Patricia Grady Cox
October 29, 2015
I love looking inside homes that are not mine. I used to be addicted to HGTV for just that reason—all those house hunter shows! All those fixer-upper shows! So I cut down my cable in order to get other things done, such as attending a conference in Sacramento last week. I enjoyed this conference of the Association of Personal Historians because I like history, I like stories, and I like people’s stories.
But back to snooping: On a free afternoon a friend and I took a walk from the hotel to the Crocker Art Museum. The museum is partly modern, but also partly the actual home of Judge Edwin B. Crocker and his wife Margaret Rhodes Crocker. They built their house in 1868 and included an addition to serve as a second-floor art gallery (as well as providing a bowling alley, skating rink, and billiards room on the lower floors—even in the 1800s the one-percenters knew how to live!).
The house was completed in 1872 and the public art museum, established in 1885, was the first in the western United States. According to their webpage, it is “the longest continuously-operating art museum in the West.”
My imagination goes into overdrive when I’m walking around historical homes.
People lived here. They walked on these artistically designed inlaid hardwood floors. They brought guests to see their collection of art hung under intricately carved ceilings painted in amazing color combinations. This home that the Crockers built is itself a work of art. Their home. The Crocker family lived and entertained (and bowled and skated) in this house.
I climbed the staircase (a double one, on either side of a large foyer) to the art
galleries. The Crocker Art Museum has an amazing collection but I think what I will always remember will be those ceilings! Oh, and here is the part I absolutely loved: there is a huge portrait of Margaret Rhodes Crocker and, in the painting, she is wearing a diamond and opal brooch. That actual piece of jewelry is displayed in a glass case in front of the painting! Somehow it brought that woman to life for me, as if a part of her, beyond her jewelry, lingered.
So, thank you, Mrs. Crocker, for letting me snoop around in your home!
Do you enjoy touring historic homes? Leave a comment about the last such place you visited. Did you feel the presence of the former inhabitants?
Visit me at patriciagradycox.com Thank you!