Ukiah Symphony New Director
October 7, 2019

History Lives Here.

Ever wonder how the town of Fort Bragg got its name? Was there a fort, or a person by the name of Bragg? A trip to the Guest House Museum will answer those questions and more, with its comprehensive collection of artifacts, photographs, interpretive displays and stories from the early days of the lumber and logging industries, all tucked inside a gorgeous mansion.


The three-storied structure sits atop a knoll, dominating the town’s coastal skyline. Through the years it has sported many colors of paint, including some interesting shades of burgundy and green, but these days the siding, dormers and trim pieces wear complementary brown tones. A description from the archives of the local newspaper, the Fort Bragg Advocate, describes the newly completed home, then called the Cottage, as “the acme of perfection…containing seven fireplaces, five bedrooms, each with hot and cold running water, and a third story billiard room. Every room has electric lights.”

In fact, it was the first house built on the Mendocino coast wired for electricity and included floor buzzers at either end of the dining table to summon servers with a tap of the foot. Over 67,000 feet of lumber, most of it pristine old-growth redwood, was used in the construction with custom moldings milled in San Francisco. And although the trim details and built-ins are spectacular, the most striking architectural feature is the set of three stained glass windows on the stair landing between the first and second floors.

The story of the Guest House begins in 1855 when a party from the Bureau of Indian Affairs visited the area looking for a site to establish an Indian reservation. This was accomplished in 1857 and the US government created a military post to maintain order at the site, named Fort Bragg by Lieutenant Gibson in honor of his Captain. The whole venture was abandoned in 1864, the native Pomo were banished to Round Valley, and the land was opened for settlement. Parcels were offered to settlers for $1.25 an acre.

The guest house occupies the site of the old Fort Hospital, which was remodeled about 1884 and used as a residence by C.R. Johnson, founder of the Union Lumber Company. C.R. recognized the value of the giant redwood trees and in 1885 moved his mill operation to Fort Bragg to take advantage of the harbor for shipping. Soon after, he became the town’s first mayor.

Eventually, the old Fort Cottage was moved off the knoll and repurposed as a barn. A grand new structure, designed and built by A.F. Carmichael, a Massachusetts native, was commissioned and completed in 1892.

About this time, the California Western Railroad and Navigation Company was working on a railroad line, and in 1912 the newly completed Willits extension brought the first tourists to Fort Bragg. This train earned the name Skunk Train due to the smell of the burning fuel and while the smell is gone, the Skunk Train moniker remains, and the train still carries passengers for scenic trips into the redwood forest.

As visiting Fort Bragg became relatively easy, the Cottage home officially became the Guest House and multi-tasked as a residence for the Johnson Family, visiting officials and VIP visitors to the Fort Bragg mill and logging sites. The mansion was a show place for the Union Lumber wood products and the success of the local industries.

The Guest House continued in its role with a string of hosts and hostesses through the years, until the Union Lumber company was sold to Boise-Cascade Corporation in 1969, and in turn sold to Georgia-Pacific Corporation, who used the home as a specialty boutique for their department store, Sea Fair. It was turned into a museum, and finally, in 1984, Georgia Pacific offered to donate the building to the city with the stipulation it would continue to house a museum.

Today, each of the upstairs bedrooms has been converted into a themed area focusing on the history of a particular aspect of Fort Bragg’s past and economic culture—logging, railroad, fishing and Native Pomo tribes. The fifth bedroom, in the center with a sweeping view of the sea, holds an antique weaver’s loom. A local group works here, making rag rugs from torn pieces of fabric. The colorful rugs can be purchased on site.

A beautiful historic steam whistle is on display in the second-floor hallway. For many years this Lunkenheimer steam whistle awakened the town of Fort Bragg, starting the day for workers and everyone else in town. The sound of the whistle called the workers sent them to lunch and home again then called the swing shift to work. It could be heard miles from Fort Bragg and was in operation until the mill closed in 2002. The city’s volunteer fire department made use of the whistle with a special code giving the fire’s location.
Downstairs are three rooms of local history and a small gift shop well-stocked with books and photographs. A volunteer staff member is always ready and willing to show off the house and answer questions. Admission is free, but donations to the non-profit endeavor are appreciated.

Just outside the entrance is a section of a redwood tree, seventeen-hundred years old. Cut down in 1943, it is the largest redwood believed to have ever grown in Mendocino county. Also of interest close by is the Skunk Train Depot, where you can purchase tickets for a ride on a historic train and browse train-related curios, books, and toys. Follow the signs across the tracks to the Model Train, a miniature train village depicting the bygone era of logging and mills with hands-on train-themed activities for the kids.

The Guest House Museum is run by the Fort Bragg-Mendocino Coast Historical Society and is located at 343 N. Main Street (Hwy 1) in Fort Bragg. Hours are seasonal: June through October: Tuesday to Friday 11-2, Monday 1-3, and 10-4 on the weekends. November to May: Thursday to Sunday 11-2. Check the Historical Society website for more information and special events at www.fortbragghistory.org



The three-storied structure sits atop a knoll, dominating the town’s coastal skyline. Through the years it has sported many colors of paint, including some interesting shades of burgundy and green, but these days the siding, dormers and trim pieces wear complementary brown tones. A description from the archives of the local newspaper, the Fort Bragg Advocate, describes the newly completed home, then called the Cottage, as “the acme of perfection…containing seven fireplaces, five bedrooms, each with hot and cold running water, and a third story billiard room. Every room has electric lights.”

In fact, it was the first house built on the Mendocino coast wired for electricity and included floor buzzers at either end of the dining table to summon servers with a tap of the foot. Over 67,000 feet of lumber, most of it pristine old-growth redwood, was used in the construction with custom moldings milled in San Francisco. And although the trim details and built-ins are spectacular, the most striking architectural feature is the set of three stained glass windows on the stair landing between the first and second floors.

The story of the Guest House begins in 1855 when a party from the Bureau of Indian Affairs visited the area looking for a site to establish an Indian reservation. This was accomplished in 1857 and the US government created a military post to maintain order at the site, named Fort Bragg by Lieutenant Gibson in honor of his Captain. The whole venture was abandoned in 1864, the native Pomo were banished to Round Valley, and the land was opened for settlement. Parcels were offered to settlers for $1.25 an acre.

The guest house occupies the site of the old Fort Hospital, which was remodeled about 1884 and used as a residence by C.R. Johnson, founder of the Union Lumber Company. C.R. recognized the value of the giant redwood trees and in 1885 moved his mill operation to Fort Bragg to take advantage of the harbor for shipping. Soon after, he became the town’s first mayor.

Eventually, the old Fort Cottage was moved off the knoll and repurposed as a barn. A grand new structure, designed and built by A.F. Carmichael, a Massachusetts native, was commissioned and completed in 1892.

About this time, the California Western Railroad and Navigation Company was working on a railroad line, and in 1912 the newly completed Willits extension brought the first tourists to Fort Bragg. This train earned the name Skunk Train due to the smell of the burning fuel and while the smell is gone, the Skunk Train moniker remains, and the train still carries passengers for scenic trips into the redwood forest.

As visiting Fort Bragg became relatively easy, the Cottage home officially became the Guest House and multi-tasked as a residence for the Johnson Family, visiting officials and VIP visitors to the Fort Bragg mill and logging sites. The mansion was a show place for the Union Lumber wood products and the success of the local industries.

The Guest House continued in its role with a string of hosts and hostesses through the years, until the Union Lumber company was sold to Boise-Cascade Corporation in 1969, and in turn sold to Georgia-Pacific Corporation, who used the home as a specialty boutique for their department store, Sea Fair. It was turned into a museum, and finally, in 1984, Georgia Pacific offered to donate the building to the city with the stipulation it would continue to house a museum.

Today, each of the upstairs bedrooms has been converted into a themed area focusing on the history of a particular aspect of Fort Bragg’s past and economic culture—logging, railroad, fishing and Native Pomo tribes. The fifth bedroom, in the center with a sweeping view of the sea, holds an antique weaver’s loom. A local group works here, making rag rugs from torn pieces of fabric. The colorful rugs can be purchased on site.

A beautiful historic steam whistle is on display in the second-floor hallway. For many years this Lunkenheimer steam whistle awakened the town of Fort Bragg, starting the day for workers and everyone else in town. The sound of the whistle called the workers sent them to lunch and home again then called the swing shift to work. It could be heard miles from Fort Bragg and was in operation until the mill closed in 2002. The city’s volunteer fire department made use of the whistle with a special code giving the fire’s location.
Downstairs are three rooms of local history and a small gift shop well-stocked with books and photographs. A volunteer staff member is always ready and willing to show off the house and answer questions. Admission is free, but donations to the non-profit endeavor are appreciated.

Just outside the entrance is a section of a redwood tree, seventeen-hundred years old. Cut down in 1943, it is the largest redwood believed to have ever grown in Mendocino county. Also of interest close by is the Skunk Train Depot, where you can purchase tickets for a ride on a historic train and browse train-related curios, books, and toys. Follow the signs across the tracks to the Model Train, a miniature train village depicting the bygone era of logging and mills with hands-on train-themed activities for the kids.

The Guest House Museum is run by the Fort Bragg-Mendocino Coast Historical Society and is located at 343 N. Main Street (Hwy 1) in Fort Bragg. Hours are seasonal: June through October: Tuesday to Friday 11-2, Monday 1-3, and 10-4 on the weekends. November to May: Thursday to Sunday 11-2. Check the Historical Society website for more information and special events at www.fortbragghistory.org