You can hardly miss the marvel of the Carson Mansion if you happen to visit the picturesque Old Town of Eureka, California.
The mansion was famously the home of one of the Northern California’s very first lumber barons, William Carson. Carson Mansion is renowned for its unusual architecture and colorful history. It is considered a prime example of the American Queen Anne Style of architecture and is widely regarded as the grandest Victorian home in the United States.
It is also the most photographed and written about Victorian building in California, and perhaps in the United States. Unlike many other buildings of the same era, Carson Mansion currently stands in virtually the same condition as it was at the time it was built.
In 1849, William Carson arrived in San Francisco after emigrating from New Brunswick, Canada along with a group of other woodsmen. Initially the men had their eyes on California’s gold and rolled out gold slugs in San Francisco; afterward, prospecting took the men to Trinity Mountain via the Eel River, in Humboldt Bay.
However, Carson and his men moved from Trinity Mountain and decided to contract for the provision of logs to be processed in a small local sawmill. The first tree to be used for the commercial purpose was felled in the Humboldt Bay by William Carson and his partner Jerry Whitmore.
Throughout that winter, Carson and his men hauled as many logs as possible to the Pioneer Mill located on the shores of the Humboldt Bay. In August of 1852 after working back and forth between logging and gold mining, Carson decided to break from the pack and start his own lumber business. By 1854, Carson had garnered enough business to ship the first loads of redwood timber to San Francisco.
For almost a decade, Carson worked tirelessly to build his reputation as a successful lumber businessman. However, his big break arrived when he decided to go into a partnership with John Dolbeer to form Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company.
Eighteen years later, Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company was ambitiously logging in previously untouched territory with the help of Dolbeer’s Steam Donkey Engine, which practically revolutionized the entire log removal industry and made logging possible in the hard-to-reach areas.
William Carson had to plan thoroughly before commissioning the construction of his personal mansion. He famously made the statement that he had reached such esteem that if he had built a poorly conceived house, people would think he was a terrible miser and if his mansion turned out to be exquisite, people would deem this as showing off his wealth. Eventually, he decided to build the house as he wished and not for the sake of others.
The mansion presents a mixture of every state-of-the-art Victorian architecture style, including but not limited to Italianate, Eastlake, Primary Queen Anne, and also Stick. Excerpts from volumes of references to Carson Mansion shed more light on the way writers and historians looked at the Victorian House.
Some architectural historians described the mansion as a “Redwood Baronial Castle”. Others wrote about the illusion of grandeur that was engrained into the mansion and was heightened by the play on scale, the application of fanciful detail, and artistic distribution of mass as separate volumes to help the mansion stand out among other contemporary structures. Historians have written about the style of the building and over time gave it the title of “peculiarly American” and “eclectic”.