Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Victorian Age In Southern California

If you lived in Riverside California in the 1800's, you were probably in the citrus horticulture business, better known as oranges.  That's where Mr. and Mrs. James Bettner settled in the 1870's.

Unfortunately, life was not always good in those years.  Her husband died, as did her son, leaving her with about $19,000.  Catherine decided for whatever reason, as a 40-something widow, that she wanted to build her own home in this location.  That's practically unheard of.
Mrs. Bettner built this Queen Anne Victorian for approximately $11,000.  Seems that didn't leave her much of a buffer, but none the less, she moved in with her one male Chinese servant and lived here until 1928.  Chinese women were not allowed into the U.S. ... only the men.  At one point, her servant went home, got married, then returned without his wife, to live out his life here.
Being the Victorian lady she was, the entire house was painted pink on the inside.  It was a sign of the times.  You will also see pictures people took of their children who just passed away so they could keep an image of their loved one hung on the wall.  This is Catherine in her Sunday-best dress.
I've never seen turquoise used in the Victorian era, but Catherine apparently loved it.  The colors on the china match the chairs.  This dining room is surrounded by pocket doors, since taxes were charged based on how many door handles there were in your house.
Every good home needed a music room, so this is where Mrs. Bettner seated her guests for tea.  Much of the furniture in the home belonged to Catherine.  The wallpaper has been installed by the Riverside Museum, none of which is original.
The white oak woodwork is amazing and every ceiling downstairs is covered with it except this one.  Here you see more original furniture.   These walls are not covered with anything but huge cracks, from earthquakes I imagine.  All the hanging lights are also original and some of the most beautiful I've seen.
Amazingly, the kitchen remains intact.  The McDavids, who purchased the house after Catherine passed, left it totally original, building a more modern kitchen on the back porch.  Since the museum has owned the building, that has all been removed and reverted to the laundry room.  The legs were removed from the stove by Catherine so heavy containers could be more easily lifted to the top of the stove.
There was a large storeroom on the porch, surrounded with brick to keep the contents cool, as well as a real ice box.  Yup a wooden box in which they put ice to keep meat cold.  Can you imagine if this was your washing machine?  Not used by Catherine however, since it was the servant's job to keep all the "under clothing" clean.  In those days, outer garments were never washed, only brushed.
Heading up to the second floor on this magnificent staircase, we found the woodwork upstairs not nearly as fancy and made of pine or redwood.  After all, there was no need to impress anyone upstairs because only family was allowed.
The library is pretty spectacular anyway, with tall book cabinets.  This is where Catherine read her New York magazines looking for the latest new trends.  The two Chinese gowns are very old and only allowed to be worn by Chinese Emperors.  Put it on and you would be put to death!

I imagine these came from her servant, although Chinese artifacts were highly collected by Victorian homeowners.
There was one bathroom upstairs, complete with cast iron tub and commode, although these particular ones are not original to the building.
There were very large closets in her bedroom, unusual in homes like this, with these amazing hinges on the doors.  I've no idea if they are new or old.  There was also a room for linens that had a built-in foot pedal sewing machine.  
Like most places, we exited through the gift shop which had some very reasonably priced cookbooks.  This one caught my eye ...
On the way out, wishing I lived there and not the museum, someone spotted this squirrel having lunch in the crook of a tree.  I snuck up on him and got a closeup.  He never did run away ... he was too busy eating his pinecone.
I took the day off from visiting museums to run errands and gather supplies for the Indio Rally and probably came close to getting shot.  This is Riverside remember.  I'll tell you about that one tomorrow!!


  1. I love these kind of tours. Sounds like you had a very good guide.

    1. That we did Jan. There were several, all in period clothing, who took groups around the home.

  2. That a wonderful museum . hmm, getting shot in a large city is not fun, always some danger in those places, Keep safe.

    1. I'm usually very cautious ... this guy was just being dumb!

  3. I could spend hours in a house like that just to absorb the craftsmanship
    so here's a history lesson

    Your picture of the door butt plate Date back to the very early victorian 1900s
    Most were made out of brass, they did make some that were cast bronze and cast steel. The Idea came from Metal Craftman from India as a way of decorating people's doors of a higher class
    You can buy brass ornamental butt plates hinges
    Today some will be antique some reproduction in a price range of $35-$200
    They fall under the same age as glass /ceramic and porcelain door handles
    Now it's interesting to note the picture that you have the brass butt hinge are exquisite however the craftsman they put it together did poor quality
    If you go back and look at the picture the The chisel marks extend Beyond the actual plate which is a novice Carpender any finish carpenter in his right mind would cringe to see that. As taken under the consideration of the attention to detail of that home
    When it comes to the attention of detail that that house had. you probably could fine but a handful of Restorator's in the United States they could do that today
    Back in the mid to late 1700s it was called wall cover (covering )and it was usually silk or a woven fabric. again that was the status money symbol
    Silk wall covering dates back to the 1600s in China
    In England and Europe was called wall tapestry
    As for the wallpaper in the US that was used to hide many mistakes
    And that reason was
    A majority of homes built prior to World War II used plaster and lath construction.

    Which is a very rigid material and was very prone to cracking earthquake yes

    hot or cold climate would do the same thing

    so as my daddy would say wallpaper it

    1. Interesting stuff ... I never would have noticed the hinge!!

  4. That was quite a beautiful house to tour and so is the History Lesson from Mister ed. He is right about the Novice Carpenter hanging that hinge plate. Look real close and you still see the pencil mark that was not removed. Amateurs!
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. It's very possible that hinge was reattached with a new door. I just thought it interesting it was so fancy!