento

Stanford Mansion, Sacramento CA

Today, this historic mansion is a California State  Historic Park and a federally protected site.

Like many men of wealth in northern California during the latter half of the 1800’s, their fortunes originated with the famous California Gold Rush. In Stanford’s case, he created his wealth as a merchant and wholesaler during the gold boom years. It’s often been said that the real financial winners during the gold rush were the merchants who sold vital equipment and supplies to the prospectors and miners rather than the people who actually panned and dug for the yellow ore.

Leland Stanford’s two brothers were very successful merchants in Sacramento and after moving west from New York State, he also became a successful merchant selling to miners and settlers. Leland Stanford went into the mercantile business with a good friend by the name of Captain Nicholas T. Smith. Their business operated out of Cold Springs in El Dorado County.

leland stanford mansion state historic park

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

Business Success Led to Political Success

With his success in business Stanford met several influential people including hardware merchants by the names of Huntington and Hopkins as well as dry goods dealer Charles Crocker. Stanford along with the businessmen mentioned above formed the Republican Party of California.

In 1861 Stanford would become the president of the newly formed Central Pacific Railroad and also become the Republican nominee for governor. The Central Pacific Railroad was formed by Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins, all names that were significant in early California’s growth. Leland Stanford was sworn in as Governor of the State of California on January 10, 1862 and the Central Pacific Railroad would go on to be the western link of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

california state parks

Another view of the Stanford Mansion architecture

The story of how the Central Pacific Railroad scaled the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a fascinating story itself. Constructing the rail lines over Donner Summit through winter snow storms and the building of snow tunnels to cover certain sections of track from snowfalls was one of the most daunting feats in the history of railroad construction. The work performed building the rail line over the Sierra Nevada by Chinese laborers is another unique story in itself.

The Leland Stanford Mansion

The mansion was built in 1857 by Sacramento merchant Shelton Fogus. Stanford purchased the mansion in 1861 for $8,000.

Built in the Renaissance Revival style, the mansion would become known as the “Gubernatorial Mansion” after Stanford’s election as governor. An interesting historical fact about this home is that three California governors conducted the business of the State of California from this massive residence. These were Leland Stanford, Frederic F. Low, and Henry H. Haight. Stanford and Low actually resided in the home during their terms as governor while Haight used only the office until the construction of the California State Capitol was completed in 1869.

leland stanford home

Elegant formal entrance of the Stanford Mansion

Stanford’s Founding of Stanford University

Stanford University resides on 740 acres land that Leland Stanford purchased  for a farm. The acreage was located between Menlo Park and Mayfield.

While touring Turkey in 1884 Stanford’s son Leland Jr. was stricken with typhoid fever and died at the age of 15. It was this tragic death that served as the impetus for Stanford University’s founding. Stanford declared that he wanted to do something for the children of California. He decided that the bulk of his fortune would be dedicated for education. Construction started in 1887 and the university opened in 1891.

Palo Alto came into being as a place where both students and faculty could reside. The city of Palo Alto where the university is located incorporated in 1894.

The links below are to additional Trips Into History articles you may enjoy…

Sacramento History / The Steamboat

Historic Central Pacific Railroad Locomotives

A Six Month Voyage Chasing for Gold

huntington and hopkins hardware store

Restored Huntington and Hopkins Hardware Store in Old Town Sacramento CA

The Leland Stanford Mansion State Park Today

The State of California took over the property in 1978 with the idea of designating it as a State Park.

It was many years however until funds were gathered together to restore the old mansion. In 1991 Peter McCuen, a Sacramento businessman and former Stanford professor, helped put together the Leland Stanford Mansion Foundation. The organization’s goal was to help raise the funds to restore the Mansion to have it serve as the Governor’s protocol center and as a historic park with public tours.

Funds were secured by a public/private effort and the restoration took place to return the mansion to the way it looked during the years it was occupied by the Stanfords.

Today the Leland Stanford Mansionis used occasionally for California state functions including the welcoming of various important visitors in addition to it’s public tours. Usually groups of twenty people at a time are allowed on tours. You’ll find very knowledgeable tour guides who will tell you about the mansion’s history as well as the charitable endeavors performed by the Stanford family. One of these is the work taken on by Mrs. Stanford to help establish the Stanford Children’s Hospital.

The house truly is enormous and fascinating with the entire building taking up about 19,000 sq.ft. The largest room is the ballroom. The mansion has been beautifully restored and decorated. The interior of the mansion is stunningly beautiful and many will say that there’s a good deal  of railroad symbolism depicted in the furniture.

Tour Information

Public tours are operated by the California Department of Parks. The Stanford Mansion Visitor Center and Museum Store is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Guided tours are offered on most days between 10:00 and 5:00, with the last tour at 4:00 p.m. More information to help plan your visit can be found on website www.lelandstanfordmansion.org

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)

Sears Houses

There was a time in our history when Sears houses were a fast selling item. The Sears and Roebuck Company, thanks to the build up of rail routes across the United States, did a brisk business in selling kit homes. The house kits, marketed as Sears Modern Homes along with a seventy-five page instruction manual,  were shipped by rail, usually requiring about three boxcars to ship everything, and over about three decades during the early 1900’s Sears and Roebuck made about 100,000 sales.

sears home catalog

Sears Modern Homes catalog listing from the public domain

A shipment might have a total weight of 25 tons and over 30,000 different parts. Amazingly, Sears offered over about 400 style of homes with a price range from about $1,800 to well over $5,000. The lowest price range for a house at one time was actually between $650 and $2,000 depending on rooms and options. The buyer had a large range to choose from that fit just about any budget.

It’s an interesting story about how the Sears Modern Homes idea came about. Sears and Roebuck had offered in their catalog building materials that was stored in their Chicago warehouse. That business was slow and the materials were piling up. A man by the name of Frank Kushel who was in charge of the Sears building materials department approached Richard Sears with the concept of offering the kit homes. Selling kit homes would certainly use up much of the current stockpile. Kit homes had been offered for sale a few years earlier by a Michigan company but didn’t possess the marketing clout held by Sears. Richard Sears agreed and the first home kits were included in the company’s 1908 catalog. There were twenty-two different house plans in the first catalog with prices starting out at $650 up to $2,000. Designs offered increased as the years went by.

The lumber was supplied to Sears from a local Chicago lumber yard before the company eventually bought a facility in Cairo Illinois. The Sears Modern Home came without plumbing, electrical and heating units but the company also offered these for sale separately. In addition, beginning in about 1915, Sears offered financing usually with mortgages of five to ten year duration. As mentioned above, while there were a few other companies involved in the house kit business, Sears had a decided advantage having over 3 million people of their catalogs mailing list. This supplied an immediate marketplace for the house kits.They also had the advantage of mass producing the materials.

sears modern home

Sears Home in Belen, New Mexico

Sears Modern Homes were also quite popular for people who happened to live in areas without an abundance of natural building materials nearby. If you happened to live in a desert area with a rail line in place such as Belen New Mexico, a Sears Modern Home was a good alternative if your budget allowed. The buyer would of course need to secure the lot and put in a foundation. Sears didn’t actually design homes but offered the more popular home designs of the time. The customer had many options within the design chosen such as the number of bedrooms desired, etc. The Sears home in Belen New Mexico, which is listed on the town’s “walking tour” brochure for tourists, was constructed around 1910, about the same time as the AT & SF Railroad built it’s train depot and adjacent Harvey House dining room.

The largest single sale of Sears Modern Homes was a $1 million dollar transaction in 1918 between Sears and Standard Oil whereby the oil company purchased an entire neighborhood to house their workers at the Standard Oil operation in Carlinville Illinois. )ne hundred and fifty six of the Sears Modern Homes were shipped to Carlinville and another thirty-six were shipped to nearby towns. At this time, the Standard Oil order represented the largest mail order transaction to date. As a marketing tool, Sears used photos of several of the Carlinville homes on the front page of their catalogs. The neighborhood of Sears Modern Homes in Carlinville Illinois represent the largest single grouping of these kit homes and an excellent place to view them. Today, you can find Sears Modern Homes all around the U.S. from Virginia to California. As an example there are several Sears Homes in Newton Falls New York, Bucksport Maine and Hopewell Virgina among other sites.

sears mosern homes in belen new mexico

Sears Modern Home

Ironically, aside from the Standard Oil purchase in 1918, the largest sales year for Sears Modern Homes was in 1929, just on the eve of the Great Depression. Sales were growing to the extent that Sears opened regional sales and shipping offices. Although Sears did sell homes through the depression years, they were hit by mortgage defaults since they were the main finance arm for their house kits. In some cases they had to take back homes and try to rent them out. The Great Depression coupled with World War Two and the onset of tract housing all combined to cause sales declines for Sears Modern Homes. Tract housing is where a developer takes a large piece of land, build similar type homes on that property and then subdivides the lots for sale. In a way, what Standard Oil did in 1918 in Carlinville Illinois with over fifty Sears Homes was tract housing. The only real difference was that they did it with Sears Modern Homes kits. In addition to the factors mentioned above, local construction codes which were changing added to the sales decline. Sales of the Sears Modern Home came to an end in 1940.

Sears Modern Homes also had upgrades during the years they were sold. Drywall eventually replaced plaster and fittings were improved. Using drywall helped make the construction much easier. Indoor plumbing and central heating were just two things introduced by Sears. The Sears home buyer had the option of these improvements along with several others. The legacy of the Sears Home was that they did put out a quality product at an affordable price. By large scale production they were able to keep costs down while still selling quality materials. You may also find our article on Victorian Homes interesting on our WesternTrips site.

(Belen New Mexico home photos are from author’s private collection)