February 29, 2024

Lenape Tech Times

The Monthly News Source from Lenape Technical School

The Story Behind the Winchester Home 

3 min read

By Kamryn McAfee  

   In the year, 1884, a house was built in California that broke a record. The record was for the longest amount of building time on the house. It took a total of 38 years to build. This house belonged to Sarah Winchester , the daughter of Oliver Winchester the creator of the Winchester rifle and founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Sarah was believed to be the first builder to use wool insulation. When Oliver died Sarah inherited $20 million (Which is $561.6 million in 2021). She also had a 50% holding in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. All of these sources of income led to Sarah being one of the wealthiest women at the time. When Sarah was 45, she begun the construction of her house. After spending $5.5 million on the house (Which is $217.1 million today) the house was complete and today is known as the Winchester Mystery House. 

Before the house was built though, Sarah believed that a medium was able to communicate with her dead husband, William Wirt Winchester. The reason of trying to communicate with her husband was to get advice from him on how to spend her fortune and how to live the rest of her life. When the medium claimed that her husband had answered through her, she said that William wanted Sarah to leave her current home in New Haven, Connecticut and go to west in California. She then told Sarah to build a house for the spirits that have fallen to the Winchester rifle. She lastly told Sarah that this was to keep the spirits from haunting Sarah for the rest of her life. This is the reason the house exists. 

Sarah transformed the land that she bought (Which was an old, unfinished farmhouse) into what was a 7-story mansion. Since there was no prior planning for how the mansion was going to be built, the mansion was made very strangely. Windows that went to other rooms, doors that led to nowhere but a wall, and many other strange features. Seven stories, 10,000 panes of glass, two basements, three elevators, and many more features were in the completed form of the house. Weirdly enough, even with the strange format, the plumbing and electrical work were really advanced for the time.  

In the year 1904, an earthquake destroyed most of the house. Luckily, the floating foundation saved the house from collapsing. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the top three floors of the house were removed. The contractors that had worked on the house reported that Sarah had been doing daily talks with her medium to find how to best appease the spirits that the Winchester rifle had killed. This lead to additions being made to the house time and time again. Sarah slept in a different room every night and used secret passages to keep the spirits from following her.  

Sarah Winchester died in September 1922 and left all of her belongings to her niece Marion, who was her personal secretary before she died. She decided that the house was worthless, and then proceeded to auction off everything in the house. After everything was auctioned off, the house was bought by a local investor for $135,000. Five months after the death of Sarah, the Winchester Mystery House was opened for tours.  

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