Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum

Continuing with my previous post about the New Almaden historic district, this is the entrance to Casa Grande, or Big House in Spanish. Built in 1854, it was the living quarters to the different New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Company's superintendents that came and went throughout the years.
The property was purchased by the county in 1997 and it was recently renovated and this is what it looks like today as a museum.

An old painting of what the house looked like back in its heyday hangs inside. The Casa Grande had 27 rooms; the basement had a kitchen, dumbwaiter, servant quarters, food storage and a large vault for depositing liquid mercury.

Volunteers decorated this drawing room inside the house with antiques shipped in from around the country and some even belonged to their grandmothers.
What is a drawing room? I wasn't sure either. Derived from a 16th century term, "withdrawing room", it is a room where visiting guests are withdrawn to a more private area of the house to be entertained by the owners.

This is the front parlor where the owners display their possessions and show off their social status similar to what we call a living room today.

Further inside the museum are the collection of old photographs and women's clothing back in the days.

This display shows how a mine worker poured mercury into iron flasks. Each one is then weighed to meet exact specifications.

Here is a picture the local school kids taken by the community's doctor who was also a photography hobbyist.
I wonder how long it took to get everyone's attention. And, how did that boy sit up on that scrawny tree?

The mining company went bankrupt in 1912 and closed its doors. This house went through a series of functions including a tourist resort called Club Almaden where the sign still stands today.

Below the sign, visitors are greeted with an arm.
Richard Bertram "Bert" Barrett, son of a miner, lost his arm during a hunting accident at the age of 13. The law at the time required all severed limbs to be buried so his arm was buried at the Hacienda Cemetery not far from the mine; however, when Barrett passed away, he was interred at a different cemetery.

Further up the road are old mining equipment that was once used at the mine.

The website describes this display as: "This simulated mine tunnel was dubbed the Tobar Adit, honoring the Tobar family. Artist Gilian Altieri painted the figure of the tommyknocker. The Cornish miners believed that tommyknockers were small dwarf-like creatures who lived in the mines and made strange knocking noises. They played pranks on the miners, but also warned them of cave-ins by knocking on the walls of the mines."

Mercury warning by the stream that flows through the area.
At the museum, we were informed that mine workers were monitored for the exposure to mercury. Surprisingly, two or three generations of mining families that lived and worked there did not experience any mercury-related illnesses.

- Karen


eileeninmd said...

Thanks for the tour of the museum. It looks like an interesting place ti visit. Great photos. Happy Sunday! said...

I am really surprised there weren't' more deaths and mercury poisoning related illnesses. Seems like a very eclectic museum, but with that much history and various usages, I suppose they have a lot to cover.

Anonymous said...

It's good to use old buildings and renovate it efficiently.

This is Belgium said...

great reportage, interesting story with nice photos

betchai said...

haha, that was such a hilarious picture with that boy up there in the tree, it's a very well ordered picture of a lot of people.

FilipBlog said...

It must have been a very hard life.


Anonymous said...

Great pictures, great stories (especially the one about poor Bert) and a great tour!

lina said...

What an interesting place.

Thank you for taking us for a tour, with your photos.

rainfield61 said...

Thanks for this free tour.

The little boy was a little naughty and funny, but managed to pull our attention.