Trip report: Campbell, California

The goal of treating the place I’m from as though I were a tourist continues! The most recent stop on this itinerary was the Campbell Historical Museum, located in the old firehouse in Historic Downtown Campbell (TM), together with the nearby Ainsley House, former retirement residence of fruit canning magnate J. C. Ainsley. I lived in Campbell for a year and never went to either of these places — I couldn’t even have told you what the Ainsley house was, despite having been in the adjacent Campbell Public Library at least once a week every week I lived there.

The Historical Museum is titchy!
It has recreated grocery store shelves!
And a 1921 electric car!
And a cool Oddfellow’s Hall door with a staring divine eye!



Caaaaaaanned gooooods!
Caaaaaaanned gooooods!

It’s a museum, it’s historical, and it’s in Campbell. It’s basically one big room, and it costs $2 to go in, which is 1/3 less than the Pez museum. Clearly a key point for the economy-minded California history enthusiast. It’s mainly aimed at helping young people appreciate what life was like in old-timey Campbell, so there’s a lot of emphasis on domestic life and also the economics and technology of fruit growing, drying and canning.

The Ainsley houses costs $6 per adult (about £4), which includes a fact-filled guided tour. Our docent was really friendly and knowledgeable.

2015 - 8

The roof of the house is supposed to look like a thatched roof, but with shingles. It’s completely bizarre looking and was recently recreated at the cost of $250,000.
The paneling in the foyer is awesome, as are the pointy arches. It’s all very arts-and-crafts-y.
Life was good in the fruit-canning tycoon world.
The clanking machinery for this refrigerator was down in the basement to minimise noise. This was a pretty early refrigerator (as opposed to an icebox).


The maid’s quarters.
Apparently one of the grandchildren got a little enthusiastic while making a fire.
I really like this -- this is Ainsley's radio, on which he pencilled in the positions for his favourite radio stations.
I really like this — this is Ainsley’s radio, on which he pencilled in the positions for his favourite radio stations.
The pointed arches are even in the bathroom.

The house is so well-preserved (it really is in remarkable shape) because the Ainsleys only lived in it for a short time; after he died in ’37, she moved out and died shortly thereafter, and so the house remained in the family but wasn’t inhabited. That’s how you want to keep your historical houses historic. There are a few reconstructed bits and pieces, but quite a lot of it is original and the guide is good about pointing out which is which.

In any event, there’s a heady vibe of nostalgia around the Ainsley house, the kind of thing that makes you want to be the sort of person who wears high collars and gazes nobly into the middle distance, contemplating his many hard-won achievements. Kind of boringly, though. If I had a fruit-canning fortune I like to think that I’d do all the paternalistic things that Ainsley did for his employers, with the housing and the child care and so on, but after that I think I could find something more fun to do than fish and play golf. Of course, maybe they don’t mention the booze-fuelled orgies in the guided tour.

Anyway, it’s an odd and splendid house, and it’s even more odd and splendid that they actually picked the thing up in one piece and moved it to its present site; there’s a video of that in the visitor’s centre and it’s really impressive.

Trip report: Campbell, California

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