Switzer Farm in the early 1900's
The house was built in 1884, by brothers Albert and Peter Switzer. Both moved from Canada to farm the rugged land after their older brother George had first purchased the property in 1871. George had come to the US originally to find gold in Eastern California and Western Nevada in the 1860s, but later moved to the coast and purchased this property in 1871.
Albert and Peter bought the land in 1876 from George, who had then decided to move south to Mendocino to develop a livery stable business.
At that time, the property spanned about 1,000 acres to the south and east of the current lot.
Albert soon married Clara, and together they adopted and raised two girls on the property, Abigail and Evangeline.
Between 1876 and 1884, the Switzers lived in a house that was further west on the property, about 100 yards closer to the ocean than the current house location. That house to the west (originally built by Westport founder Lloyd Beall) was demolished when the current house was built in 1884.
The family farmed the land, raising sheep, dairy cows and all sorts of crops including fruits, potatoes and other vegetables.
During that time, Westport was the largest town between San Francisco and Eureka, housing over 1,000 residents, 12 saloons and numerous hotels.
Westport’s “chutes,” complexly engineered steel and cable contraptions that spanned the shoreline and several rock outcroppings into the ocean, enabled the loading of materials (especially lumber and bark cut from the Mendocino forests), supplies and people on and off ships docked out in the ocean, they made Westport an important shipping destination.
Lumber felled from the forests of Mendocino County largely built San Francisco from the 1870's to the 1900’s, and Westport was a key part of that process.
In 1904, the Switzers sold the property to George Fee, who raised a large family and farmed the land for more than 40 years. The Fees were important members of the Westport community, and the house is still known locally as “the Fee mansion”.
Over the years, pieces of the property were sold, leaving the current lot size at about 22 acres.
Ansel Adams photo, 1964
The house eventually fell into disrepair in the 1950s and 1960s until it was purchased in 1964 by Fran DuBois, a professor of agriculture at UC Davis.
Fran rehabilitated the house, adding a new foundation, electrical system, garage and garden shed.
The Tamate-Weisses bought the property from DuBois’s heirs in 2015 and immediately began restoring it faithfully to its original condition, including all new windows and doors on the west side intended to copy exactly the dimensions and details of those to the original house.
They also added the veranda, kitchen and 3 new bathrooms and re-finished the wood floors. By 2017, the work was complete.