What 10 Minute Trip from Fortuna Takes You Back to Victorian CA?

Victorian era commercial buildingsLeaving all the modern comforts of Fortuna’s Redwood Riverwalk Hotel, it’s hard to believe that just a 10 minute drive will take you back over a century in time to Ferndale, to what’s been called “the best preserved Victorian village in California.” Luckily for history buffs, Ferndale’s location five miles away from Highway 101 has let this community keep its Victorian homes, historic Main Street, and unique small-town character. The National Trust for Historic Preservation designated Ferndale’s Victorian Village one of America’s Prettiest Painted Places.

Ferndale can attribute much of its continuing prosperity to its agricultural economy, especially dairy-farming, which gave the town its first nickname, ‘Cream City’. Ferndale butter was considered the finest in California, and soon the town’s wealth led its elaborate Eastlake, Queen Anne, and Victorian homes to be known as ‘Butterfat Palaces’. Spring is a beautiful season to visit, when their gardens are blooming with tulips, azaleas, and rhododendrons.

Ferndale’s Victorian Village is a photographer’s delight. If you’re a movie buff and saw The Majestic, many of the film’s interior and exterior locations were shot in Ferndale, so you’ve gotten a glimpse of the sights that await you. Strolling down Main Street, you’ll see many original 19th century commercial buildings, as well as is one of the state’s finest Carpenter Gothic homes – the Shaw House, built by Ferndale founder Seth Shaw in 1854.

An excellent place to begin your visit is the Ferndale Museum, a showcase for the community’s history from its early days during the Californian Gold Rush through its Victorian heyday. You’ll see exhibits ranging from photographs to a player piano, tools to farming equipment, and even an operating seismograph.  The Museum’s gift shop stocks historical books and mementoes related to Ferndale.

The many shops, galleries, and locally-sourced eateries make Main Street a great place to spend the day. From the Museum, you’ll soon reach Antiques and More, with its extensive collection of used books and cookbooks, a $1.00 book cart, and unique collectibles.

Nearby, The Blacksmith’s Shop and its companion Gallery, offer one of the finest collections of master blacksmithing and art glass in the country. You’ll find works by at least eight masters including hand forged cutlery, lamps and candlesticks, fireplace tools, hardware, sculptures, and more on display and available for purchase.  Be sure to note The Blacksmith Shop’s products in use at The Redwood.

In the same block, you’ll find by works by local artists on display at Redeye Laboratories gallery, and the well-known Golden Gait Mercantile. Venture upstairs at the Mercantile to explore their museum of Victorian household goods, then wander downstairs through their vintage items and reproductions for sale. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in some of their many old-fashioned candy selections!

If time allows, add Ferndale’s historic cemetery and the Fern Cottage to your itinerary. The Redwood’s central location in Fortuna is ideal for enjoying all the sites the region offers, from the National Parks to the Lost Coast, to California’s early history and architecture in Ferndale. Spring is coming, so give us a call or go online and book your time travel vacation today! 

Photo courtesy of Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau

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