National Register of Historic Places in Santa Cruz County
The Mansion House Hotel, designed by Thomas Beck, is the oldest surviving commercial facility in the Pajaro Valley. It is the only Second Empire building in Watsonville. When it was new, it was the leading first class hotel in central California and housed such dignitaries as Ulysses S. Grant.
The Mansion House Hotel was built on the corner of Main and Beach Streets where it fronted on both streets and had visible exposures on three facades including the rear. In 1914 it was moved to its present location to make room for the Lettunich Building. After the move, the building was visible only from its Main Street facade and rear facade.
After the move it continued to serve as a fine hotel until the late 1920s when more modern hotels were then built in Watsonville. By the 1950s, the hotel had become a cheap flop house. It was finally condemned in 1968.
In 1978, the property was purchased by Hoffman & Associates just twelve days before its scheduled demolition. Hoffman & Associates completed a $1.9 million rehabilitation project in 1981.
Adapted from the NRHP nomination submitted in 1983.
A historical marker reads:
The Mansion House
418 Main Street
On the corner of Main and East Beach Streets, where the Lettunich Building now stands, was the Pacific Exchange Hotel built in 1856 by T.D. Alexander. By 1871 the owners decided that a larger and more modern hotel was needed and Thomas Beck was hired to draw up the plans. It was named the Mansion Hotel.
Many of the old hotel's registers have been saved and include such signatures as General Tom Thumb and Ulysses S. Grant. In 1900 it would have cost $2.00 to spend the night, and free busses would take guests to and from the train station.
In 1906, Mateo and M.N. Lettunich purchased the property. They decided to move the hotel north 110 feet and build an office building in its place. In 1914 the old hotel was jacked up and lowered onto a series of 100 feet long log rollers. As it inched along and one log would roll out from the back of the building, it would be picked up and placed under the front.
In 1978, the Mansion House was doomed for the wrecking ball but was saved when the owners donated it to the Pájaro Valley Historical Association. It has been sold various times since. The Mansion House is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the heart of downtown Watsonville.
Buildings that Moved
It's not just that the people of the American West are restless, the buildings themselves sometimes pack up and move when - for one reason or another - the neighborhood no longer suits them or the neighbors no longer want them or opportunity waits down the road.
And when buildings remain in place, they are often searching for their identities.
Nevada-California-Oregon Railway Depot, Alturas
Old Log Jail (Moved Twice), Markleeville
Old Mammoth Saloon (Moved Twice), Mammoth Lakes
Old North San Juan School, North San Juan
Old St. Patrick's Church (Moved Twice), San Francisco
Of the buildings and structures we have visited, the original Reno Arch holds the record for number of moves. It has been moved five times since it was built in 1926.
Jax Truckee Diner holds the distance title. The building moved from New Jersry to Pennsylvanis in 1948, then from Pennsylvania to Califonia in 1992.
Probably the most ambitious relocation occurred on July 4th 1904, when the Southern Pacific Railroad loaded most of the town of Wadsworth, Nevada, onto rail cars and transported the town thirty miles west to create a new town which became known as Sparks.