Are you a fan of unique Northern California architecture? Or maybe you are someone with a grand imagination that is inspired by the world around you? In either case, you simply have to take this beautiful Northern California route along some of our most impressive historical private residences. Like everything else in this region, Northern California’s castles are one of a kind.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
In California, the historical residences are usually called mansions rather than castles, but this road trip will take you to residences that are so spectacular you'll probably start comparing them to castles, as well.
1. The Leland Stanford Mansion, Sacramento.
Built in 1857, the mansion was remodeled in 1871 in the Second Revival architectural style. Located on the corner of 8th Street and N Street in Downtown Sacramento, the city has grown up around this historical site, as you can see in this photo. The Mansion was owned by Leland Stanford, Governor of California from 1862 to 1863, U.S. Senator from 1885 to 1893, railroad tycoon, member of the Big Four and founder of Stanford University.
2. The California Governor's Mansion State Historic Park.
Located at 1526 H Street in Sacramento, the mansion housed thirteen governors and their families from 1903 to 1967. It began housing its fourteenth governor in 2015 when Jerry Brown and his wife moved in full time. The thirty-room, three story Second Empire-Italianate Victorian mansion was built in 1877 for local hardware merchant Albert Gallatin.
3. The Preston Castle, Ione
Also known as the Preston School of Industry, this was once one of the oldest and best-known reform schools in the United States. It was a home for troubled boys from June 1894 all the way until 2010. It's now open for tours and rumored to be haunted by the souls of disgruntled youths.
4. Vikingsholm, South Lake Tahoe
Vikingsholm is a 38-room mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. It was constructed in 1929 by 200 workers as a summer home for heiress Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight. Before starting construction, Mrs. Knight and her architect traveled to Scandinavia to gather ideas for the construction of the house. Some parts of the structure contain no nails or spikes, as a result of old-fashioned construction methods.
5. Empire Mine State Historic Park, in Grass Valley, California
Built in the English Country Home style, and called a cottage to distinguish it from the owner's other country homes and mansions, this quaint castle shows Cornish design influences. Most the miners at the Empire Mine were from the tin and copper mines of Cornwall, England. They had experience and expertise in hard rock mining, hence the intricate stone work of this country mansion.
6. The Mary Aaron Museum, Marysville
Frank Aaron was a beloved and active member of the Marysville community until his death in the home in 1897. The house was eventually given to the city and transformed into the Mary Aaron Museum—named after Frank’s mother. Since the museum opened its doors, many visitors and staff have reported unusual activity within the house. It’s been said that fire alarms and motion sensors would go off for no apparent reason in the middle of the night. Then, guests started reporting hearing voices and people walking throughout the home when nobody else was around.
7. The Bidwell Mansion, Chico
Bidwell Mansion, located at 525 Esplanade in Chico, California, was the home of General John Bidwell and Annie Bidwell from the late 1868 until 1900, when Gen. Bidwell died. Annie continued to live there until her death in 1918. After their marriage in 1868, the three story, 26 room Victorian house became the social and cultural center of the upper Sacramento Valley. Now a museum and State Historic Park, it is California Historical Landmark #329 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The three-story brick structure is built in an informally romantic version of the Italianate style. It also has aspects of the Italian Villa and Octagon house types present. The building's exterior is finished with a pink tinted plaster.
8. Kelly-Griggs House Museum
This 19th Northern California version of a castle is now dedicated to cultivating an appreciation of art, architecture and artifacts from it's heyday. The building was built in 1880 and Private tours are available on request by calling 530-527-1129.
9. The Carson Mansion, Eureka
The Carson Mansion, constructed in 1884-1885, is a three story, 18-room structure with a tower and basement. The house was designed by the Newsom Brothers of San Francisco, well-known architects throughout California. Perfectly situated to the south of the lumber mill, the Carson Mansion has become a local landmark. There are many interesting architectural points of view regarding the mansion. It is adorned with Stick-Eastlake characteristics, and there has been much written about its Queen Anne qualities. There is reference to Gothic, Italian and French influence. The wide porches with large ornamental pillars make for a grand entrance. A complex combination of gables, turrets, cupolas, and pillars constitutes the exterior of the mansion, which is one of the most photographed structures in the world.
What other spectacular stops would you make on this road trip? Be sure to share them with us on Facebook!