sarapardeeSarah Winchester (September 1839 ? September 5, 1922), born Sarah Lockwood Pardee, was an heiress and the builder of the Winchester Mystery House.

She was the daughter of Leonard Pardee and Sarah W. Burns, and had six siblings:

  • Sarah E. Pardee, who died as an infant;
  • Mary A. Pardee, who married William Converse;
  • Antoinette E. Pardee;
  • Leonard M. Pardee;
  • Isabelle C. Pardee, who married Lewis Merriman; and
  • Estelle L. Pardee.

On September 30, 1862 in New Haven, Connecticut, Sarah married William Wirt Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester, the owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The couple had one daughter, Annie Pardee Winchester, who was born on July 12, 1866, but died after a few weeks. Sarah fell into a deep depression following the death of her daughter, and the couple did not have any more children. Oliver died in 1880, quickly followed in March 1881 by William, who died of tuberculosis, giving Sarah approximately 50 percent ownership in the Winchester company and an income of $1,000 a day.

winchester carriageThe grieving Sarah felt that her family was cursed, and sought out spiritualists to determine what she should do. A medium told Sarah that the Winchester family was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by the Winchester rifle, and that she should move west and build a house for herself and the spirits. The medium also told Sarah that should construction ever stop on the house, she would die.

In 1884, Sarah moved to California and purchased an eight-room farmhouse under construction, which belonged to a Dr. Caldwell, on 162 acres (0.7 kmĀ²) of land in what is now San Jose. Immediately, she began spending her $20 million inheritance as the medium instructed ? by renovating and building more rooms onto the house, with work continuing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next 38 years. She was fascinated with the number 13 and worked the number into the house in many places (there are thirteen bathrooms in the house, windows have thirteen panes, and so forth).

After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Sarah was trapped in her bedroom for a short time. When she got out, she told the construction crews to stop working on the almost-finished front part of the house, and she left most of the extensive earthquake damage unrepaired; she thought the spirits were angry with her because the front rooms were near completion. However, work continued apace on new additions and remodeling the other parts of the structure.winchestermysteryDue to the lack of a master plan and constant construction, the house became very large (160 rooms) and quite complex; many of the staff members needed a map to navigate the house. The house also features doors that open into walls, staircases that lead nowhere and windows that look into other walls. There are two theories behind why the house was built with so many oddities. The first was that since Mrs. Winchester had very little architectural background and since she refused to take advice concerning construction of the house, these interesting features roliferated. The second was that she was fearful of the souls of those killed by Winchester rifles, and deliberately built the house to confuse souls that tried to enter. The Winchester Mystery House is now a National Historic Monument.

Construction stopped on the Winchester Mystery House when Sarah died on September 5, 1922. She was buried with her husband and infant child, in Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut. The house was not included in her will and was sold at auction. Her furniture was willed to her niece, Marian Marriot, who took what she wanted and sold the rest of the furnishings.

The Santa Clara - Los Gatos Boulevard in front of the house was later renamed Winchester Boulevard.

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