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'Blind Boss' Buckley's Beautiful Abode Revives Glory of 1800s

LIVERMORE -- Revisit the place where Christopher Buckley St., the "blind boss" of San Francisco, took his family to the foothills of the Livermore Valley and frolicked in the summer sun. In 1885 Buckley bought 100 acres of land constructed the cottage on the property and in 1891 built the main house to complete the family estate of Ravenswood.

Now part of the Livermore Area Parks and Recreation District, the Ravenswood Historic Site invites guests to visit and enjoy a Victorian delight. Docents dressed in Gay Nineties costumes offer free guided tours that last about an hour. Each tour takes visitors through the main house and the cottage.

Inside the main house, the luxurious décor and lavish furnishings remind you that this was once home to one of the most powerful Californians of the 1870s and '80s.

Although Buckley himself went blind at the age of 30, the talented designers who he hired made sure that the home was colorful and grand so as to please his bride, Elizabeth.

Also on the tour, guests visit the 1885 cottage and all its Queen Anne architectural details and décor.

Visitors to Ravenswood Historic Site can stroll the lavish grounds and gaze at the grandiose Canary Island date palms that grace the north side and front of the home. These large palms are original and date back to when the property was first developed.

Ravenswood holds a couple of annual events. One of those is held on the second Sunday of December when Ravenswood takes on Christmas. Decorated in Victorian yuletide celebration the event includes a gift shop, arts and crafts displays, St. Nicholas and children's activities, miniature "one-horse open sleigh" and buggy rides, and cocoa, hot cider and food for sale. It's a lavish and splendid look at Christmas past.

If the Victorian era or the history of a one time saloon owner and his political ties isn't enough to sway you to visit Ravenswood, the scenery especially during this autumn, might be just enough to do the trick.

WHERE: 2647 Arroyo Road, Livermore (midway between Marina and Wetmore roads)

WHEN: Noon-4 p.m., second and fourth Sunday of each month, January through November and second Sunday of December. Tours every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour. The last tour begins at 3 p.m.

COST: Free

GETTING THERE: Take Interstate 580 over the Altamont into Livermore. Take the First Street/Springtown exit and loop back over the freeway. Stay on First Street into downtown Livermore. Turn left onto L Street; L becomes Arroyo Road. Stay on Arroyo to Ravenswood.

DRIVE TIME: 57 minutes (Mapquest)

MORE INFORMATION: 925-373-5700,

http://www.larpd.dst.ca.us/activities_fs.html" target="_blank">www.larpd.dst.ca.us/activities_fs.html -- click on "Ravenswood Historic Site"

Bee staff writer Karen Aiello can be reached at kaiello@modbee.com or 578-2392.

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