Living relic

Stansbury Home is pristine example of a Victorian dwelling

HOME SWEET HOME Members of the Stansbury family lived in this 1883 Victorian through the 1970s, which accounts for its remarkable level of preservation.

HOME SWEET HOME Members of the Stansbury family lived in this 1883 Victorian through the 1970s, which accounts for its remarkable level of preservation.

Photo By Tom Angel

Though it is sometimes overshadowed by its “bigger brother,” the stately Bidwell Mansion, the Stansbury Home on the corner of West Fifth and Salem streets is a beautifully preserved example of the Italianate Victorian architectural style and is well worth a tour.

Dr. Oscar Stansbury of Carlton, Miss., moved to Chico with his wife Libby in the late 1800s to take over his cousin’s medical practice. Not especially wealthy, the couple was able to build the home with the help of an inheritance from Oscar’s recently deceased father. The land and the construction of the home cost a princely sum of $7,000 in 1883 and subsequently featured a number of luxurious touches.

Upon entering the home, one is immediately struck by the lofty, elegantly painted ceilings, ornate woodwork, and the immaculate stained-glass window in the stairway. The most remarkable feature of the Stansbury Home, however, is how incredibly well-preserved it is. In the scarcely used parlor sits a desk containing the original furniture catalog from which many of the items in the home were purchased. Also in the parlor is Dr. Stansbury’s chair, where every afternoon he would sit and, being a genteel Southerner, enjoy a mint julep. It was in that very chair that Dr. Stansbury passed away in 1926, while waiting on his drink. Many other original pieces of the Stansbury’s furniture are in the house, supplemented by a variety of other furniture from the era.

A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME Since the mid-1970s the former Stansbury Home has housed a historical museum.

Photo By Tom Angel

Dino Corbin, president of the Stansbury Home Preservation Association, says, “What makes [the Stansbury Home] very unique is that it was stopped in time at the turn of the century.”

Much of the home’s preservation can be attributed to Angeline Stansbury, daughter of Oscar and Libby. When her parents died in the early 1900s, Angeline decided to continue living in the family home and continue her career as an art teacher at Chico High School. She lived in the home until her death at the age of 91. In the mid-1970s, the city of Chico gained ownership of the home and established it in the National Register of Historic Places.

Another reason the home is so preserved in a near-original state was the discovery of a plethora of family memorabilia in the basement of the home when the city purchased it.

While Dr. Stansbury had an office at 201 Broadway (most recently home to Chevys Restaurant), he also saw patients in a small office in his home. In the office there are a variety of antique medical instruments as well as vintage medicines, including, strangely enough, tobacco. More medical items may be soon added to the home, as fund-raising efforts are currently being directed toward rebuilding the Carriage Barn in the rear of the home. The Carriage Barn burned down in the early 1900s, and as there is little evidence of the original layout of the barn, there are plans for it to house a museum of early medical practice.

The Stansbury Home can be toured every Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 p.m., holidays excepted. There are also special social events held at the house, allowing guests to pretend they are in a Jane Austen novel for an evening. An annual ice cream social takes place on Aug. 25-30. During the first weekend of December, the Annual Stansbury Victorian Christmas is held. The Christmas social features a resplendent Christmas tree in the Victorian style with handcrafted ornaments, as well as caroling by a local Girl Scout troop. For further information about tours and events, call 895-3848.