In July of 1850 the Frolic, a two-masted clipper ship bound for San Francisco from China, shipwrecked a little north of present-day Mendocino. A salvage crew was unable to recover the cargo, but did discover vast stands of old-growth redwood trees. A mill was built, and the village of Mendocino grew up around it. Perched on bluffs painted with wildflowers and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, some of the homes and shops from the 1850s still stand today, although most of the structures are Victorians from the second half of the 19th century. There are also examples of New England Salt Box, Gothic Revival, Italianate and vernacular (defined by local style) architecture. Many of these historic buildings are now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Be sure to stop in at the Ford House Museum and Visitor Center, open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., where you can take a look at a model of what the town looked like almost a century ago. Also visit the Kelley House Museum to learn more about the history of this charming village. Kelley House Museum is open Friday through Monday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can enjoy a Historic House and Building Tour that begins there every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m., and lasts 1-1/2 hrs.