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Winchester House, 1980
Photograph by Jane Lidz, courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS, CAL,43-SANJOS,9-12

The Winchester House, or Winchester Mystery House as it is better known, is a 160-room Victorian Mansion built by Sarah L. Winchester, wife of rifle manufacturer William Wirt Winchester. Sarah and William were married on September 30, 1862, and had one child, Annie Pardee, who died about a month after birth in 1866. William Winchester died on March 7, 1881, after which Mrs. Winchester, upset at the deaths of her husband and daughter, reportedly consulted a spiritualist. This medium informed Mrs. Winchester that the victims killed by the Winchester rifles her family manufactured were seeking revenge by taking the lives of her family. The spiritualist also conveyed to Mrs. Winchester that the spirits had placed a curse on her, and that if she wished to live, she must appease them by moving out west and constantly, without ceasing, build a house for them night and day. It wasn't until Sarah Winchester died at the age of 85 in September 1922 that work on her bizarre, multi-gabled house finally stopped. The fantastic Eastlake shingle Queen Anne house was built at an estimated cost of five million dollars.

[photo] Rotating images depict an aerial view of the house, historic image of Sarah Winchester in carriage outside the house, and some of the custom made stained glass in the house
Courtesy of City of Santa Clara and Winchester House

Construction began in 1884. The abundance of timber within close proximity to San Jose allowed Mrs. Winchester's imagination free reign to try out what was evidently her consuming interest in architectural innovation. This unique building includes many outstanding elements of Victorian architecture and fine craftsmanship. There are rooms with gold plated fixtures, exquisite doors and windows of stained Tiffany glass set in silver designs as well as practical household innovations years ahead of their time. The continual building and remodeling created a 160-room house covering an area of six acres. Shortly after Mrs. Winchester's death in 1922 the house was sold and then opened to the public as the Winchester Mystery House. The Gardens Tour also has many points of interest, including the Greenhouse, Tank House and Fruit Drying Shed.

The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd., San Jose. Tours are offered daily, for a fee. For information on seasonal operating hours, special tours and events call 408-247-2101 or visit the website.

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