Monday, September 16, 2013

Eureka, California

Tomorrow we are moving on, with our eventual destination being San Francisco.  We have enjoyed Eureka immensely.  The town lies in the heart of  the Redwood Empire, famous for its coastal redwoods.  The history of the town goes back 140 years when miners, loggers and fisherman made their fortunes in the wilderness.  One lumber baron built a home which is probably the most photographed in the country.  In just the short time I was standing in front of it several cars stopped to take pictures.  Carson built this Victorian Mansion at a slow period when he needed to keep the millworkers busy.  He is said to have employed more than over a100 craftsmen to do the intricate, decorative flourishes.  Eureka has maintained many of its Victorian mansions which hearken back to the early days of the town.  Currently some local club has possession of the building.
There are over 1600 historically-designated and beautiful examples of Victorian homes all over Eureka proper.  John and I spent Saturday morning walking through the old historic business area of the town, and we could easily find at least one Victorian building on every street.  We came to appreciate the skill which is required to keep those buildings restored when we toured the Blue Ox millworks.  Antique equipment is used there for making custom doors,windows, turnings, and Victorian gingerbread that is shipped nationwide.  When we started our tour of the building, the owner, master craftsman Eric Hollenbeck, demonstrated cutting a small piece of wood on one of his scroll saws which was made in the late 1800s.   Another saw was  made before the Civil War.
Fourteen years ago the millworks took on another project, a Community School where high school students could not only learn the craft of restoring old buildings, but also try their hand at weaving, ceramics, shingle making, blacksmithing, to name a few of the other skills which they could learn at the Blue Ox.  Our tour took us outside where Eric has added more buildings for those crafts.  Some of the buildings demonstrate the millwork done by Blue Ox.  One is pictured below, in front of it is a charcoal rick.  We seemed to find many interesting objects while touring the grounds!
In our tour of the main building we found an antique printing room where the students even print their own yearbooks.  It was interesting perusing through those books and getting to know the students whose lives have been changed because of their time at the Blue Ox.  Before closing I would like to mention something else interesting which we found in Eureka.  In the historic section of town is the Romano Gabriel Garden.  The "garden" can be seen from behind a windowed wall.  The artist, a carpenter and gardener, spent close to three decades during the mid-20th century carving the whimsical art from vegetable crates, originally they decorated his front yard.


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