'Gold' Within the Walls of Dennen's Victorian Farmhouse. Story by Lisa Norman

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1 'Gold' Within the Walls of Dennen's Victorian Farmhouse Story by Lisa Norman At winter, I am reminded to look to the starry sky in the season s darkest moments and wish. Child-like wonder is preserved at this time. I dream and think of a time, long ago and far away, wondering if ever the world I live in will meet the world of tomorrow. Legacies are made, and left or lost dependent on a catastrophe s level of destruction and a society s willingness and ability to preserve and restore its broken pieces. It s a waste to let knowledge whisper away in the wind, and to let triumphs and discoveries be forgotten. Societies advance with knowledge and dreams continue to be made with each progression, each wrinkle, each contribution to the great galaxy of knowledge. The desire to communicate with the unknown began at least as far back as In that year, Italian Galileo Galilei viewed Mars through his newly invented telescope and the world saw a large sphere, a world like Earth, and wondered might be. Centuries later, people speculate about the possibility of civilization on far-off planets and dream about ways to communicate with the unknown, the not-yet-discovered society. Today, time will only tell when one world will speak to the next. Communication happens, large or small, it always does. Who isn t tempted to etch their name in the wooden bench on a park trail for the next passerby to see? And, sometimes, revealing evidence of another time and civilization is left in the walls of a house. Innkeepers Jo Bradley and Fred Cox of Dennen s Victorian Farmhouse discovered remnants of another time during a renovation in the spring of Heyden Loudon Construction, Inc. broke ground March 1, and the work was completed May 28. During the course of the repair, I kept telling the contractors that they needed to find the gold buried in the walls so that we could pay them. I am sure they got tired of the joke. We kept finding little things: a glaziers tool, doorknob, a teasing egg for chickens, a part of a stove, pieces of newspaper used for chinking the fireplace nothing to totally knock your socks off. Then one day, the guys started yelling. They had told us they were going to have to open one of the exterior walls for the plumbing and electrical. We reluctantly agreed to it and that s when they found the time capsule. Out of the wall fell all kinds of things. Leather shoes, a key tag, bow tie, fabric, a child s book, a music book, a late 1800s tide table, a broad gauge railway schedule, also from the late 1800s, and the best, three letters! One was folded in its envelope. A letter from the Dennen s son Richard to them. A letter from a nephew in Ukiah to Aunt Dora, telling her of the birth of his ten-pound son. [See Page 6] And, a third letter that we were unable to open because of its severe aging and damage. All the artifacts were taken to the Oakland Museum for cleaning and are there at this time. Our thanks go to Marty Simpson at the Kelley House for sending us in their direction. Time Capsule Society and the Crypt The 1989 Oxford English Dictionary defines a time capsule as a container used to store for posterity a selection of objects thought to be representative of life at a particular time. According to the International Time Capsule Society website, oglethorpe.edu, Time capsules are interesting to people of all ages and touch people on a world-wide scale. Properly prepared time capsules preserve the salient features of history and can serve as valuable reminders of one generation for another. Time capsules file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (1 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

2 give individuals, families and organizations an independent voice to the future. The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS) is an organization established in 1990 to promote the careful study of time capsules. It strives to document all types of time capsules throughout the world. The group is headquartered at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, and estimates there are approximately ten thousand capsules world-wide, most of them lost. Oglethorpe University is the site of the famed Crypt of Civilization. The Guinness Book of World Records (1990) identifies the Crypt as the first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants or visitors to the planet Earth. The ITCS website relates, The Crypt was first proposed by Oglethorpe s president, Thornwell Jacobs, the father of the modern time capsule, in an article in the November 1936 issue of Scientific American. In this article, Jacobs explained at length an idea for preserving contemporary records for posterity. Jacobs wrote of a unique plan to present a running story of life and customs, to show the manner of life in 1936, as well as the accumulated knowledge of mankind up until that time. His plan was to preserve consciously for the first time in history a thorough record of civilization, in what he called a crypt, says the ITCS. The ITCS notes, The Crypt was sealed on May 28,1940, and it is not to be opened until May 28, 8113 A.D. Dr. Jacobs calculated this date from the first fixed date in history, 4241 B.C. when most historians believe the Egyptian calendar was established. Exactly 6177 years had passed between 4241 B.C. and 1936 A.D. Jacobs projected the same period of time forward from 1936, arriving at the year 8113 A.D. for the Crypt s opening. The encyclopedic inventory of items in the Crypt includes, in a swimming pool size chamber, over 640,000 pages of micro-filmed material, hundreds of newsreels and recordings, a set of Lincoln logs, a Donald Duck doll and thousands of other items, many from ordinary daily life. There also is a device designed to teach the English language to the Crypt s finders. Jacob s idea in 1936 created tremendous interest. Soon afterward the Westinghouse Company, which was building a pavilion for the New York World s Fair, buried a project, which was not to be opened until 6938 A.D. It was called a Time Capsule and our language gained a new term almost overnight. Developing Trend and Lost Time New York, Novato, Swansea, South Park, the White House and Hawaii are among the places where development of a time capsule took place. Exaggerated fear of the end scattered across states on the eve of the newest millennium, encouraging cities and people around the world to prepare a capsule for posterity. The examples: Novato Advance reports in 2004 of the city s first official capsule to be opened fifty years later; the 2001 installation of The New York Times Time Capsule, chronicling life in the late twentieth century sees media attention that same year and schedules an opening one thousand years later; the White House Millennium Council puts forth its National Millennium Time Capsule 2000 while its prototype vessel is unveiled at the Opening Ceremony of America s Millennium on December 31, 1999; the Star Bulletin in Hawaii reports how people organize time capsule for anniversaries, building blessings and memorials; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services celebrates Women s Health Week in 2002 with a time capsule dedication; Herald News reports of the Swansea capsule, buried in 1967, opening in 2000; South Park buries a capsule in 2001, to be opened in The list goes on and among the more intriguing capsules are those that are missing. The ITCS notes, Time capsules usually are lost due to thievery, secrecy or poor planning. Finding them will enrich posterity by assuring that independent voices are heard in the future. The International Time Capsule Society, which has file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (2 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

3 formed with the mission to record the burial of all time capsules, is still in search of nine time capsules of which little is known. In 1991, a list of the 10 Most Wanted Time Capsules was released. To date, only one, the Kingsley Dam Time Capsule, has been found. Selections were made by ITCS members: Knute Skip Berger, executive director of the State of Washington Centennial Time Capsule project; Dr. Brian Durrans, an anthropologist with the British Museum who has cataloged more than two hundred capsules; William Jarvis, a Washington State University librarian and author of a scholarly publication about time capsules; and Paul Hudson, historian and author of The Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization Time Capsule. ITCS says nine still remain on that list. They are: 1. Bicentennial Wagon Train Time Capsule This capsule was supposed to hold the signatures of twenty-two million Americans. But on July 4, 1976, when President Gerald Ford arrived for the sealing ceremony in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, someone stole the capsule from an unattended van in the bicentennial wagon train. The capsule s maker, the Reynolds Company, had broken the mold. The thief s identity and the whereabouts of the capsule are unsolved mysteries. 2. MIT Cyclotron Time Capsule In 1939 a group of MIT engineers placed a brass capsule beneath an eighteen-ton -magnet used in a brand new, state-of-the-art cyclotron. The capsule was to be opened in fifty years but was not. No one remembered the time capsule was there (the cyclotron had long since been deactivated). But when reminded of its existence, MIT was faced with another problem: how do you get a time capsule out from under a thirty-sixthousand-pound lid? 3. Corona, California, Time Capsules The City of Corona seems to have misplaced a series of seventeen time capsules dating back to the 1930s. Efforts to recover the capsules in 1986 were in vain. We just tore up a lot of concrete around the civic center, said the chairman of the town s centennial committee. A Los Angeles Times reporter has called Corona the individual record holder in the fumbled time capsule category. 4. The M*A*S*H Time Capsule Buried by cast members of the hit TV show in a secret ceremony, the capsule contained props and costumes of the show. It was buried in January 1983 somewhere, no one will say in the 20th Century Fox parking lot in Hollywood. The lot has shrunk in size, so the time capsule may be under a Marriott Hotel now. 5. George Washington s Cornerstone Today s custom of burying time capsules is in part an outgrowth of Masonic cornerstone-laying ceremonies. Through the centuries, Masons have officiated at rituals which often include placing memorabilia inside building cornerstones for later recovery. In 1793, George Washington, a Mason, performed the Masonic ritual upon the laying of the original cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol. Over the years, the Capitol has undergone extensive expansion, remodeling and reconstruction, but the original George Washington cornerstone has never been found. It is unknown whether there is anything inside of it. 6. The Gramophone Company Time Capsule In 1907, Hayes, Middlesex, England, sound recordings on disc were deposited behind the foundation stone of the new Gramophone Company factory (later HMV, later EMI) by the opera singer (later Dame) Nellie Melba. During reconstruction work in the 1960s, the container was officially removed, but before it could be reburied, someone ran off with it. The whereabouts of these priceless master-pressings of Melba and other stars remains a mystery. file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (3 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

4 7. Washington Territorial Centennial Time Capsule In 1953 Washington state celebrated its territorial centennial by burying a two-ton time capsule on the state capitol campus in Olympia. The legislature failed to approve funds to mark the site, and the capsule was lost until However, records indicate that a supplementary time capsule was prepared in 1953 for burial alongside the main capsule. The location and contents of the second capsule are unknown. The capsule may have been interred as planned; its reported location was a closet at the capitol. Update: it appears that this capsule was found in The ITCS will update this soon. 8. Blackpool Tower In Blackpool, Lancashire, England, a foundation deposit was interred in the late nineteenth century with the customary ceremony. When a search was organized recently in preparation for new building work, not even remote sensing equipment or a clairvoyant could locate the time capsule. 9. The Lyndon, Vermont, Time Capsule First mentioned in an 1891 Vermont newspaper, the capsule is an iron box containing proceedings of the town s centennial celebration. It was scheduled to be opened on July 4, Citizens have looked in the town vault, the bank and the library but have not found the box. The time capsule may not have been buried at all, since some ceremonies were canceled due to rain. Lyndon residents have vowed not to lose their new time capsule which is set to be sealed July 4. The Discovered Dennens The Mendocino Coast was not excluded from having mysteries of time capsules as evident from the recent discovery by Bradley and Cox. The items they found predate the sealing of the Crypt by around fifty years. Bradley continues to revisit old documents and photographs, and researches materials at the county offices and historic archives such as those located at the Kelley House to one day have a complete picture. What she has discovered up till now provides wonderful stories for the community and all to share. John Dennen built what is now Dennen s Victorian Farmhouse in 1877 for himself, his wife Dora and family. Bradley says, John and Dora came here from Hollowell, Maine in early They purchased the property from C.O. Perkins and built the home. There was also a barn, now gone, and a chicken coop, our Quail Cottage. According to most information I have, the Dennens arrived with their son, Richard. They had a second child, a daughter, Daisy, who was born here. John was a carpenter and became foreman at the Little River mill. Bradley continues. Dora was his second wife. His first died after they had been married for just four months. Dora s mother was a member of the Coombs family who built the Little River Inn. I suspect they came, like many others, at the invitation of family and friends already here. Several photographs of Dora grace the inn located at 7001 North Highway 1. Everything I have found out about Dora was that she was a well-loved lady, a homemaker. A local newspaper article, dated May 20, 1927, told of a surprise party held in Fort Bragg celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday. It states that seventy-five people attended the birthday party. People spoke of her as having an exemplary life of fifty years here and made kind remarks and dwelt upon the kindly treatment they had received at her hands. The Dennens left Little River in I find that interesting as the Little River mill closed sometime the next year. From there, I believe they were in Point Arena for a time and then moved to Fort Bragg, Bradley shares. The postmark of one of the letters Bradley found was from Richard, the Dennens son, to John, his father, then file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (4 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

5 living in Point Arena. [See letter at left.] A granddaughter still lives in Ukiah and a great granddaughter is also in northern California, Bradley adds. The Inn Property Through Time Following the Dennens residence, there is a thirty-eight-year gap, a mystery, says Bradley, which she has yet to uncover. The Wetmore family owned the place from 1930 to 1938 or 1939, according to Bradley. Following them was the Dougherty family who owned the property until the seventies. Bradley remembers, Walter and Henrietta Wetmore: Walter was a retired Texas ranger and sharpshooter with a mean streak. He was known to sit on the front porch and shoot the tail lights out of passing cars. From what I know of Henrietta, she was a homemaker who loved cats. The Dougherty family bought and sold multiple properties throughout Little River, says real estate agent Peggy Merrill. In the late seventies, a couple named Storm had the property. They set it up as a store and studio for their art and fabric business. From what I have found out, the county said that the property could be residential or an inn so they turned the rooms upstairs into an inn, Bradley says. The shop remained downstairs and it was called The Storm Center. Bradley adds, When we took down the old sign that was here when we bought the property, to replace it, when it hit the ground it exploded and The Storm Center sign was still inside it. The next owner was a man named Curt Acher, who is no longer living in this area. He was responsible for taking down the back of the house, adding walls and removing the original kitchen. He hired a wood worker, Mike Stevenson of Albion, to make changes and to add redwood woodworking throughout the home. That woodworking remains today and is incredible, Bradley shares. Mike has done us the honor of coming to the house and telling us all he did and what was here. We found it very helpful during our repair this year. The Victorian house and the surrounding two acres of the property have changed over time and study of its adjoining areas also reveals some interesting information. In my research of the property, I found that one of the Little River schools was where the creek crossed Highway 1 on the east side. That would be our property. The creek at one time was called Dennen Gulch. It is now called Schoolhouse Creek. Since there were three schools in Little River during its heyday, I only know for sure that this one was not the third, but one of the first two, Bradley states. And the value of the property then? I still plan to go to Ukiah to go over the old property recordings to fill in the few holes I have in the property s history. I think it would also be fun to see the prices that it sold for, Bradley comments. Dennen s Victorian Farmhouse is lovingly maintained and refurbished by Bradley and Cox. There are four buildings on the property currently. When we purchased the property, the house was in major disrepair both inside and out. There was severe termite damage and rot on the east side of the house, broken stair railings, the exquisite redwood woodworking file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (5 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

6 was dry and filthy, plumbing was having problems, and so forth. From the old pictures of the house, we could see that part of the house had been removed sometime in the past by prior owners. We went for our coastal development permit with these pictures included. We could prove that the work we wanted to do on the house was not only a repair, but a restoration, notes Bradley. The permit was granted and during the repair, we found that the house was truly built of heart redwood. Inside the attic are the most amazing slabs of rough hewn maroon redwood. The house was pressure washed and painted for the first time in maybe thirty years. We unearthed the original redwood floor of the kitchen from under three inches and over one hundred years of flooring. That is where our contractor John Loudon and his carpenter Richard Brayton found the original linoleum from the late 1800s. The best part about that were the labels on the back. They were from the late 1800s. One of them was stamped Congoleum. Well, wait a minute, that is a current modern product, isn t it? Nope, as it turns out, the company imported asphalt from the Congo, hence the name Congoleum. Wow!, Bradley smiles. Bradley and Cox Innkeeping is a wonder. Bradley remembers, Fred and I first came to Mendocino in It was my first time up here and I felt like I had come home. Fred loved it, too. We talked about it for years but it took us eighteen to get here. We had both spent twenty-four years in our chosen fields, he in direct mail and me in veterinary medicine. We decided to buy ourselves a job. We decided on innkeeping. After a lot of research we started looking for the inn. We decided on this one for many reasons including size and character. We found out from our real estate agent, Peggy Merrill, that the house had a history and that the Dennens were the original builders and owners. We didn t find out until a week before closing escrow about Thomas Kinkade using the house as a model. Thomas Kinkade painted the house in He spent a week painting his portrait of the home. He aptly named it Home Is Where The Heart Is II, says Bradley. A print of the same portrait welcomes visitors into the parlor of Dennen s Victorian Farmhouse. The image can be found on plates, magnets, books and various merchandise sold in Kinkade galleries. The property has been operating as a bed-and-breakfast inn since the late 1970s. We are its fifth innkeepers, says Bradley, Our intent is when we leave the inn that we leave it restored as best we can to its original state. In that process we have brought the inn up to a three-diamond rating from AAA. We have had all kinds of people stay with is, from TV actors to just plain ol every day wonderful people. We have had some of them become almost family. Some very special people. A lot of repeat guests are thrilled with the metamorphosis. And don t forget the full gourmet breakfasts delivered to the privacy of the bedrooms each morning, she shares. Lasting Legacy The inventory of the famed Crypt is amazing. [See the chart below for the world record capsule s contents.] Sealed on May 28, 1940 with instructions to open May 28, 8113 A.D., the twenty-foot long, ten-foot high and ten-foot wide room rests on a bed rock with two feet of stone above it, lined with porcelain enamel plates embedded in pitch. It is sealed with a stainless steel door, welded in place. Would you leave one so elaborate? Bradley reflects, We are planning to build shadow boxes made out of the original linoleum, wall paper and siding that we ve saved to showcase these artifacts after their rejuvenation. Our intention at this time is to hang them back in the house where they belong. We did not put a time capsule in the house ourselves, but we do know of some signatures left behind. file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (6 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

7 Fred Cox and Jo Bradley, Innkeepers Dennen s Victorian Farmhouse P.O. Box 661, Mendocino, CA Located at 7001 North Highway 1, Little River (800) (707) Return To Cover Selection Page Click Here file:///users/chuckhathaway/documents/websites/real%20estate%20mendocino/editorial_455print.htm (7 of 7) [12/31/07 3:13:02 PM]

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