Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Spectacular…

Yes, that’s right, more spectacular than you can possibly imagine. Last night was the big dinner party at The Carson Mansion (You’ll notice I no longer jokingly refer to it as a shack). For me this was like going to church.

First, as you get closer to the house, you are struck by the scale of it. I think the copious amounts of gingerbread on the house makes it look smaller than it actually is, when viewed from far away. It tends to look like a doll house, and not quite real. In the picture above, each of those discs on the large brackets are probably about 8-inches in diameter.

In this other picture, on the sunburst detail at the far end, each of those rays is probably 1 and a half times the diameter of a baseball bat. And the scale continues inside the house as well. Door casing looks to be milled out of 2X8 lumber. Everything is meaty, over-sized, and over stated.

I learned from Ron, our host for the night, that the light wood in the foyer and right parlor is South American Mahogany. The left parlor is done entirely in redwood, and I think the dining room is oak. There are two columns at the far end of the left parlor that are milled out of the finest burl redwood I’ve ever seen. Each turned column must be close to a foot thick. Every where you look small sections of columns and panels are intricately carved with flowers and vines. It is just stunning.

The fireplace above is in the left parlor. That is an onyx mantle with redwood surround. The chimney flew splits in the wall and goes on either side of the stained glass window. The relief cravings around the mantel are stunning and all done in redwood, which would seem to indicate that all of the work was done on-site and not ordered from back east.

Opposite this fireplace, the entrance to the room has incredible wood work with carved egrets above the door. The wall coverings are the original silk wall coverings from the 1880s. They sit off the plaster walls by an inch or so.

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The right side parlor is where we had cocktails and hourdevours. Ron said that the people who did the restoration on the room painstakingly stripped the paint off the plaster cornice to reveal the true colors. The bright yellows, blues, and reds are true to the period, believe it or not. Some questioned the choice of these colors, but it just so happens the colors are identical to the colors in the two statuettes on the mantle, which are original to the room.

In the parlor above, notice the stained glass panels above the large, double-hung sash windows at the far end of the room. Almost every single exterior window in the house has some stained glass aspect to it.

Almost all are done in this same random, geometric pattern, with thick balls and diamonds that sit proud of the rest of the glass. Many have the painted panels in them. There must be several dozen of them through out the house.

Of course, some of the stained glass work is more impressive than other glasswork in the house.

Naturally, we were served dinner in the dinning room. I sat at the far end on the left. The ceiling in this room is gold. I don’t mean gold color, I mean gold. Flakes of gold suspended in paint and applied to the ceiling. That is the man himself, William Carson, in the photo on the wall at the right.

Three words: Third Floor Ballroom. I've some how managed to live with out one. I mean, if you can call that living.

Upstairs, it just goes on and on. And its not just the opulence that blows you away, it is the level of craftsmanship. And it is just all so unique. Every place you look you notice little details and elements where they just thought of everything. Surprisingly, it is only a 3 bedroom house and very few bathrooms. Of course, you had to leave room for the THIRD FLOOR BALLROOM!!!

The ballroom has what must be soaring 25 foot ceilings with a large skylight at the top. And of course, no mansion would be complete without a billiard room and an elevator. The billiard table is original to the house.

And to top it all off - literally - there is the forth floor tower. Spectacular barely scratches the surface. The tower has 8 large single-hung sash windows that roll up in to the ceiling. And of course, each sash is topped with a stained glass panel, any one of which would be the highlight all by itself in any other home in the city.

And if you can draw you eyes away from the house, the view from the tower is the best in the city. What a night. Thanks Ron!


Nate said...

For a while there I thought you had snuck into my house, but the color of the dining room wallpaper was a little off, so I knew it couldn't be.

But seriously, what an amazing house. How did you get invited over for dinner? How do I get an invite? Do they pay for airfare from NoDak? Ha!

Thanks for sharing your photos

HPH said...

I am sooooo envious of your opportunity to actually see and touch and smell that old shack.

Greg said...


Ron, whom I spoke about in the blog entry, is a god friend and member of The Ingomar. If you missed earlier blog entries about it, The Carson Mansion is now called The Ingomar, and it is a private club


It was way cool. Well worth the wait to get it.

To all,

Ron emailed me with a few clarifications. To steal one of Ron's own lines, I normally won't let facts get in the way of a good story, but I feel it is important to get as much of the information about the house as accurate as I can. Here are the clarifications in his own words.

The wood is Primavera Mahogany aka known as Honduran Mahogany from
Central, not South America.

The carved leaves in the Music (or Drawing) Room are I believe also
Mahogany. The moldings holding it in appear to be redwood however.

Finally, the suspended gold paint was reapplied by Peter Santino during
the restoration. I was told there was originally some kind of gold
there, but it had been painted over or somehow covered before the
restoration. When they were working on the ceiling they discovered it
and so decided to try to recreate it. I am not sure how authentic it
really is.

Infogal said...

Breathtakingly beautiful! Unless I missed something in my search, the interior would still be a mystery without your wonderful photos. Any way of sneaking back in for more? Or do you know of a web site that reveals "all"?

Maybe only 3 bedrooms but I suspect there are a lot more than that for the live-in help that would be required for a place that size and complex.

Lovely to look at but am glad I don't have to paint it. Full-time crew for that, right?

Thank you for the eye candy.

Greg said...

I offered that evening to take on the job of a full-time exterior house painter. I would love crawl around that house like a monkey.

Google The Ingomar Club for more photos.

Kathy from NJ said...

But what did you wear?!?!?!? I suspect the evening called for a tux - can you play billiards in a tux?

Did you get to see the kitchen?

Greg said...

Well, I don’t really own a lot of nice clothes. I dug in to the closet and pulled out that last nice outfit I bought. I wore 3-inch, fake snake skin platform shoes with Lucite soles. Powder blue Angle Flights. A silk shirt with a pattern that resembled spilt pasta. And of course, several gold chains. I don’t think I was too over dressed, but I did get a lot of stares. I think people were jealous.

And no, no kitchen tours. This is a working house with a modern working kitchen. I mean, they do serve dinner to a large number of club members and their guests on a nightly basis. I don't think there are any marble counters or antique stoves in there.

Omar said...

That has to be the most impressive home I've ever seen. Thank you sir.


Greg said...

Omar, it was a pleasure to share it!

kathy said...

I gasped in awe and enviousness several times while viewing these photos...and then I started moving the furniture out of my upstairs bedroom so I could start installing the new floor. (Sigh.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! I have driven and walked by that house many times. back when I used to live in Humboldt (We lived in Westhaven off of Moonstone Beach) but was never so lucky as to see the inside.


Kathy from NJ said...

I went to The Ingomar website - it said they spent several MILLION to restore the house! (For which the original owner paid $80,000!). I am so happy the house was saved, cheers to The Ingomar members.

I noticed the 3rd floor toilet looks very much like yours. Is it the same type with the tank high on the wall (could not see the tank in the pic). I also noticed the pink house across the street, do you know who owns that one and is there any way you could ever get inside of it?

Merry Christmas. Did you decorate The Petch House?

Ron said...


Thanks for publishing my "corrections: on the blog. There are a lot of stories about various aspects of the house, some accurate, and some not. I keep trying to learn as much as I can about the place and its history as I can. It is a never ending story and just about the time I think I have something correct I learn I had it all wrong.

As far as those who really, really want to see the inside of the house, that is not impossible. You need to contact Greg, who will contact me, and we will see we can do. If time allows, I do sometimes takes guests over for lunch and a visit. It is too remarkable a place not to share with others.

Greg said...

Wow, Ron, a generous proposal, and I for one would never miss an opportunity to go back.

aidan said...

WOW WOW WOW...i keep telling my husband i've found my dream house LOL.

any chance of finding floor plans or even a basic layout of the mansion itself?

Greg said...


The floor plans must exist some where, but I've never seen them. The place is amazing.

Ornithophobe said...

That house is breathtakingly gorgeous. I am so envious; you actually got to BE there, and they let you take photographs.

And a When I was small, my grandfather proudly told me that "one day, all of this would be" mine, and proudly waved his hand at our little ranch house. I remember my horror; no stairs, one bathroom, and there wasn't even a DINING room. How DID he expect me to live there? But oh, if I had only known such a thing existed, I'm certain that an in-house ballroom would have been TOPS on my list of what ought to be in a house. Little girls should all live in houses with ballrooms. And turret rooms. And grand, sweeping staircases. (Yes, I inherited The Ranch House. Yes, I live in it today. I am unfortunately condemned to lust after other people's dining rooms and staircases.)

Anyway, I just found your blog, and am utterly enthralled. You've done beautiful work, and you write about it in such fantastic detail!

Greg said...


I know. I just never get tired of looking at it,

Anonymous said...

OMG! I have been reading through your blog, not so slowly I might add. Completely stunned to find this Holy Grail entry. Being born in Eureka, the Carson, or Ingomar, is the pinnacle of Victorian to me. I have heard of fundraisers that allow peeks into the house, and of course friends of members who get in. How lucky you are, or where! Of course, the Carson is an eye tooth trading opportunity, I visit every time I am home, and once completed a 5,000 piece puzzle of it, that I relished for the eye to detail it provided. If I were a guy my response would be, Lucky Bastard, but I'm not, so I would never say that.