Sense of Place: Santa Rosa’s Comstock House
The Craftsman style house has a gamble roof with white eastern cedar shingles and redwood trim. In the spring, colorful flowers frame the porch and two small stone lions stoically protect its entryway.
It’s impossible to enter the old house and not feel time slip back a century. Redwood beams and paneling fill it. Leaded glass decorates the windows along the staircase. Art deco chandeliers with gas candlesticks adorn the stair landing. Vintage radios and TVs in stylish wooden consoles are scattered throughout the house, ddding a touch of the modern.
The original owner, James Wyatt Oats, was an accused east coast murderer who fled his crime to settle in Santa Rosa. He was later acquitted after his brother William allegedly bribed the prosecutor, who just happened to be the victim’s father. William was a commander in the confederate army at Gettysburg, leading the 15th Alabama regiment to defeat at Little Round Top.
Nellie Comstock purchased the house in 1916 for $10,000, and it remained in the family over the next 74 years. In contrast to the house’s previous owners, Nellie’s father was the head of the anti-slavery group that funded famed abolitionist John Brown.
After touring the house, I stood beside a piano near the entryway and sketched a vintage art deco console radio. While drawing, Jeff told me that frame around the mirror hanging above the radio was originally engraved with the name of British artist J. B. Payne and was used to frame his painting, “In the Village of Cheddar.” No one has ever heard of nor seen the original painting, but the inscription adds some mystery to this beautiful old house.
– Richard Sheppard is a Healdsburg-based artist. See more of his work at theartistontheroad.com.