One November Sunday, the house filled with the aroma of nachos and a blaring television. The crowd roared, announcers babbled, and Jon yelled, “Catch the ball,” for the umpteenth time. It was time for this NFL widow to get out of the house.
Ravenswood Historic Site in Livermore, California, called me to visit the restored Victorian country estate built by Christopher Augustine Buckley, Sr.
Known as the “Blind Boss” of San Francisco politics in the 1870s and 1880s, Mr. Buckley, a saloonkeeper and Democratic Party political boss, built the cottage on the left side of the photo in 1885 for his family. He later planted a 100-acre vineyard and finished the main house in 1891.
The Buckley family spent summers at Ravenswood from 1885 to 1920. They did not ignore the once rural area that served as their part-time home. Generously donating to local charities, and appearing regularly on the society page of the Livermore Press earned Mr. Buckley the nickname “Lord of Livermore.”
The Ravenswood Progress League docents conduct guided tours of the 1885 cottage, the 1891 main house, and the grounds on the second and fourth Sunday from January through November and the second Sunday in December. Tours start at noon and run from 20 minutes to one hour. Special events during the year include an ice cream social the second Sunday in August and a Victorian yuletide the second Sunday in December. The tours are free but don’t be shy about leaving a donation. The docents use the funds to help maintain the property and purchase period antiques to fill the home.
The day I visited, preparation for the Victorian Yuletide celebration was well underway in the cottage.
The city rents out the main house for weddings and other events, so the rooms do not contain furniture. My footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor while wandering inside admiring the artisanship in the doorknobs and hinges and in the stain glass windows.
Had I lived in this house, my favorite place would have been the benches next to the fireplace. Pillows, a worn quilt, and a good book would have provided hours of pleasure during a cold spell.
An outbuilding holds a collection of period pieces that the Buckleys could have used on the property when they spent their summers in the valley.
Outside a baby carriage sat on the porch of the cottage, a statue of a boy is given prominence as the centerpiece in a garden, and a sundial tells time nearby.
From the parking lot, vineyards spread out in the valley, and the Livermore hills rise in the south.
The historic site, located at 2647 Arroyo Road in Livermore, California, is part of the Livermore Area Recreation Park District. Livermore, known for the Livermore and Sandia National Labs, is also home to award-winning wineries, breweries, and a lively downtown.
I felt restored after my trip back in time at Historic Ravenswood with its vineyards decked out in their fall colors and views of the golden hills. The trip made for a perfect place to escape the cacophony of the football games blaring at home.