Eureka, in northern California, where we are staying foe a couple of days is the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland. The entire city is a state historic landmark because of its hundreds of significant Victorian homes and commercial buildings.
A few miles south of Eureka, down Highway 101 is the famous drive called ‘The Avenue of the Giants’. It follows a very scenic highway that runs through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It is actually the old U.S. Route 101, and is still maintained by the state as State Route 254. The road winds is way through giant Redwoods (Sequoias), some of which are just centimetres from the road. It is a real ‘Wow’ highway with the tendency for people to say ‘Wow’ at every bend. Some of these trees are 900 years old. It’s hard to imagine that a few decades ago this highway carried an enormous volume of traffic. Now, it winds quietly along the Eel River and joins a few little hick towns and has stopping places every few hundred metres where you can stop, walk, take photos, or just say Wow!
We spent half the day driving its 35 kilometre length and we liked it so much, that instead of returning north to Eureka on the new freeway, we returned through the forest for another look.
In the afternoon, we spent some time driving around some of the blocks of the old town area to see the historic buildings that still exist in the city. Californians call these ‘Victorian Buildings’ as the were built during the rain of Queen Victoria. Most of them are ornate but the stand-out building is the mansion built by the timber baron, William Carson.
It’s regarded as one of the best examples of the American Queen Anne Style of architecture, and is considered to be the most grand Victorian home in America. It is one of the most written about and photographed Victorian houses in California, and perhaps, in the United States. Since 1950 the house has been a private club and is not open to the public.
William Carson, for whom the house was built, arrived in San Francisco from New Brunswick, Canada with a group of other woodsmen in 1849. He moved to this area and began felling trees in 1850. In 1854 he shipped the first redwood trees to San Francisco. His business boomed and Carson became very wealthy. The house was sold tin 1950 when the family left this area. it was purchased for $35,000 by local community business leaders and currently houses the Ingomar Club, a private club.