Today my OLLI group visited the C.F. Lott home in Oroville. Set in a city block park, the house is surrounded by lawns, brick paths, a rose garden, and a wisteria arbor. The park is open daily, and the house is open for tours on Fridays and Sundays. I’d like to come back in the spring when the roses and the wisteria are in bloom.
The C.F. Lott Home was built in 1856 by Charles Fayette Lott, a gold-rush pioneer who helped form California’s government and started the first Citrus Exchange in California. Lott came to California in 1849 and after a short stint at mining with shovel and gold pan, he returned to his profession as a lawyer. He became a judge, a state senator, and a prosperous member of the Oroville community, earning his fortune from mining, ranching, and real estate development.
In 1856 Judge Lott went back to Pennsylvania and married Susan Hyer. He built a home for her on the city block that he had bought for $200 in 1855. Their first child, Sarah Virginia, died at the age of 2 or 3, devastating her parents. A son, Charles Fayette Jr. was born in 1873 and a daughter, Cornelia, in 1876. Both the children were somewhat disabled (according to our guides). Fay, as the son was known, was “slow,” and never seemed to have an occupation other than driving his father to and from the office. Cornelia suffered from a facial tic and one weak leg. As the children matured, Judge Lott feared they would be the targets of fortune hunters, so he refused to let his children marry.
The Lotts were active in social and business life, and John Bidwell mentions Judge Lott frequently in his diary. The entry for May 20, 1880 reads: “Dined with Judge Lott – his children Fayette & Nelie well.”
Judge Lott died in 1918 at the age of 94, and his son soon after him. Cornelia was at last free to seek a husband. In 1927 she married Jesse Sank, and the couple were devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.
The house has some interesting features. Upon walking in the front door, the visitor is in a typical Victorian entryway — a narrow hall with narrow steep stairs on the right side. To the left is the parlor, and behind that a room that was originally a dining room, but later Judge Lott’s study. Neither room is very large. Upstairs are three small bedrooms. This comprises the house built in 1856.
In the 1880s the house was considerably enlarged. A large dining room was added at the end of the hallway. A butler’s pantry and a small hallway connect to the kitchen, which may have once been a separate building. Next to the dining room is a small room with another broader set of stairs going up to three more bedrooms and a bathroom. This addition more than doubled the size of the original house.
The wallpaper in the dining room is a reproduction of the original wallpaper. It’s a good example of the kind of bright and bold paper that the Victorians favored.
The upstairs bathroom was converted from a small bedroom in the 1930s by Jess Sank for his wife. I don’t know what they did for sanitary needs before that. It’s a handsome bathroom with modern tile-work in pink and gray. It’s so modern that Jess even installed a radio in the bathroom so that Cornelia could have music while she bathed.
The bathtub is three steps up from the floor of the bathroom. It had to be raised in order for it to fit over the stairwell, a previously unused space. Judging by other improvements he made in the house, he was a talented craftsman.