Ruth and I went to Fresno, CA 2 days after Christmas hoping to see 3 attractions. Two of them were unavailable. One of them had closed early that day due to lack of visitors. Only the Meux House was opened. The tour of it made up for the other 2, and we lingered for most of an afternoon. As an added bonus, the home was highly decorated for the season with a Victorian Christmas tree and other delights in every room.
The Meux House has an interesting history. It was built by a doctor who served in a Confederate surgical unit during the Civil War. He was present at the Battle of Shiloh. Thomas Richard Meux was born in 1838 and died in 1929. His wife Mary Ester, nicknamed Molly, was in poor health due to consumption, now called tuberculosis. It was recommended that they go West. They did and it helped Molly to the extent that she had 3 children. They settled in Fresno for the rest of their lives and the doctor’s brother relocated to San Francisco. They owned a vineyard together. Their youngest daughter Anne lived her entire life in this house, did nothing to change it, and died in 1970.
Anne was engaged to be married when her handsome future husband was thrown from a horse and died. Before he expired Anne promised him she would never marry, and she kept that promise. Upstairs in the Meux home we learned from Shirley, our host and half of the seasonal decorating team, that Victorian ladies at Anne’s level spent most of their time in their bedrooms working on projects and looking out of a window. They had no domestic duties to occupy their time. She made no changes to the house that was put on the market after she died. There were no takers for 3 years, so the City of Fresno bought it for $50,000 and spent $200,000 restoring its Victorian splendor. It became a community project and all of the furnishings were donated by locals. The piano below was given to the house just last year. Above the piano is a Victorian fire extinguisher. It’s in the kitchen. The completely hand-stitched wedding dress seen up top is in an upstairs bedroom.
An extinguisher of this type was commonly known as a fire grenade. The earliest versions of them contained gunpowder. They were thrown or rolled into a fire where they exploded and scattered their contents on the blaze. True Victorian grenades of the Meux Era contained carbon tetrachloride that converted to a dangerous gas when exposed to heat, so they were dangerous. The Meux House, which was built in 1888, has towers, a wraparound porch, high ceilings, and lots of period wallpaper. This is the most authentic Victorian house restoration I have ever seen. It was owned by a single family for 85 years. Victorian grenades can be seen and bought on both ebay and pinterest.
The Meux Home is said to be haunted by an evil, little girl. I did not see her.