A Visit to the Mary Aaron Museum

This fall I am (for the first time) a peer leader for an OLLI class. (OLLI is basically retirees teaching other retirees anything they are interested in.) We are touring historic houses in northern California. Sounds like a fun idea, right?

Our first class was today and we drove to Marysville to visit the Mary Aaron Museum in the Warren P. Miller House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the earliest structures still standing in Marysville, and a striking example of Gothic Revival architecture.

During the California Gold Rush, Marysville was one of the largest cities in the state with a booming economy, fueled by gold from the northern mines. Warren P. Miller arrived in Marysville from New York in 1850, and made his living designing buildings for the prosperous citizens of Marysville. This house is the one he built for his own family in 1855.


The Warren P. Miller House

Our guide told us that Mr. Miller modeled the design for his house on Strawberry Hill, the home outside London of eccentric 18th century author Horace Walpole. Looking at the exterior of the house, it’s not hard to see it as a mini-Strawberry Hill. Check out that roof line.


Strawberry Hill House, a Gothic Revival extravaganza

Warren Miller was not only an architect and builder, but also an inventor. At the California State Fair held in Marysville in 1858 he displayed a self-regulating windmill, the first practical working model of a tractor/crawler to be built in the United States, and an excavator/grader to be pulled by the tractor. Later he would patent an improved gun turret and replaceable teeth for industrial saw blades. The latter invention brought him a fortune and in 1869 he moved his family to New York, where he died in 1888.


The staircase is impressively curved and dangerously steep

The Aaron family bought Miller’s Marysville house in the 1870s. It remained in the family until 1955, when the only son of Mary Bobo Aaron donated it to the City of Marysville to be maintained as a museum in honor of his mother. In 1998 the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The house/museum has Victorian furniture and knickknacks, period artifacts and documents, a nice selection of dresses from the 19th century, and a never-touched wedding cake from 1875 in a wooden box (!).




A lovely old-fashioned parlor

It’s worth a visit, so put it on your list of North State places to see.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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