I was on my first visit to Mendocino visiting friends several years ago, and we took a walk, as Tom is an architect and his wife a photographer and I was an Interior Designer. As we wandered admiringly among all the wonderfully preserved houses we saw something very strange for Mendocino – a lot so overgrown that the house was not even visible, with an old trailer parked in the drive. Always curious about mysteries, I went to the Kelley House Museum to see what they knew about the lot and its owners. Despite the reams of information they have about Mendocino, they had nothing, it turned out, on this lot.
So I did some research and shared it with them, and offered to help in any way with similar questions. Shortly afterward I was contacted and asked if I was interested in doing a revised edition of an out of print book for them. That book was the original Portuguese Immigrants to Mendocino, by Eleanor Sverko published in 1991, which they owned the copyright to.
I began doing research and since so much is now available online, I was able to locate a lot more information. About this time, the director and staff that I had been working with left and the project fell into limbo, so I put it aside while I wrote ‘Black Sam’ Fraunces and Murders in Mendocino.
I have so much material that this will become an encyclopedia, organized by last names and cross referenced to the married names. It is a large undertaking as there are over 150 families with many children, multiple marriage and intermarriages. I am in touch with some family members who have offered their assistance for which I am truly grateful. Fifty percent of the profits from this endeavor will be donated to the Kelley House to assist with all the wonderful work they do in Mendocino.
Oh, and that original lot? A lovely young couple recently purchased it and contacted me to thank me for my research on the former property owners, and they selected, as their architect, the friend I was visiting the first time I saw Mendocino. They have very kindly kept in touch so I could see the progress of bringing that wonderful old property back to a family home.