Science and Health, and Art…

Pink Blossoms / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsTime for a little truth…

I got sick, which was completely unexpected for someone as healthy and strong as I’ve always been. Plus I’m a non-practicing Christian Scientist. I wasn’t supposed to get sick.

After months and months of languishing, I finally went in for surgery. It was a Tuesday, and they finished surgery on a Thursday, and I didn’t wake up until Friday. And then I couldn’t walk. And no one knew why. For 18 days.

Completely and totally unexpected.

But this isn’t a post about almost dying, or the fright I gave my poor family, or the fright I gave my doctors, and it’s not about pain and suffering. This is a post about gratitude. It’s a post about the light, after the dark. About love, and the absence of fear, and the voice of God when I needed to hear it most.

I am lucky. I am blessed. I am grateful!

I’m NOT grateful for the illness, I’m grateful that I lived through it, and grateful for the recovery! I’m grateful to be almost healthy again, only four months later. I’m grateful that my doctors thought I was worth saving – they could have stapled me back up and sent me back home to slowly die – but instead they dove in and took the risks and did the almost impossible. They saved me. I may have been the most complex “case” they had ever seen, but they didn’t let that stop them. I am so grateful that I was at the right hospital, with the right doctors!

And I’m grateful that God spoke to me, the night before the surgery, and let me know it would be worst case scenario, but that it would end up okay. Going into surgery I was the only one in the room who knew what we were facing – the doctors had no idea – my family had no idea – but I knew. And I was okay with it, because I had a promise from God that it would be okay. I wasn’t afraid. I had no reason to be.

And once I woke up? I woke up grateful, and I’ve stayed grateful. I feel extraordinarily blessed and lucky! How can I not?

Life changing events happen to people every day. People win the lottery, lose a loved one, fall in love, fall out of love, get in accidents, and get sick. It’s not at all uncommon. But do those events really change the people involved? I think sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes the answer is no – but in my case, I do feel changed, in a very real and meaningful way.

I am still the same basic person – I’m still enthusiastic and passionate, and I still love beauty and art – but I have a new sense of urgency. And what I want – urgently and now – is financial security and to own a home. In the past I was perfectly content to drift along financially, as long as I was artistically challenged. But now I want financial security as well as artistic fulfillment – and I believe the best way to accomplish that is to go back to the way I used to live, when I was first starting out as an artist – back to the days when I had a day job, and I did art on the side.

That may sound odd, coming from an artist – don’t all artists want to eventually give up the day job? I sure did! But now I’m looking forward to going back to working a real job. I remember the days where I created art, without any thought to making money from it, and I sort of miss those days. And while I’ve enjoyed the last decade more than I can ever express, I’m looking forward to a new challenge.

Black Tulip / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsBlack Tulip / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Back when I was in high school there were only two jobs that interested me – actor and lawyer – and I chose actor. Then somewhere along the way I discovered photography, and my career path shifted. And now? Maybe it’s time for my career path to shift again? And in a direction that I was attracted to, back in high school. I have always been attracted to the law, and while I’m not interested at this stage in my life, in going to law school, I think I’ve found a related path that will fit me just fine! I’ve been accepted to UCLA – into their graduate level certificate program to become a paralegal. The program will take a year, and I start in a couple of weeks, and I’m really excited. I was on campus this week, signing papers, and seeing where my classes will meet – and I am so ready for this!

I want financial security. I want to own a house. I want to create art in my spare time.

So today I am giving thanks for my new career path.

I’m giving thanks that warm weather and longer days and more sun are on the way!

And I’m giving thanks that I get to celebrate another birthday today! My Father says that this is the second half of my life – the first half ended on the day I went into surgery – and the brand new second half began that same day. I kind of like that idea. And I’m ready to make the second half of my life really count!

Happy birthday to me!

And the flowers? They are in my front yard right now – it’s definitely Spring in Southern California!

Mansion last piece of 19th-century dynasty

On March 30, 2012, the Press Enterprise ran a couple of my photos of the Estudillo Mansion in an article on the San Jacinto landmark, that was featured on the front page of their Local Section of the Sunday paper. It’s always fun to see one of my photos on the front page of any section of a traditional printed newspaper!


Home > Local News > Riverside County > Hemet-San Jacinto > Hemet-San Jacinto Headlines

SAN JACINTO: Mansion last piece of 19th-century dynasty

CHERYL SPELTS/CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
The Estudillo Mansion, built in 1884, fell in and out of disrepair throughout the 20th century. It’s since been restored by a local group and is part of the Francisco Estudillo Heritage Park in San Jacinto.

BY MAURA AMMENHEUSER
CORRESPONDENT
news@pe.com
Published: 30 March 2012 10:39 PM

A stately home on 6 acres in central San Jacinto is an elegant token left over from a 19th-century dynasty.
The Estudillo Mansion was built in 1884 by Francisco Estudillo, according to a history posted on the city of San Jacinto’s website: “The mansion and a twin mansion, built by his brother, (Jose) Antonio Estudillo, near Soboba Hot Springs, are all that remain of a 35,000-acre Mexican land grant given to their father, Jose Antonio Estudillo, in 1842.”

The father was in charge of the San Luis Rey mission, hence the land grant from Mexico, which the region belonged to until 1850, said Sharon Terracciano, an Estudillo Restoration Association volunteer.

Francisco Estudillo — the younger of the brothers, born in 1844 — traveled with the family’s cattle, which grazed in the San Jacinto area. Initially he lived in an adobe that later burned. After his marriage, he built the mansion.

Estudillo was San Jacinto’s first postmaster, the city’s website notes. He was also a Mission Indian Agent for the U.S. government. Estudillo served on the school board and was San Jacinto’s second mayor, from 1890 to 1892.

Perhaps befitting Estudillo’s high profile, his two-story home had eight rooms, graced by soaring ceilings, Terracciano said. “They had beautiful cross breezes for ventilation,” she said.

Upstairs are four bedrooms. Ground-floor rooms include a “gentleman’s parlor,” said Cheryl Spelts, a photographer who posts her images of the mansion on her website. Estudillo’s safe is still in the wall. A music room displays a piano, and a china pantry lies near the dining room.

Estudillo’s income came from ranching and farming, Terracciano said, but he also kept race horses. Though Estudillo came from an aristocratic family, he sold off some of his land.

“These people were land-rich but money-poor,” Terracciano said. Over time, Estudillo also donated land for a railroad depot and to the Catholic church, she said.

He lost the property to foreclosure in 1901, she said. At that point Estudillo moved to Los Angeles, where he remained until his death about 1920, Terracciano said.

The mansion passed through 26 more owners by1992, when an earthquake rendered it uninhabitable, she said. It was sold to Riverside County, then to San Jacinto in 1998. A local group obtained grants for a seismic retrofit and historical restoration. Those efforts started around 2004, Spelts said.

The mansion was restored to its likely appearance in 1885, Terracciano said. None of the furnishings now in the home belonged to Estudillo but they are authentic to the period, she said.

Spelts feels a personal connection to the mansion.

“I love the house,” she said. Her grandparents’ close friends, Dick and Del Kroker, were among those who launched efforts to get the mansion restored, and she has at least one other relative who also worked on the project.

Meanwhile, the “twin” house near Soboba Hot Springs has been unoccupied for decades and is in disrepair, Spelts and Terracciano said.

The Estudillo mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Located at 150 S. Dillon Ave., it is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. There is no formal admission charge, only requested donations.

For more information, call 951-654-4952.

CHERYL SPELTS/CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
The Estudillo Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places.

©2012, Enterprise Media. All Rights Reserved • 3450 Fourteenth Street, Riverside, California 92501

Estudillo Mansion in San Jacinto | 2012

Estudillo MansionI’ve shot the Estudillo Mansion twice before – once in 2006, when a family friend took us on a private tour of the inside, and I was able to document some of the damage that still existed from the Lander’s Earthquake in 1992. And then I shot it again in 2010, after the renovation had been completed – but that time I didn’t go inside, I only shot the exterior.

So it was time to go back and shoot the inside! And of course, a little bit of the outside… The grounds are just so beautiful, and the exterior of the house is what I love most, so I couldn’t go and not shoot a little of the outside.

I’ll start with the staircase, since that’s what you see when you first walk in the front door. If you’d like to see what that staircase looked like in 2006, before the renovation, click here! It’s just as steep, and the banister is still exceptionally low – which is just as it was built back in 1885. It’s fine going up, but a little scary coming down, if you’re tall. My mother is much shorter than I am, and for someone her size, the banister height is fine! The big difference from 2006 is that the walls are now back to the original color – a muted blue-green – it’s actually darker in person that it appears to be in my images. And that the floors have been refinished, and the staircase painted.

Opening off of the staircase and entry hall are two front rooms – a men’s sitting room and the music room with a really magnificent rectangular grand piano. I didn’t shoot many of the furnishings, since I was focussing more on the house itself – but I couldn’t resist that piano – it was magnificent. And I loved the vase of peacock feathers sitting on it – that is a very Victorian touch! Especially in Southern California, where Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, the founder of Arcadia, imported three matched pairs of peafowl from India in 1880 – and almost all the peafowl in Southern California still today, are descended from those same three pairs. So it would not be a stretch at all, to imagine peacock feathers in the Estudillo home in the late 1880’s.

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

Estudillo Mansion

The hand-painted frescoed borders in the first floor rooms are original to the house – they are mentioned in an article that appeared in the San Jacinto Register on May 2, 1889. They are not stenciled – they are frescos – which is a process where pigment is mixed with water and painted on a thin layer of wet, fresh plaster – so the pigment is absorbed by the wet plaster. It’s an old Italian classical process. And since it is hand-painted by an artist, there is some variation, as the border continues around the room. They’re beautiful, and special, and can’t be duplicated – and the committee steering the renovation and maintenance of the house has wisely decided not to touch them or change them in any way, despite the fact that they were damaged over the years. They were evidently covered with wallpaper for many years, and so were “saved” from being painted over – but the wallpaper itself damaged the painted surface, and then the Lander’s Earthquake did more damage. I have a photo from 2006 that shows what the renovators first found, as they first uncovered the borders.

Estudillo Mansion

This border is in the back parlor, across from the dining room, and behind the music room. It’s a room that gets a lot of sun, with big windows, so it seems appropriate that it would have a lighter, simpler border. The fireplace is also in this room – and I have a photo of it in 2006, but I didn’t shoot it this time, because it just doesn’t feel like it’s original to the house – to me. I have no insider knowledge – but I just don’t think it fits – so if you want to see it, click on the link to the older photos!

Estudillo Mansion

Next up is the dining room – and I love the frescoed border in this room! Throughout the house the same palette of blues and greens is used, and the dining room is the darkest room in the house – so the border is of course darker and more vibrant as well. I’ve included a close up, so that you can see just how vibrant the paint once was. It must have been beautiful when the artist first finished creating it!

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

Estudillo MansionThis doorknob leading to the dining room is authentic – it was either original to this house, or it came from this house’s sister mansion on Soboba Road, built in the same era, with the same floor-plan. And the little room off of the dining room, is actually the china closet – a very common feature in upper-end Victorian homes.

An finally, the last room on the bottom floor is the men’s sitting room – and it includes the original safe! Fransisco Estudillo owned the Rancho San Jacinto Viejo, which totaled over 4000 acres – so he had a lot of employees – and thus probably needed a safe for his payroll. The safe is built into an interior wall, under the staircase, and is actually rather small inside. There are some tiny wooden drawers that are barely visible in the image.

Next I headed upstairs…

Just like downstairs, there is a wide center hallway upstairs, with the staircase – and four rooms open off of that hallway. Three of the rooms are bedrooms, and they are so stuffed full of vintage furniture that I wasn’t able to get a good shot of any of them. In person, it’s really interesting to see all the antiques from many different eras – and some of the furniture is really spectacular!

The fourth room was originally the bathroom – the house had hot and cold running water when it was first built, and there are stories of a huge clawfoot tub and oversized bathroom sink – but supposedly they still used an outhouse in the backyard. I can understand locating the kitchen separate from the rest of the house – kitchens were dangerous back then, and it was a safety precaution to locate the kitchen elsewhere – plus it kept the whole house cooler in summer. But an outhouse in the backyard? I can only imagine having to head down that staircase in the middle of the night, and then across the dirt backyard to get to an outhouse? It’s probably a good bet that a couple of chamber pots were in use in those early days!

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

This is the view of the staircase from the second story, looking down. And an original door hinge. There is one door hinge upstairs that is a reproduction – but it’s hard to spot which one it is! The artisan who created it, did a good job of matching the vintage hinges!

Estudillo Mansion

An antique desk in one of the bedrooms.

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

Outside a veranda wraps around three sides of the house, and that means upstairs there’s a great deck that wraps around the house!

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

On the left is the back edge of the orginal house in the foreground, and then a brick addition – which was the first kitchen that was added to the actual house – and then beyond that is a clapboard addition that was the second kitchen added. Guess the owners that came after Estudillo wanted an indoor kitchen!

Estudillo Mansion

There are two doors leading outside from the second story – the main door leads off of the wide central hallway, but there is also a second door that leads directly from one of the bedrooms – and it’s on the shady side of the house, so there’s a beautiful little breeze that blows and it’s just the best place to hang out on the entire property. If I lived there, that would definitely be the bedroom I’d choose!

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

Estudillo MansionEstudillo Mansion

I can never resist pretty flowers… Especially when we’re talking vibrant pink blossoms and bright orange California poppies! Definitely some of my favorites!

Estudillo Ducks

And finally a couple of ducks that showed up on the grounds that morning – someone evidently dropped them off, hoping they’d be cared for at the Mansion. I just can’t imagine how anyone could think that was an okay thing to do? To drop off your pets at a park, and hope someone else decided to feed and care for them? And these ducks were completely tame, and okay with people – and they were so sweet with each other – they were definitely a pair, or at the least very good friends. And they sure were cute!