On December 23rd I blogged about 10 fine towns that Ruth & I visited for the first time in 2014. Well, I must add another to the list–Ferndale, California. Sunset Magazine included it in an article in its September 14, 2014, issue and its author, Dan Duane, called Ferndale “odd but charming”. Spot on. Dan went on to report that Ferndale seemed to have stopped growing 100 years ago. Actually, it’s shrinking.
Ferndale is in remote redwood country south of Eureka. Just north of Fortuna, we turned right onto highway 211 and drove over a landmark bridge to a Brigadoon so well-preserved that Carlsbad, California’s Legoland has re-created part of Ferndale in its theme park.
This area was settled by Danes in 1852 who provided dairy products to growing San Francisco. Local farmers became so prosperous that many built Victorian homes like the Gingerbread Mansion (now a B&B) pictured. Early in its history Ferndale was nicknamed Cream City, and the larger Victorian homes were dubbed Butterfat Palaces. So many remain that the entire town is a federal historic landmark.
If Hollywood ever decides to re-make It’s a Wonderful Life, Ferndale’s 1911 tri counties bank could be used without alteration as a movie set. After wandering in and out of several quaint shops with names like Times Remembered, Ruth and I checked out The Victorian Inn built entirely of redwood. The Victorian Inn has an elegant restaurant, 13 guest rooms, and 3 combination suites upstairs. Zachary, the man behind the desk, talked about the area’s many earthquakes among other subjects. Perhaps they’re one of the reasons why Ferndale, now about 1,400 people, is every so slightly shrinking.
The devastating 1906 earthquake that struck San Francisco damaged 40 structures in Ferndale. On January 9, 2010, a 6.5 magnitude shaker occurred 25 miles offshore and this town suffered. Ironically, a 5.4 quake occurred on New Year’s Day morning 2 days after we visited. Its epicenter was about 70 miles west in the Pacific Ocean. This bell ringer caused only slight shaking and no damage.
See Ferndale before The Big One.