The Kelley House is a house museum in the heart of the historic district of Mendocino, California, a picturesque town of 1,000 people just a few miles south of Fort Bragg. The Kelley House Museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, protect and share the rich history of the Mendocino Coast. The Kelley House, built in 1859, was the home of the Kelley family and is furnished with period furniture from the late 1800s. The three upstairs bedrooms are furnished with items that belonged to the family or came from the period in which they lived in the house.
The Frolic — In 1850, the Baltimore-built clipper Frolic, en-route to Gold-Rush San Francisco from China, wrecked on a reef just north of today’s Point Cabrillo Light Station. Her story is among the most fascinating in California shipwreck history. Artifacts and interpretive materials from the shipwreck are on permanent display.
Then and Now — This exhibit portrays the town of Mendocino and its surroundings by comparing scenes photographed approximately 100 years apart. The original photos were taken by local amateur photographer Perley Maxwell and their modern day images of the same locations were taken by the 2002 Mendocino High School photography class. These revealing images show how things have changed and how some things never change.
Native Americans — Pomos lived along the Mendocino Coast for thousands of years prior to European settlement in 1850. Pomo means simply “the people.” In 1855, the federal government established the Mendocino Indian Reservation on 25,000 acres between the Noyo and Ten Mile Rivers, with its military headquarters located in what is now the business center of Fort Bragg. It is reported that by 1857, thousands of Native Americans (not all Pomo) had been rounded up and confined on the reservation before it was discontinued in 1866. Reservation lands were sold off to European settlers and the Coastal Pomos were relocated elsewhere. Many went inland to the Round Valley Reservation.
Our Native American exhibit offers an historical overview of Mendocino’s earliest residents, as well as an array of photo prints and artifacts. On loan from the California Indian Museum are six examples of decorative gift and utilitarian baskets belonging to the Daisy Kelley MacCallum Collection.
Rotating Exhibits: The Kelley House exhibits items from its historic archives in a number of temporary exhibits through the year. Previous exhibits have included the history of early medical practice in Mendocino, the tales of the diverse immigrants who settled the town, and the stories of the many shipwrecks on the coast.
Walking Tours: Mendocino is the only town on the California Coast designated as a Historic Preservation District, featuring both grand Victorian mansions and quaint saltbox cottages. There is no better way to discover the charm and history of Mendocino than to take one of our delightfully informative walking tours. Our expert docents will reveal surprising details (and some secrets!) about the people, historic architecture and community spirit of this unique town.
Tours are every Saturday and Sunday at 11 am and begin at the museum. Duration two hours and cost $10 per person.
Archives and Special Collections: Interested in local history? The Kelley House archives may have what you are looking for. You can stop by the research office with your questions, or search the online collection on our web site. We have special collections focused on various local topics, such as the Whale Wars, the Point Cabrillo Light Station, the history of the local lumber mills. Did you know that there was a race track on the headlands? Or when the first airplane landed on the Mendocino Coast? History is our reason for being here — let us help!