The Innovative Mrs. Winchester

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The Innovative Mrs. Winchester

Mrs. Winchester gradually developed her skill in building, just as she had done with music and language in her youth. She often used the most current innovations in her home.

  • Some historical sources say that Mrs. Winchester was the first to use wool for insulation.
  • Carbide gas lights in the house were fed by the estate’s own gas manufacturing plant, which used a new process. The gas lights were operated by pushing an electric button.
  • A specially designed window catch was patterned after a Winchester rifle trigger and trip hammer.
  • An inside crank used to open and close outside window shutters eventually became the popular norm.
  • One rumor held that Mrs. Winchester patented her one-piece porcelain laundry basin, which boasted a molded-in soap tray and washboard. No record of this patent has been found, however.
  • Window drip pans and zinc subfloor were installed in the North Conservatory so that when the plants were watered, the run off would be captured and directed by a series of drainpipes to the garden below.
  • The Servant Call System, or "annunciator," allowed Mrs. Winchester to summon a servant from anywhere in the house. A card would drop showing the servant which room she was in so she could easily be found.
  • Most of the mansion’s forty-seven fireplaces had hinged iron drops for removing the ashes.
  • Brass cornerplates were installed on stairways to make it easier to clean the steps.

Continue: The Final Questions
Wander through 110 of the 160 rooms of this Victorian mansion, designed and built by the Winchester Rifle heiress. Tour the estate daily. Keep up to date on all the happenings, worldly and otherwise, only with the exclusive "13th Hour" newsletter.

Until the 1930's, the thirty-five-foot water tower on the grounds supported a 10,000 gallon storage tank – the main water supply for the estate. The elaborate water drainage system is still in use today. Miles of drainpipe run through the house into several collection basins. Then the water is carried to several cisterns around the house.