HOUSE SNOOPING

Patricia Grady Cox

October 29, 2015

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, Calif.

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, Calif.

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.

Ornate carving and colorful design in the ceiling of the Crocker Art Museum.

Ornate carving and colorful design in the ceiling of the Crocker Art Museum.

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

This is a crop of the portrait of Mrs. Crocker, with an inset close-up of the diamond and opal brooch.

This is a crop of the portrait of Mrs. Crocker, with an inset close-up of the diamond and opal brooch.

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?

Hardwood floor in the ballroom - home of Judge Edwin B. Crocker and his wife Margaret Rhodes Crocker.

Hardwood floor in the ballroom – home of Judge Edwin B. Crocker and his wife Margaret Rhodes Crocker.

Staircase in the Crocker home. Another just like it was on the other side of the foyer.

Staircase in the Crocker home. Another just like it was on the other side of the foyer.

Visit me at patriciagradycox.com  Thank you!

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5 comments

  1. Galveston Texas has some beautiful Victorian homes. We’re hoping to get there next time we go to Texas.
    I’m a sucker for old houses. The ballroom floor you posted is so cool. My first thought was ‘I want that!’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I want the ceiling but it wouldn’t really go in my house! lol Have you read Ann Weisgarber’s book The Promise? I think you’d like it. You should read it before you go to Galveston! Here’s a link: http://annweisgarber.com/the-promise/

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love that fleeting feeling that I’m sharing a few seconds with someone from another time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. It’s the stuff my books are made of.

      Like

  3. I’ll look for it. I’m fascinated by the hurricane of 1900. It was such a huge natural disaster but most people have never heard of it. You might like Isaac’s Storm. It’s does a great job of putting you in the middle of the hurricane without loss of life or limb. We went through a tropical storm (75 mph winds) when we lived in Galveston but I’ve never been through a hurricane.

    Like

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