The coastal town of Mendocino is full of water towers. Find out why there are so many and how to spend the night in one.
MENDOCINO, California – As the mist clears from the Mendocino coast and retreats into the sequoia forest, you can see water towers. They are everywhere.
Some are big, some are small, and some look like they’re falling apart. For this reason, the small coastal village of Mendocino is affectionately known as “The City of Water Towers”.
Anne Semans, historian and director of the Kelley House Museum, gives tours of the towers. She says records show the city once had more than 100 of them.
“Today we have between 24 and 30 left,” said Semans.
Mendocino does not have an urban water system, so each of the approximately 1,000 residents gets their water from their own well.
“The whole reason we have water towers is because we didn’t have water to the houses, and that’s what you get through this gravity-fed system,” said Semans. “People use them as storage. Mendocino gets 40 to 60 inches of rain, but we have a really shallow water table. “
Before the invention of electric pumps, windmills were used to pump water out of wells and into water towers, but there was only one problem.
“Before they had self-oiling windmills, they made such a racket. Imagine 100 of these things happening. It was quite a noise, ”said Semans.
Aside from its water towers, Mendocino was once a logging town. Sequoias were discovered by accident after a cargo ship was wrecked off the coast. The first sawmill was built in 1852 and the town flourished until the 1930s.
“The factory closes, the Great Depression happens, the city falls into disrepair, and then the artists move here,” said Semans.
These artists brought the city to life and Mendocino became a tourist destination. And where are the tourists, you might ask? The water towers, of course.
Mendocino is full of renovated water towers to sleep in. Adrien Harris and Dian Snell have been renting their water tower to tourists for several years. The water tank was relocated for safety reasons, but the tower is intact. Inside, the rooms are small but very comfortable.
There are lots of steep stairs but the view is worth it.
“Oh, the view is wonderful, but it’s really cozy. It’s just a euphemism for not having a lot of space, ”Harris said with a laugh.
If you are looking for an elegant night’s sleep, you can try the water tower room at MacCallum House. The three-story water tower, built in 1882, exhibits much of the original woodworking art. On the ground floor you can see the underground fountain, on the second floor there is a sauna and on the third there is just enough space for a bed.
A trip to Mendocino would not be complete without a visit to Blair House, where many scenes of the TV drama “Murder, She Wrote” were filmed, which technically was supposed to be set in New England.
“Mendocino was often used as a New England location because we were on the coast,” said Semans.
The film “Dying Young” with Julia Roberts in the lead role was also shot in Mendocino.
“They actually built a house for Julia Roberts,” said Semans.
Storms and natural decay are the greatest threats to the water towers. Whether you’re sleeping in one or just looking at them from the street, enjoy them while they last.
“Yes, there are pictures of them coming down and it’s a big mess. You obviously don’t want to be around when it happens, ”said Semans.
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