The Museum is located in a Gothic-Revival Victorian known as The Gould-Shaw House. One of the oldest documented dwellings in Cloverdale, its façade appears today much as it did in the 1870s.
The house is a rare example of Sonoma County Gothic Revival Cottage, an architectural style of the Victorian Era. Its significance was recognized as early as 1877 in the Atlas of Sonoma County which described it as one of the finest residences in Cloverdale.
The house exemplifies some of the less common elements of Gothic Revival. It is front – rather than side-gabled, with boxed cornices and rafters and is of brick construction. The brick was manufactured locally and laid in the American Common Bond pattern with flush mortar joints. The walls were double brick with every 7th row turned to lock with the parallel wall, a technique called the “King’s Row.”
Unique to the period were the hand-forged square nails used in the framing and roof construction. The decorative wood – cut ornamentation was made possible by the newly perfected scroll saw.
- The property is acquired by Thomas J. Gould, Cloverdale’s blacksmith from 1858 to 1869.
- The house, originally 832 square feet, is built for Gould.
- Thomas A. Shaw and his wife Sarah (sister of Harmon Heald, first settler of Healdsburg) buy the house from Gould. The home is remodeled to accommodate their four children and a boarder.
- Issac E. Shaw (no relation to T. A. Shaw), one of Cloverdale’s most notable commercial figures, purchases the home. Shaw’s first wife, Louisa, dies one year later.
- Isaac Shaw marries Minerva McCray, daughter of William “Pop” McCray of the famed Russian River Resort.
- The house is wired for electricity. Sometime later a second story is added.
- Issac Shaw dies, but Minerva Shaw continues to live in the home until her death in 1938.
- An addition is built in the rear and the second story is removed. The home has a number of occupants over the next 53 years.
- The Cloverdale Historical Society buys the historic house and property. The museum opens to the public the following year.
- Gould-Shaw House was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Isaac Shaw, Cloverdale’s Most Important Historical Commercial Figure
Bachelor blacksmith Thomas J. Gould built a small house on this property in 1862. Between 1869 and 1875 the house was enlarged and remodeled by its second owner, Thomas A. Shaw.
The third owner, Isaac Ellis Shaw, first came west in the 1850s. Failing to strike it rich, he went home to New York but later returned to California, where he went on to make his mark in the mercantile business.
Shaw arrived in Cloverdale in 1872 and for the next 33 years served as one of the town’s most prominent businessmen. He was the first president of the Bank of Cloverdale, which became First National Bank and later West-America. His son Charles served as president of the bank from 1907 until his death in 1951. Isaac Shaw (1829-1905), the home’s third owner, was Cloverdale’s most important historical commercial figure.
The house was occupied by the Shaw family for over 63 years. Daughter Ella Louise married Harold Jones here in 1895, and Minerva McCray, Shaw’s second wife, lived in the home until her death in 1938, after which the house was sold to Christo Potter.
Mabel and Clarence Walthers lived here from 1948 to 1952, and their daughter Evelyn’s marriage to Roland Osman took place in the living room in 1949.
Saving a Community Treasure
Since 1968, the Society has diligently grown a diverse collection of more than 65,000 artifacts and treasures, ranging from the ordinary to the unique. These items were donated or acquired through the efforts of volunteers and local Cloverdale families. By the 1980’s the Society realized it needed to find a permanent home for its extensive collection.
In 1983, after 15 years of fund-raising, the Cloverdale Historical Society purchased the Gould-Shaw House and opened it the following year as the Gould-Shaw House Museum. By the 1990s with its sagging brick walls and rotting filigree trim, the house was definitely showing its age. Engineers warned it could fall down in an earthquake.
A controversy emerged in the fall 1995. Some wanted to tear down the house and build a new museum. Others argued it was a priceless part of Cloverdale’s heritage and worth saving. The voice of the preservationists won out.
In June 1996 the Society was awarded a grant of seed money from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The following year contracts were finalized with the architect and the engineer, and after enough money was raised through quilt raffles, book sales, and the annual Old Time Fiddle Contest, the restoration project begun.
The brick walls were reinforced with heavy wood and steel posts and the homes original rubble foundation was replaced with steel-reinforced concrete. Del Webb, Petersen Builders, local businesses, and dedicated volunteers donated labor and materials.
The Society reopened the Museum in 1999 and received from the California State Office of Historical Preservation the Governor’s Award for 2001.
Creating an Historic Garden
In the 1980s the Society transformed the gravel-covered lot adjacent to the Gould-Shaw House into a charming Victorian Garden.
At the opening ceremony in 1988 Arthur Foster, former president of West America Bank, unveiled a carved wooden plaque dedicating the garden to the memory of his mother, Mae Gibson Foster. Mr. Foster’s donation of $10,000 and a loan by long-time Cloverdale residents Pete and Gladys Matovich had secured the property.
One-foot squares of land were sold for a $10 donation through the &334;Square Share” event. And for 15 years a group of dedicated members raffled original handmade quilts.
The charming cottage garden bloomed with wisteria, forsythia, irises, jonquils, crocuses, poppies, azaleas, and heirloom roses. Two striking features were the new white gazebo that welcomed visitors and the orange tree planted by I. E. Shaw himself well over 100 years before.
The Garden we enjoy today was created in 2009 following completion of the History Center. Three arbors and a fountain, in place of the gazebo, now enhance the landscape. Many of the original plants from the 1990’s which have been preserved and replanted, live on. And I. E. Shaw’s vintage orange tree continues to thrive and bear fruit to this day.
Today, the garden is enjoyed by visitors from around the world, and is a lovely stopping place for a picnic lunch for local residents and their families and guests.
History Center fulfills dream of a downtown Cultural Corridor
After decades of working to acquire and upgrade the historic Gould-Shaw House for earthquake safety, to purchase adjacent property and create a magnificent cottage garden, the Society embarked on yet another challenge. The Society needed space for programs, exhibits, and safe storage of the artifacts and documents entrusted to its care. The Gould Shaw House and attic were simply not adequate.
In 2003, as a sign of its commitment to create a new building, the Society Governing Board set aside $50,000 from Chase endowment earnings in a “new building fund.” Several months later, a day-long planning session took place at the Cloverdale Regional Library where about 50 Historical Society members shared their dreams and ideas for a new building. The idea of a downtown Cultural Corridor emerged that would link the Grange Hall, the Arts Alliance Gallery, restaurants and theaters in the downtown area.
At about the same time, the City Council was drawing up plans for vitalizing the downtown area by lending support for summer music programs on the Plaza, an Arts Alliance Gallery, a new Fire Station, and eventually a Performing Arts Center. With the Historical Society’s New Building Fund, and more than $50,000 already pledged by Board Members, the Society asked the Council to help fund the new History Center. The response was a $750,00 grant from City’s Economic Development Fund. This meant the Society needed to raise another $200,000. Richard Ruff, architect drew up preliminary plans and fundraising ensued. City Planning staff required numerous meeting with Society Volunteers to work through a contract. Bill Adler, Doug Laurice, Crawford Cooley and Bonnie Asien stuck with the process until a satisfactory document was agreed upon. A vigorous campaign ensued to raise the rest of the $1.2 million project. David Wight and his crews were responsible for construction. Civil Engineer Jim Hill oversaw the installation of water and utility lines.
From the early years of the Historical Society founded by Jack Howell with years of support from Marge Gray, Mike and Norma Trump, and many others to the building of the History Center, volunteers dedicated to preserving local history have made a difference.
The 2,000 sq ft History Center mimics the presence of an old barn that occupied the site early in the last century.
The two-story History Center is ADA accessible with an elevator and ADA parking at the side of the building. The main floor has a gift shop, exhibits and community room used for workshops and events as well as special exhibits. The second floor has an exhibit hall, research library and the Skelton Study, in use as the accessions and acquisitions office. The Garden Patio is used for special events, and a casual place to meet and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Today it is a hub of activity, as volunteers greet visitors, maintain the building itself, evaluate and catalogue accessions for historic significance and produce exhibits, programs and other resources. The History Center exists to celebrate Cloverdale’s unique history.
History Center Speakers’ Bureau
Would your club or organization enjoy a 30–minute presentation about the history of Cloverdale? If so, a representative from the Historical Society will deliver a fascinating visual presentation with wonderful historical images from the CHS Collection. Learn about the history of Cloverdale from the Pomo through current times, and about volunteer opportunities at our wonderful Museum.
Please contact the administration office at email@example.com or by phone at (707) 894-2067 to see if one of our speakers can present to your organization.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: (707) 894-2067
History Center and Museum open:
- Wednesday 11 am to 3
- Thursday 11 am to 4 pm
- Friday 1 pm to 3 pm
- Saturday 10 am to 2 pm
- Sunday noon to 4 pm
2017 Board of Directors
- Our Executive Director: Elissa Morrash
- President & Treasurer: Douglas Laurice
- Vice President: Sue Jackson
- Secretary: Robert Redner
- Gerald French
- Alan Furber, Jr.
- Bob Jordan
- Kay Wells
- Mary Jo Winter