Historic Structures

Building Description Stanford-Lathrop Mansion, Sacramento California

The earliest stages of construction of buildings on the property are not clear, as a structure costing $2,000 is described as being erected immediately after the purchase of the two lots in 1856 by Shelton Fogus. In 1857-58, Fogus hired Seth Babson to design a brick two-story house. This house had the four square Georgian clarity of plan (central hall, parlors and dining room on the main floor, bedrooms above) of Babson's New England background; even the parapet above the cornice line suggested a house of the northeast coast of about 1800, close to McIntire-as did the shallow classicist porch of the front entrance, with its added overtones of the Greek Revival. The ornamental flavor of the cornices over the windows and the quoins, however, added to these underlying background qualities a strong Italianate aspect-recalling the rows of London houses in the I850fs with their pedimented windows and heavy cornices, but adding a more fanciful Mannerist rather than Renaissance cast to the 16th century Italian sources used in London. Babson's design is extraordinarily old fashioned and sophisticated both for the period and the area. It recalls the Italian Villa of the east and midwest in its intermediate stage—when it had emerged from the medievalizing tendencies of the early Italian Villa (still influenced by the Gothic Revival) into the more mannered Villa of the 1850's. However, the Fogus house had none of the picturesque asymmetric massing of the later Italian Villa, which is most characteristic of this type—and lacked altogether the high tower so often seen on this period's houses. It was distinctly a Georgian block and plan with the fashionable Mannerist ornament of the I850fs, comparable to many commercial buildings in downtown Sacramento (the Leggett-Booth building at 1023 1st Street is of exactly the same date and has the same cornices and fantastic consoles). Babson's obituary in the Architect and Engineer of California, August, 1907, describes him as follows: "He was born in Maine, which State he left to settle in Massachusetts and where he remained to the year 1850, at which time he transferred his activities to California, locating at Sacramento where he at once entered into his professional life and where he continued for the succeeding twenty years being intimately associated during that period with the pioneer projectors of the Central Pacific railroad then in the course of construction, and the residences built at Sacramento then the finest in the State by these individuals bear witness to his professional ability and activity, moving later to Alameda where he lived for the past twenty-eight years, continuously practicing his profession up to the time of his death."

The Sacramento Union of July 12, l86l described Stanford's purchase of this house and its dependencies: "A two-story brick dwelling house, finished in a costly manner inside and out, with addition of frame building, brick stable, fruit trees, shrubbery, etc., surrounding it." On July U, 1862, there appeared in the California Farmer a wood engraving by Van Vleck and Keith ("first photographed by Mr. Shireff... .who took the same building when the water was 5 feet in the parlor. The figures were touched and finished by Nahl and Brothers^, with a long description of the house by Colonel James Lloyd La Fayette Warren, who had supervised rehabilitation of the grounds after the flood of 1861-62.

"The mansion itself is said to be the most perfect specimen of a residence in the State, the main building is k6 x kO, with a wing in the rear of 20 feet by 31. Another wing, to which is attached the Governor's office is 32 feet by Id. The office of the Governor is finished in reference to convenience of business, yet with taste and neatness. It contains the department for clerks and his private office, the whole complete in itself, easily communicating with his dwelling. The whole design forms a unique and faultless structure.

"The saloons on each side of the hall occupy the whole size of the building, and are lofty and elegant, being 16 feet high. The side centers are ornamented with chaste corinthian columns and caps, with architraves over the doors, these, with rich central ornaments of pure white for the chandeliers, make a fine contrast to the oak-grained woodwork, and give to the whole an elegant appearance. The chambers, also, are the entire size of the buildings, but making four in number are Ik feet high, finished perfectly, with blinds and shades so as to control both heat and light.

"The mansion, to the view, is lofty, having a heavy rich cornice and coping for each window and ornaments under the cornice. The front entrance is furnished with corinthian columns and caps. The outside of the building (being of brick, with extra solid foundations) is finished in block and painted a delicate stone color; cornices and copings a lead color, which presents a soft yet delicate tint. Yet the whole is much more beautiful in its natural view, than any illustrations can make it."

It seems quite possible that the structure here called the Governor's "office" was the $2,000 building erected after 1856 for Fogus (by Babson?), although it is not mentioned in the Union description of l86l, In any event, there were comparatively few modifications after 1862, until 1871, when the entire Fogus house was Jacked up a full story to permit more entertainment in the new ground story ballroom, with its hardwood spring floor. The new wing at the south of the Fogus house contained this ballroom and other reception and dining rooms, and bedrooms above. The "office" was raised; the service wing (see Britton and Rey's View of Sacramento of 1870 which gives an excellent picture of the property beforelltanford's major revisions), was moved to the south to make room for the entertainment facilities wing. Mansards and mansard windows with scrolled side panels completed the transformation. Although the house window types of the new wing for the entertainment facilities were exactly the same as those of Babson*s Fogus house, the mansard windows are alien to his style. He was working on the E. B. Crocker house and Art Gallery after 186$ to 1873> and would seem to have been well occupied with that. The roof types of the Crocker work are very different from those in the revised Fogus-Stanford house; but these mansard revisions on the Stanford house are close to the work of Nathaniel Goodell, who later built the Gallatin house, c, 1877, and designed a house for Mrs, E. B, Crocker with mansard windows exactly like those in the Stanford house. It is possible that it was a collaborative venture, with Babson supervising work relating to his previous design for Fogus, and Goodell adding the mansards. $he cornice was modified-with ten ornaments in sunken panels replacing eleven. Fantastic humanfaced consoles supported the old cornice. This entire cornice was changed and enlarged to suit the more massive mansard roof. The porch, too, was altered-a larger and more deeply projecting porch with corinthian columns replacing the flat portico of the Fogus house.

To recapitulate the probable changes, one can assume that the illustration Of 1862 (California Farmer) is a reasonably accurate picture of the house to about 1871. (The only problem is when the "office" was constructed—is it the early $2,000 Fogus building or a separate structure erected by Stanford between his election as Governor on September h, 1861 and the engraving in the California Farmer of July h9 1862 when the "office" appears clearly in a reproduction?). In 1871, the service wing to the south of the house was moved farther south and joined to a small brick structure originally separated from the service wing. The house, the "office", the service wing were all raised one story; an entirely new section or wing was constructed, connecting the house, "office" and service wing into a single whole. Mansard roofs crowned all parts, except for the small brick building at the south. A group of photographs taken soon after the changes indicate the disposition of service and amenities in the interior of the enlarged house; a ballroom the full width of the ground floor at the souths above, en the original ground floor now raised a story, were a large dining room and two parlors over the ballroom; above that additional bedrooms on the next two floors (including the area in the mansard as a floor). In the older block of building (the Fogus house) were the original parlors on the higher first story—two at the east and one double parlor at the west with a central hall between. A splendid new exterior staircase led up to a more imposing porch giving onto the central hall. Below, adjacent to the new ballroom, were billiards, etc. Above were the original bedrooms. A special enclosed porch was added at this time to the service wing*s eastern side running along the south side of the house from the service wing; Mrs. Stanford kept birds here. The report in the San Francisco Chronicle for February 7, 18?2, confirms the photographic evidence; in this encomiastic description of the reception for Governor Newton Booth (with over 700 guests), one finds the following information: "It (the Stanford house) contains forty-four rooms, all most elaborately and luxuriously furnished and fitted up. Qood taste and cultured imagination have been exhausted in furnishing the establishment. Magnificent and costly furniture in every room; lace curtains of the finest fabric; carpets that receive with noiseless tread the footfall; frescoes beautiful in design and exquisite in artistic perfection adorn the walls and ceiling. Large bouquets of natural flowers are placed in every room, and their fragrance perfumed the air. Added to these are numerous baskets of artificial flowers, pendent from which artificial birds warble the rarest music...The billiard room (actually main floor parlor fitted up with billiard equipment for the occasion) and adjacent apartment in which the supper is served present a most inviting appearance... There is room for 200 guests at a sitting. From the sidewalk to the grand entrance of the mansion is a waterproof canopy. ..In the parlors (actually one double parlor: Baird) to the right as you enter Mr. and Mrs. Stanford receive their guests...The disciples of Terpsichore soon find where they can worship at their favored shrine... Church and Clark of Sacramento furnish the music. Seven pieces are stationed in the parlors to the left, which connect with a large hall 30 x 86. The parlors are 20 x 50. The second band is stationed on the lower floor in the hall beneath the main upper hall ("supper" room: Baird). This lower hall is also 30 x 86. This gives, according to our hurried mathematics, 6000 feet of space covered with the tireless dancers..."

The scored mastic or plaster exterior surface of the brick Fogus house (referred to as "finished in block" in the California Farmer, 1862 description) can be seen faintly today, on the older house; the mastic surface of the wing added in 1871-72 was unscored. The house was originally painted a light color ("delicate stone color": California Farmer), with details ("cornices and copings") in lead color. This seems to have been a minimal contrast of tone as old views do not stress the contrast. In the major renovations of 1871-72, the ornamental trim was picked out in a more dramatic contrast of color and the new ground floor had a heavily scored (false rustication) plaster surface; Alfred Eichler!s watercolor of the house made in 191*8 shows a buff house with gray-brown quoins and trim and a greyed orange mansard roof—watercolor now in the collection of the California Room, State Library. After 1°U9, the house was painted a uniform color (cream-grey), and the urns were removed at the mansard level. The walls of irregular bond (ku x 8" bricks) are echoed in the brick window cornices with molded mastic ornament above each cornice and molded, mustachioed male faces (portrait head type) as consoles beneath the cornices. The elongated floreate ornaments directly above the double hung windows and under the cornices are of cast iron. Iron is also used for the ornaments in the recessed panels under the mansard roof cornice, with cast iron leaf forms supporting the heavy wooden consoles which punctuate the main cornice line at this level. The capitals of the porch columns are of iron; the rest of the porch and the great, spreading Baroque stair below, as well as many of the main cornice details are of pine, fir, and redwood, with some mastic enrichments. The window sills and the quoins are of granite. Wooden shingles are used on the mansards. Such features as the large standing lamps on the front stair have been removed. Fire escapes have been added. The iron cresting of the 1871-72 mansards had already disappeared by 1903.

The principal changes to the basement or ground floor since 1900 have been to divide the ballroom into smaller parts, and to partition parts of the front (north) side into rooms for the Sisters. On the main floor, a chapel (designed by Dunbar Beck) has replaced the double parlor to the west, with an altar over the marble fireplace at the south end of the room. An elevator connects the main and upper floors, opening into the south side of the former parlor adjacent to the dining room (now reconstituted as the dining room itself), and the so-called Leland Stanford, Jr. "birthroora". A glass enclosed porch for dining, "bird room", is on the southern side of the old main dining room, "supper room", which now is more like the "hall" described in the Chronicle of 1872. It was not possible for the writer to see the rooms above for study. Since the house was virtually intact from I87U to 3900, it seems that the gradual dispersal of the contents arose from losses after 1900. Many of these pieces remained in the home, and in 1939 when the house was generally refurbished, certain of them were bought back to furnish the two parlors on the east and the "birthroom", as well as the dining group now assembled in the old parlor at the west of the dining area ("supper"room). There is a bookcase with S initials and etched designs of trains, and a pair of gas globes with etched locomotives at each side of the east fireplace m the "supper" room; the valances of the present dining room (gilded and painted wood) have the Stanford initial and the sideboards and silver are of the period. 3h the easterly parlors, the piano is an original type—as is some of the furniture and the Bierstadt print. Six brick chimneys open off of original Italian marble fireplaces on the main floor, some with period grates and facings of iron. Pier-glasses are original, or of the period. The brass light fixtures on the interior stair!s newel post, the brass and wood chandeliers of the halls are all original, although those of the west parlors and some reception areas are modern. The superb etched and cut glass doors at the entrance, the great sliding doors of the space between easterly parlors and "supper" room—both set in fine woods such as rosewood and mahogany—and the excellent walnut banister of the central stair attest to the quality craftsmanship of the period. But there are indications of deceit, typical of Victorian desires for rich surfaces at low cost. The grained oak wood of the hallway doors is painted; the corner cupboards and some of the interior trim are of inexpensive soft woods painted. The handsome contrasting light and dark brown dadoes in the lower halls, the old ballroom and "supper" room are often skillfully applied stain and not rare colored woods. The original softwood and tile (in hall) floors have been replaced with hardwoods, in part, on the main floor (in the halls and "supper" room); elsewhere linoleum and carpeting approximate the "noiseless" surfaces of the ?0»s for a 20th century institution. The frescoed walls referred to in the 1872 Chronicle description have been painted cream color. Perhaps the finest period object in the entire house, and again symptomatic of Victorian ingenuity in materials is the monumental hat and umbrella stand in the central hall, main floor.