Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Suspicious" fire burns historic Donner Houghton house to the ground

An alert Donner buff sent me the following link to an article in the San Jose Mercury News of today, July 19, 2007:

Oh, I am sick about this! A San Jose preservationist contacted me for information about Eliza Donner Houghton back about 2002. I was pleased to learn that Eliza's home was still standing and had been deemed a local landmark. Last I heard, there were plans to relocate the house to a San Jose park where other historic buildings had been moved.

Eliza's 1911 book, The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate, contains photos of her house and yard in San Jose. (I always thought it was a bit strange of her to include them.) This was an earlier house, which Eliza and her husband either remodeled extensively or tore down and built over in 1881. They only lived in the new house for three years, as they moved to Long Beach in 1884. This second house, the one that just burned, was surrounded by a fairly large yard, which allowed one to view and admire its classic lines. In 1909, however, it was moved, placed cheek-by-jowl with other buildings on a busy city street, and turned into apartments. To see what the pre-1881 house and grounds looked like, click here and scroll down to pp. 356-357, where there are links to printable versions of the photos from Eliza's book.