Thursday, December 12, 2019

Savage Mansion A Victorian Beauty

© Glenn Franco Simmons.

by Glenn Franco Simmons

Hidden below the main street of Virginia City is an example of Victorian splendor.

It's a refined beauty painted in a beautiful yellow that would make two of California's cities with significant preserved Victorian structures — The Victorian Seaport of Eureka and The Victorian Village of Ferndale — envious. Rising out of a still-steep hillside at 146 D  St. in the epicenter of the richest U.S. silver ore discovery is the Savage Mining Building, also known as the Savage Mansion.

"This magnificent 21-room Second Empire Style building was constructed by the Savage Mining Co. in 1861," according to the National Park Service's webpage about what is often referred to as the Savage Mansion.

"The ornate building is an excellent example of the architectural elegance associated with the offices and residences of the mining elite," the NPS states. 
"The top two floors of the building served as the mine superintendent's residence, while the ground floor was the mine office."

Photo example of a Lincrusta frieze.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. Public domain.

The beautifully adorned building is privately owned. The NPS said it presently serves as an office building.

"{It} has been restored with attention to its distinctive architectural features, such as the mansard roof, dormer windows and delicate gingerbread trim," according to the NPS. "The interior boasts 14-foot-high ceilings, a seven-foot copper bathtub, a {Lincrusta} frieze in the main hallway and early Victorian furnishings."

Aside from its architectural important, the Savage building is also historically important — perhaps most notably because a U.S. president once spoke there to a gathered crowd who must have been impressed that so distinguished a person would make a stop in the Comstock capital.

"Ulysses S. Grant is said to have stayed in the house in 1879 and addressed crowds in a speech from the porch. During this time, a Mrs. Monoghan, whose husband had been killed in one of the mines, served as a housekeeper to the superintendent.

"When the mines closed down in 1918, the Savage Mining Co. deeded the land, house and furnishings to Mrs. Monoghan."

In the rough-and-tumble and oft-greedy world of The Comstock Lode, such a gesture was probably not too common.

The NPS said it is being used as office space. When I was there, a woman came out of the building and moved her car for me so I could get some better shots, which I appreciated a lot.

In this photo, one can clearly see the porch from
which a former U.S. president once gave a speech.
© Glenn Franco Simmons.

"The term 'mansion' has been liberally applied in the Comstock to include any large and vaguely residential building," the NPS sates. "This has been done for promotional purposes and is far from being an accurate characterization. Even the most elaborate dwellings in Virginia City would be considered no more than ordinary houses in any urban setting.

"In the case of the Savage, Gould & Curry and Chollar properties, all referred to as mansions, the term is a complete misnomer, having been applied to buildings that served primarily as offices for major mining companies."

I was reared in a small, forested valley not far from a small city with a unique historic Victorian architectural history of The Victorian Seaport of Eureka, Calif., and I have to say that this former office would be considered a mansion, even among Eureka's beautifully preserved Victorians.

This Virginia City landmark would also be at home in one of my favorite cities in California, The Victorian Village of Ferndale.

Call it what you want, it's a true beauty.

(Editor's note: These photos were taken with my smartphone. I plan to return to Virginia City to take photos with my professional gear, which will enable me to take much better photos. My dream is to be able to tour this grand Victorian and take photos inside.)

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