We had noticed this house from the road years ago and hoped to someday get the chance to tour it.
So, last weekend when Jim was surfing the internet checking out interesting things to do, he noticed there was an annual Ice Cream Social and house tour at the Maclay House in Tipton. We thought “This is perfect! We’ve been wanting to see that house for ages!”
We headed up Highway 50, through Tipton, on to Highway 5, since we knew that is where the house is located. But when we got there, we were the only ones there. It didn’t take us more than two seconds (maybe only one) to figure out we had our homes mixed up and there really was a mansion IN Tipton, not north of Tipton, that really was giving tours and was having an ice cream social. But, there was an OPEN sign on the gate of what we now knew is RAVENSWOOD. What the heck. We were there and this is the house we’d been wanting to see, so we walked around until someone came out.
I will have to tell you it was a little bit like stepping back in time. The “tour guide” was apparently a caretaker who happened to give tours if someone showed up. After we paid the $14 admission (we let him keep all $20… just because…), inside we headed. I was occasionally put off by his wife-beater almost white t-shirt, and once white, very stained jeans. We held our nose (seriously) and pushed ahead.
Ravenswood was built in 1880, and six generations later, remains in private ownership in the same family. It and the 2000 acres that go with it is in a trust and cannot be sold. We’ve heard that in many ways the family consider it a bit of an albatross around their necks.
Over the years few changes have been made to the house. Electricity and indoor toilets were added at some point. My heart ached for the dismal state it was in. Some rooms were kept in the “period”, others were mostly junk, and yet others were a mixture of the past and present. It was all very confusing.
I think since we tipped George $6, he not only took us through the house, but also up the rickety stairs to the crows nest, and down into the moldy, damp, basement.
In the basement was a “gentleman’s room”, with a door only 18 to 20 inches wide. This is where the men went when they wanted to drink or smoke, since neither were allowed on any other floor of the house. The story is that the door was made narrow on purpose so that no woman in the full hooped dresses of that time period could get through the door into the men’s territory. Supposedly the room was very elaborate at the time. All we could see in the darkness was water/dirt covered floors and what looked like faded leather wallpaper.