Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Visiting the Red Castle Inn, Nevada City, California

Good morning. Tina here. I am going to share with you a visit to one of my favorite places, the Red Castle Inn in Nevada City, California. I have loved this old place since I was very little.
This is Lori and me playing on the rocks at a park in Nevada City in November 1958. Our mother had written on the back "A very cold and dreary day". We don't look like the weather is bothering us much. That was the day that I first saw the Red Castle perched high on a hill above Nevada City and fell in love with it. Always forever after I had to make sure that I saw the lovely castle every time I was nearby. I always wanted to go inside, and finally, about a week and a half ago, I realized my dream and spent a weekend as a guest at the inn with my good friend Karen.
One of the things I find most fascinating about the Red Castle is the icicles. This is my favorite shot I took of them, taken from the fourth floor balcony which was just outside our suite. Up close and personal, finally, with the lovely gingerbread of the Castle.
Above is the view of the Courthouse in Nevada City from the fourth floor balcony of the Red Castle Inn.

The Red Castle was built by Judge John Williams, and was finished in August 1860. He lived there with his wife and son and his son's large family. It was actually built for two families, which was uncommon in those days. The Castle stands on Prospect Hill, a steep hill which had been cleared by fire. It was a very outstanding sight from the town of Nevada City and its imposing structure earned it the name of the Red Castle.
Do you see the little Gothic windows at the top of the Castle? That was my room. The little windows sat on the floor, and the ceilings slanted down on both sides.

My friend Karen and I traveled to the Nevada City area to attend a Celtic Festival in nearby Grass Valley, and to celebrate Karen's birthday. Naturally I thought a stay at the Red Castle Inn might be just what we needed after spending the day volunteering at the festival. Cosy rooms, cushy beds, lovely views, the chance of a lifetime to stay at a place which had fascinated me since childhood...
The current innkeepers, Conley and Mary Louise Weaver, have had the pleasure of welcoming guests to their home (they live on the bottom floor) for twenty-five years. They are very ready to share their knowledge of the history of the home with guests, and have made a wonderful home-away-from-home which Karen and I were happy to enjoy.

I have collected four vintage postcards over the years which depict the Red Castle, and before I left home I made a copy of the postcards which I gave to Mary Louise when I checked in. Two are black and white real photo postcards and one is a chrome. The other is a copy of an oil painting of the inn. I was happy to find that all the rooms of the inn held at least one piece of art depicting the inn. Art lover that I am, I tried to photograph as many of those as I could.
Our garret suite was on the top fourth floor. The little balcony shown in all the paintings and pictures was just outside this striking Gothic set of french doors. We reached the suite by a short but steep flight of carpeted stairs.

The sitting room at the landing was filled with books, with several chairs and a rattan love seat flanked by two reading lamps. It had a dollhouse under construction and old dress form with antique clothing.
This is one of the Gothic windows in my West garret room. I looked out and down upon the lovely West side garden which had a lily pond with a fountain which serenaded me all night.
This is a view of one of the Gothic windows in Karen's East garret room. Our rooms were just perfect for one or two people, with the most comforting queen beds, delightful old fashioned wallpaper, lovely old furniture pieces, reading lamps, and several pieces of artwork, at least one piece depicting the inn itself. My room had a watercolor, a Mathis print, and an embroidered piece, each showing the inn. Each room had a small closet and two dressers.
Our balcony at dusk. Outside were a couple of comfortable chairs and a small table. I spent part of an afternoon reading out there. Inside on the left you might notice a distant cousin of Penny's. She proudly wore an antique jacket and I must say, she had a very tiny waist.
We just couldn't get enough of our balcony. It was lovely in the morning with the sun just starting to reach to it from the East. It was lovely in the early afternoon slightly shaded and inviting with dappled light coming through the walnut tree leaves. It was lovely in the evening's fading light with the glowing lamps from our sitting room shining out to us welcoming us in, and the crickets singing beyond in the garden below. It was lovely in the quiet darkness with the scent of pine and the dampness of a sudden sprinkle, suddenly lit by lightning to the northeast. It had a stupendous view of the town, the courthouse and an ancient church. And it was ours, our private oasis for the weekend.
The garret suite has its own private sitting room and balcony, two guest rooms, and a private bath. However, the bath is on the third floor below, reached by this flight of stairs. At first it seemed a little unnerving going downstairs in your robe to the bathroom, but we never did see anyone else, and by the end of our stay we were so used to it we felt like we had two floors to ourselves.
This is a wooden model of the Red Castle Inn by Sheila. It is part of a series of "ghost houses", and dates to about 1990.

The Red Castle was purchased in 1963 by James W. Chaar. It was in very poor condition, and the porches on all three sides needed to be restored. Amazingly, only five of the decorative icicles lining the roof were lost, the others were found stored away in a basement closet! Mr. Chaar and his wife restored and refurbished the Red Castle, and opened it as one of the very first Bed and Breakfasts in California's Mother Lode.
This gorgeous screen print, "The Castle, 1859" is signed by Beverly Hackett and Dorothy Cooper and is dated 1952. It hangs in the East garret room, which my friend Karen slept in.

Our very own Heidi Ann actually looked into the Red Castle as a venue for her wedding. She toured the building with our Mom and her significant other. There is a lovely side garden where weddings have taken place, and a cosy parlor inside which could work for a small ceremony. She did not marry there, but still has fond memories of the tour.
This embroidery above was hanging near the head of my bed in the West garret room. A former guest used lace to depict the balcony railings and the gingerbread icicles. It was very colorful, and was unsigned. I love the hills in the background, behind the trees, they look so real to me.
This is a lovely painting graces the covers of two binders the inn keepers have filled with articles, letters, art, and other information regarding the Red Castle. Inside articles include some from Gourmet magazine and Sunset magazine. There are also pages from various books which featured Bed and Breakfast Inns. There was even a signed note from the famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen dated November 1988.
This great watercolor hangs on the wall of the third floor landing, near our private bathroom, and just outside the door of the one guest room of the inn which is reported to be haunted by the "lady in gray". The story goes that she was governess to eleven children of the Williams family. If you stay in that room, she might gently tuck you into bed.
Some of these images, like the one above, are saved in binders, and were part of magazine articles about the inn. The pages are enclosed in plastic sheets, which are sometimes a bit bumpy and reflective, and so you see some lumps and light spots in my photos.

We were treated to breakfast each morning at 8:30 am. Ramekins of caramelized onions topped with two sunny side up baked eggs; apple pie with a to-die-for crust; warm freshly baked rolls; rich french roast coffee; spicy cherry cobbler... all delicious.
Watercolor by Herriot, Red Castle, Nevada City 1860, showing the inn from the East. This side is rarely depicted. Also shown is the South side. When you walk down from the parking lot above the inn on the South you enter the porch on the West at what is the second story, and walk around to the North side to the front door. This watercolor was hanging in the West garret room, which was my room during our stay.
This is a lovely pen and ink signed Neva Roberts. The Red Castle is described as "domestic Gothic". It is one of only two brick Gothic revival homes in the West.
A tall and thin depiction, very intricate, printed in red and white, showing the lacy white eaves and intricate balconies.
I am ending with a print by one of my favorite Gold Country artists, George Mathis. He drew the lovely inn with some of the icicles and porch railings missing, the gardens overgrown and dying. But we know that future years brought new life to the building, and many more visitors to enjoy its hospitality.

One of these days, when you have the time, follow Highway 49 North through the Mother Lode, and head for Nevada City. Watch on your right for a red brick building high on a hill, dripping with large white gingerbread icicles. Get ready to lose your heart to a fine one hundred and fifty year old inn, and settle in and stay a while, with "Pleasant dreams and fond recollections", as a Victorian plate hanging on the wall of my room promises.


Lorlore said...

Wonderful post and tribute to the Inn, Tina!! Loved it!!!!

Jill said...

This was such a great post! Next time I drive through I'll have to check it out~

Heidi Ann said...

Oh, it's such a magical place!! I am so glad you were able to stay there so that you could share all of this with us!
I have dreams of my own that I will stay there some day, as well.
Thank you for a beautiful post.

Sonja said...

What a sweet homage to a local landmark. I just went by there yesterday. Everyday I think how fortunate I am to live here. Thanks for the reminders.

yosemite faith said...

very cool post - loved all the info and pictures!

Claudia said...

What a lovely place! I just wrote about our wedding in Nevada City, which took place 12 years ago. I love that town.


moonshinejunkyard said...

Wow! I am blown away by this post, Tina. You reeeeaaaaalllly make me want to stay anniversary maybe?! I love the way you describe your little balcony, the fountain at night, the delicious breakfasts, going down the stairs in your all sounds so dreamy. And what an absolutely breathtaking building! Each artistic rendition was just exquisite. I particularly love the embroidery, what a beautiful and colorful depiction of this magical place! Thank you so much for telling us the enchanting story of the Red Castle!