I woke up in Roseville, California, where my cousin lives. A relatively large group of my relatives had settled in here for a few nights. Originally, we where set to explore some of the nearby Gold Rush towns in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, but rainy skies changed our collective mind and instead we drove into Sacramento to spend a day in town. Our first stop was to visit the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park. Leland Stanford, along with three other men, was one of the so-called Big Four who dominated California’s political and economic history during the mid Eighteen-hundreds. He had a big hand in developing the Transcontinental Railroad, and I thought it interesting to see his residence after having traveled over the rails that he had helped bring to fruition.
The mansion is open to guided tours daily. The house started off originally as a two-story four-thousand square foot edifice and was then added onto after the huge floods of the early Eighteen-sixties. Governor Stanford had had to take a rowboat from his residence to the state capitol for his inauguration. In Eighteen Seventy-Two the mansion was both raised and added onto. It became a four-story house with about nineteen thousand square feet of living space. At the turn of the Twentieth Century Leland’s wife, Jane, donated the mansion to the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento for use as an orphanage. Her only child had died in his mid-teens, and I would suppose this influenced her decision. Stanford University is properly named for this same child. Leland himself died in the mid Eighteen-Nineties and left no further offspring.
The orphanage operated at this location, on the corner of N and 8th Streets, up until the late Nineteen-Eighties. It then became a historical site and underwent a renovation somewhere on the order of twenty million dollars. It is simply amazing to see the opulence that well-to-do people could live in. The original furniture had been restored, as it had been simply shoved up into the attic during the orphanage’s operating years. All of this information and more can be found on the park’s website as well as the Wikipedia page. I could drone on and on, but all the pertinent information is there. What really made this tour come alive was our guide. She had worked at the orphanage during its final years of operation and thus had some fascinating insight into both phases of this building’s history. Two of the rooms had been preserved as bedrooms used by the orphanage but otherwise the rooms were restored to their appearance of the mid Eighteen-Seventies. Pictures were not allowed to be taken indoors due to copyright issues on some of the paintings and photographs displayed. The gas-lit chandeliers and lighting I thought fascinating to see how cleverly the pipes and valves were blended into the fixtures. Birds had been prominent throughout the house, and this supplied musical chirps but more importantly they served as a literal canary-in-the-coal-mine. Should a bird keel over then there was most likely a lethal gas leak about.
We, my relatives and I, then drove over to J Street where a number of restaurants serve the businesses and government institutions downtown. Lunch was served at Thai Basil and we enjoyed the food served family style so that we could all try the dishes. My older cousin then said that he had a special treat for us and we walked down the street a few blocks to a place called The Jungle Bird, a tiki bar of sorts. Specialty drinks were ordered all around and I enjoyed a rare Mai Tai. A younger cousin, underage, enjoyed a virgin drink and thus graciously became our designated driver. This bar enjoys quite the patronage, and I can understand why. Decorated in a tropical manner, it would be a fine place to escape the mundane. All but the youngest wobbled out of the bar and as we walked back along J Street a certain rosy tint came over my view of the world. Ambling along, I thought how pleasant the weather was although the locals all thought it somewhat cold. We drove back to Roseville and spent the remainder of the day relaxing and enjoying our mutual company. My first full day in California was exactly what I needed – good companionship, and a hearty measure of relaxation!