North Meets South: A Look Back at Sarah’s Two Conservatories

Janan Boehme

In the 1940s, the local fire department inspected the Winchester Mystery House and determined that a sprinkler system was necessary to protect the house in the event of fire. If you’ve been on the tour, you probably learned that seven and a half miles of sprinkler pipes wind their way through every room in the house. Thankfully these sprinklers have never been deployed, even in 2002 when part of nearby Santana Row went up in an 11-alarm blaze during construction.

While the sprinkler pipes are a necessary precaution, and they are painted and camouflaged as well as possible, they often detract from the craftsmanship and aesthetic of certain rooms. Fortunately, we recently discovered some wonderful photos of the North and South
Conservatories before the sprinkler pipes were installed!

The South Conservatory is the one with the distinctive skylight in the floor, surrounded by a short bannister. Interior photographs of the house from the 1920s and 30s are rare, as it was difficult to light the house for photos with the equipment available back then, but the natural light pouring into
the conservatories offered perfect photo opportunities.