One of my favorite places in the house isn’t actually in the house… it’s the surrounding gardens. When I visited the Winchester Mystery House for the first time, I envisioned a long, meandering, tree-lined entrance drive leading up to a house barely visible from any road. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up and saw the house sitting just a stone’s throw from one of the busiest streets in San Jose, Winchester Boulevard!
Adjacent to the 280 freeway and surrounded by residential neighborhoods, the bustling shopping district of Santana Row, and the busy Valley Fair mall on Steven’s Creek Boulevard, Sarah Winchester’s gardens are still an idyllic place for a meditative walk that very nearly allows your imagination to wander back to a time when the house was surrounded by nothing but fruit orchards.
With this in mind, it’s easy to guess that some of my favorite historical photos are the ones that depict just what I imagined the house might look like: a few cupolas and towers peeking out from lush trees in the middle of sprawling fields and orchards. Mrs. Winchester no doubt purposely built up her surrounding yard to shield the ongoing construction on her home from the prying eyes of neighbors and “looky-loos”.
An accurate amount would be impossible to gauge, but at the time of Mrs. Winchester’s death, estimates were made that she had spent around $1.5M on her gardens and grounds alone.