Winchester House – 38 year long remodel !

I’d seen signs for the Winchester House on the drive to San Francisco many times.  This time I stopped.

  • 160 rooms
  • 47 fireplaces
  • 10,000 panes of glass
  • 950 doors
  • 600 remodeling phases


Wow !   I’ve worked on some long remodels before, but Mrs. Winchester takes the cake !

The Backstory

Sarah married William Wirt Winchester, the heir and President of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  There was serious money in guns!  After their baby daughter died of a rare disease, Mr. Winchester died of TB.  In search of the reasons for all the bad luck in her life, Sarah sought out a psychic.  Told that the bad luck was due to all the angry souls of the dead from the Winchester guns, the solution was to move west and build a house and never stop building so that the ghosts could never take residence !  What a story !  Well, she believed it and spent the next 38 years building.

The Cash

Luckily, the death of her husband left her well off.

  • She inherited $20 million in 1866 !
  • Owned half the stock in the company giving her $1,000 a day income – today that equals about $30,000
  • She spent $5.5 million fixing up the house – today about $ 75m

The house was 7 stories before the 1906 earthquake – now its 4 stories and she closed off a whole side of the house that had been damaged and left it.


There are lots of tiny stairs – about 3 inches high – that wind back and forth – very weird to walk up.  Apparently she had arthritis and it was hard to climb.


The house rambles on and on.  Lots of stairs and doors to nowhere – supposedly to fool the ghosts.  Beautiful Tiffany stained glass. Unfortunately when she died, all of the furniture was auctioned off.  Apparently it took six trucks and eight hours a day for six weeks to remove all of the furniture from the home.


The whole house is built of redwood, but all of the exposed wood she had faux painted to look like something else.

San Jose

Today the house is across the street from a huge mall in the middle of thriving San Jose (Silicon Valley !).  When she bought it – it was farmland.

High Tech

She was high tech before high tech showed up.  The house had indoor plumbing, automatic gas lights and 3 hydraulic elevators.  In 1988 this was high tech !

Lots of fun.  Worth a stop if you are in the area.  Also the Winchester gun museum is pretty cool.