“WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE IN AN HISTORIC HOUSE?”
When our guest asked this at breakfast , I realized this was something that I have thought about almost every day for 18 years.
When I look out the windows it is comforting to realize that for nearly 155 years, someone’s eyes have taken in the beauty of the Sierras and fertile farmland through these wavy glass panes. All these years, shoes of farmers, teachers, patients, children (and now our guests)… have trodden the tongue and groove douglas fir floors. Countless people have relaxed on the redwood front porch and viewed specimens of trees and plants – some more than 400 years old.
I dust armoires that held the arms and uniforms of the pioneer patriots ready to support the Union during the Civil War era or the dresses of the Locke girls. I pick out tunes on a piano that once played out the songs of the World Wars, ragtime and jazz eras, with titles such as “Over There”, “I’ll be Seeing You”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” It is easy to see Theresa and James Locke with their neighbors as the “Milk Truck Band” belting out those tunes for weekend entertainment.
The chairs in every room once supported farmhands at lunch during the 1900s. I am amazed at, and grateful for, all the items left in the house. Things from third story to cellars had to be evaluated as to why they were still there. How did the item fit into the history of the Lockes who built and lived in the house over the years? How did it reflect the era in which it was made and used? Was it worth restoring and re-integrating into the use and décor of the house as an inn? Should it be donated to a museum or archive? We found a home for most of Dr. Locke’s medical equipment at Sierra Medical Museum in Sacramento. Delia Locke’s diaries are providing research resource at the Holt Atherton Library at the University of the Pacific. Farm equipment and household furnishings are now part of the collections at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum. As work progressed on the house, many of the items seemed to declare what their fate should be. Now, with very few exceptions, they are comfortably serving a purpose and telling their stories.
It’s a daily education to live in an historic house, to be challenged to answer questions about its construction and contents. It’s a privilege. It’s a responsibility. It’s a pleasure to share it with visitors from every corner of the globe. Best of all, it is a place where we have experienced treasures and created treasured memories to remain forever in our hearts.