Odd, Old News: Petrolia’s Ocean House Hotel is Delightfully Described
The Ocean House
This week in Odd Old News we take a picturesque journey down the Lost Coast from Ferndale to the Petrolia region in 1881. This portrait of the natural beauty of the coast is rendered through the eyes of a woman, not a common occurrence in newspaper articles of that era. Her travelogue takes us down the coast to the Ocean House, a popular vacation and way station on the wagon road from Petrolia to Ferndale. Continuing on, her buggy went past a number of the prominent ranches in the Petrolia region to where a “Camp Meeting” was being conducted by Reverend Shuck, and Pastor Skinner of Petrolia.
The 1886 Forbes map shows the Ocean House as the Pacific Ocean House, located on the south side of Singley Creek, and that by this time it was owned by Joseph Russ, scion of the wealthy Russ family of Ferndale. After his passing in 1886, the Ocean House Ranch remained in the family name for many decades functioning as a sheep ranch as well as a family retreat much of that time. The last mention of the Ocean House Hotel was in an article from 1905. Perhaps someone knows how long it served as a Hotel past that? Anyone with more details about the place should feel to contribute as I am unable to access my usual library/Humboldt Historical Society sources to provide more depth.
FERNDALE ENTERPRISE August 11, 1881
THE OCEAN HOUSE
Petrolia and the Camp Meeting
Saturday last by invitation, we, with the usual supply of Saratoga, bandboxes, satchels, valises, parasols and other necessities of a woman’s existence brought us at noon at the sea-side resort known as the “Ocean House”. Leaving Ferndale at a quarter to eight in the morning after a brisk trot of some five miles the ocean beach was reached; then down along the sand a drive for another four miles, varied by the surf frequently washing in upon us, and then over the hills via Myrtle Grove, we reached the summit of Bear River Ridge and saw nestled away down in the valley several farm houses, among them the beautiful residence of Mr. Thomas Stewart. Soon reaching the river we found a capacious school house, post-office and coopershop on its banks. Another climb of a couple of miles brought us to the top of “Cape Ridge”, on the point of which is located the famous light house of Cape Mendocino. Down the winding grade that runs around the southern side of the ridge we go, with nothing but the “break” on our light wagon between us and the canyon a thousand feet below, or eternity, the two being, in this case, synonymous terms. We are borne out in this statement from the fact that as we reach the foot of the mountain and find ourselves actually at the mouth of the canyon, there is seen a little beyond up on a level table land a sort of “fairies home in the palace of Neptune”—a veritable “paradise”, which of course is somewhere in the neighborhood of eternity. Do we need to say that we refer to the “Ocean House,” kept by Mr. And Mrs. S.S. Johnston? Not only was a warm welcome extended us, but a “boilin” hot dinner as well, which was thoroughly considered for about an hour. What can be more invigorating to a poor homesick stomach than a ride of twenty miles in the health giving atmosphere of this sea-coast?
After a rest over night on a couch of down plucked from the breasts of the wild sea birds that have their homes in the haunts of the ocean, we, with a jug of milk as our passport, journeyed down the coast toward the beautiful valley of the Mattole. Six miles along the ocean beach over as fine a road as any Jehu could wish for, brought us to a graded wagon road that runs over the hills intervening the ocean and the valley. Up these hills 800 feet we wend our way behind the steaming horses and beneath a scorching sun, observing on our left, in a “slight little nook by a babbling brook,” the palatial residence of one of Humboldt’s wealthiest citizens.—Mons. Dominique Zanoni, a man, by the way, who has made his fortune in this county as a stock raiser. In a notch in the summit of the hills is seen the ranch of Mr. Jesse Walker, a half-mile off the road. But soon before us burst a vision of loveliness that art cannot reproduce. The Mattole valley as a landscape cannot be excelled for its picturesque beauty by the boasted charms of Italy and Switzerland. The eye can never tire of its diverse charms of form and color that her glow in the noonday sun. With cattle on her thousand hills, and a thousand hills without the cattle. This pantheon of nature is the receptacle of all her bounties of wealth and beauty. Clad in the evergreen garb supplied by the forests of fir and spruce, and toned down by the golden hues of her grassy hills, this valley is the paradise of Southern Humboldt.
Wending our way down the gentle grade we soon reach the beautiful home of Mr. Chas. Cook, and still further on that of one of Mattole’s old-timers and extensive stock raisers—Mr. Walker Hunter. Still further on we find ourselves above and overlooking the “North Fork” of the Mattole river, and see a short distance up the valley the delightful home of Mr. Chas. Doe, whose residence, one of the finest in that entire country, is surrounded by green orchards, fields of ripe grain and groves of young timber. A short distance further on we come upon the “Camp Meeting” that is being held by the United Brethern in Christ. Here the presiding elder, Rev. D. Shuck, was engaged in preaching “The Word” to the benighted ones of Southern Humboldt. A large and attentive audience was assembled in the leafy glades and drank in the truths so ably presented by Mr. Shuck. The meetings opened last Thursday, and will close the first of ext week, unless unusual interest in manifested. Several conversions have been the result thus far, we understand. Rev. Mr. Bowman of Eureka is now laboring with them. Rev. J. Skinner, the local pastor at Petrolia, is also doing his part in a most able and accepting manner.
After spending a few hours chatting with old-time friends, we “hitched up” and retraced our steps to the Ocean House on the beach at Cape Mendocino. At this lovely retreat, where milk literally flows and honey is bountiful, we basked in the sunshine so liberally bestowed upon this region, sported in the surf and rambled over the rocks for another day or two, and then bidding our friends farewell, and taking a last look at the beauties of this place, we boarded the stage and hied us away from the land of fog, voting the Ocean House one of the pleasantest resorts for solid comfort that this county contains.
Earlier Odd and Old News:
There are many more, but here are the most recent: