TUOLUMNE COUNTY — At its Lamplight Dinner on April 20, the Tuolumne County Historical Society will present Heritage Home awards to owners of the Curtin Mansion in Sonora and the Prince Home in Tuolumne City. The awards are given each year to recognize preservation of local landmarks.
The evening will include a talk about "The Unique Angels Branch of the Sierra Railway" and the presentation of various awards to society members for their work in preserving local history.
Dave Connery, a docent at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, will be the speaker.
Joe Sparagna, chairman of the society's landmarks committee, said the Prince Home "deserves the Heritage Home award because it represents an era of the West Side Lumber Co. and property associated with a family that had a long and significant history in the community."
The home, at Pine Street and Maple Avenue, was built around 1900 and has undergone two restorations, one around 1990 after it was severely damaged in a fire and again in September 2012.
The West Side Flume & Lumber Co. built the home in the South Addition of Tuolumne City. John R. Prince came from Wisconsin to live in Tuolumne County after he and his business partners bought the lumber company in 1903. Prince's career with West Side spanned 22 years, during which time the company flourished and aided economic development in Tuolumne County.
The Prince family moved into the large seven-bedroom home in 1911. John's wife, Maude Prince, was one of the founders of the Tuolumne Towne Improvement Club, later renamed the Women's Improvement Club. She died in 1918, and her sister moved in to help with the children.
In 1925, the West Side Lumber Co. was purchased by Pickering Lumber Co.; John Prince moved to Alameda County, where he lived until his death in 1933.
In the 1940s, John Prince's eldest son, Eugene, a prominent San Francisco attorney, purchased the Tuolumne City home from Pickering. It was then handed down through the family until the 1990 fire.
John Prince's granddaughters, Laura Lee Eckstein and Sandra Damminn, worked with Sonora architect Dennis Hansen on the first restoration. They made an effort to be sure the replacement was as close to the original as possible, within the current county building codes.
After 20 years, the home was in disrepair when Kevin Alberto bought it last fall. The front porch stairs, railings and interior floors had to be replaced. Part of this restoration completed some of the features left unfinished after the fire because of lack of funds. Among those was the restoration of the side deck.
The 4,500-square-foot home is a vernacular Queen Anne Revival, T-plan. The main floor has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, a parlor, formal dining room, great room and kitchen. The second floor has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The tub in the master bath is from the original home. The home boasts three fireplaces.
The Curtin Mansion on Columbia Way in Sonora is a 6,800-square-foot stick-style Victorian that was built by former California State Sen. John Barry Curtin in 1897. In 2011, Steve Case purchased the home and is restoring it "to its former glory from the bottom up," Sparagna said.
Curtin worked with Clarence Ayers, a prominent local architect, to construct the home on what previously was called Brown's Flat Road and later Main Street.
Curtin was born in Gold Springs in 1867. He studied law with Edwin Rodgers and was admitted to the bar in 1892. Curtin quickly established himself and became Tuolumne County's prosecuting attorney that same year.
In November 1897, Curtin married Lucy Shaw and they moved into the newly built home. Their only child, Barry, died at age 17 from appendicitis. In 1898, Curtin was elected to the state Senate, serving 16 years until 1914. After an unsuccessful run for governor, he returned to his law practice in Sonora.
In 1925, Curtin died suddenly. Lucy Curtin occupied the home with boarders and Diane Sardella, her longtime companion. In July 1948, Lucy passed away in a Stockton hospital after a lingering illness.
The home changed ownership several times over the next 20 years. In the 1960s, members of the Bradley family a grandmother, mother and grandson purchased it.
By 2011, when Case bought it, the home was in disrepair, inside and out. After analyzing the effort to restore the home, Case decided to landscape the grounds before starting on the home itself, based on his experience with an earlier restoration.
One of the issues with the flooring was that it was being pulled down by the settling of multiple fireplaces. Case relieved the stress on the floors by isolating the fireplaces from the floor. Most of the original features are intact and materials in the restoration were recycled.
The large veranda required extensive restoration. Part of the scroll-sawn spandrel on the veranda had to be re-created. A new floor and railings, with decorative trim, were added.
On the second floor is a small porch flanked by curved walls of concrete aggregate with colored glass.
The restoration also included the carriage house and caretaker's cottage.
Case's vision of the rehabilitation of the mansion is to convert it to a 10-bed, 11-bathroom retirement home. An elevator is planned, and all outdoor walkways and interior features are updated to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
IF YOU GO ...
WHAT: Tuolumne County Historical Society's Lamplight Dinner
WHEN: April 20, but reservations due by Tuesday
WHERE: Mother Lode Fairgrounds, Sonora
INFO: Social hour will be at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 in the fairgrounds' Manzanita Building. The menu will include chicken, tri-tip, Caesar salad, roasted red potatoes, Italian beans and assorted cheesecakes. Tickets are $35. Reservations can be completed online at www.tchistory.org. To learn more, call (209) 532-1317.