In the midst of the holiday rush I promised myself I would indeed complete part two of this road trip. We left off with me and my girlfriends having dinner the night before our visit. For our day at the mansion we started with breakfast at Bill’s Cafe. The wait was about 45 minutes but after reading the reviews on yelp we decided it was a San Jose institution so we opted to wait it out. To be honest the wait flew by because 1. They offer free coffee while you wait (oh yes), 2. You can order from the bar while you wait (oh yes, yes), and 3. There is a cute little specialty grocery store Zanotto’s across the street.
We found lots of cool items in the little store. We were able to buy some early Christmas gifts and fun little trinkets. They also had an amazing sandwich bar. I definitely recommend stopping into this store if your in San Jose. We returned to the breakfast spot just in time for our number to be called. The menu, let me just tell you I wanted to get the bread pudding French Toast, really, really badly. But Lucy leaned me toward a more protein and lean approach.
And we were off. Finally arriving to the mansion. Parking was easy, there wasn’t a line to speak of and it was easy to get tickets. We had few minutes to spare before our tour so we perused the gift shop and tried the beer samples.
Finally our tour was ready to leave, our group consisted of about 15 people and we had a pretty good tour guide. The tour begins in what was once the stable but was later converted into a car garage. There were 160 rooms in the entire house. I felt like I was walking through Oz. There was a flight of stairs the literally went to the sealing, they call it the stairs to nowhere…and rightfully so! Sarah Winchester was big on stained glass windows. They took us to the room where she housed her Tiffany glass windows and fabric for the walls. It was so beautiful. Can you imagine what that must all be worth today. A room filled with Tiffany Stained glass. Apparently she could afford it as she earned $10,000 a day, then, from her family stock, not to mention the money her dried fruit and nut business brought in!
I must say her decorating choices left me bewildered. The most expensive piece of Tiffany stained glass and the prettiest, was installed upstairs however, she built a wall directly behind the window so no sunlight can shine through, what a waste. The funny part is downstairs in the living room where its nice and filled with sunlight there was no stained glass windows! The story behind the decorating choices is that a psychic told her that the Winchester family was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by the Winchester Rifle so she should move west to build a house for herself and the spirits and if construction on the house ever stopped, she would die.
We went into her Séance Room where every night she would go and get directions from the spirits on what to build next. I would suppose that explains the door to nowhere. It’s a door that’s built into a wall. You open the door and it’s to nothing you step out and you have a two floor drop below you! The house was insane and started to give me a headache but it was certainly fun. I think the most disturbing part of it for me was she had so much wealth and so much ability and she seemed to be trapped by it, like so many are. However, there are others that seem to have found an altruistic way, leaving a legacy of generosity and art such as what Rockefeller or John P. Getty has done. That is if you look at it from an esoteric perspective. Nevertheless, if you are in the San Jose are you should definitely see The Winchester Mystery Mansion.