The San Mateo-Half Moon Bay Road’s (Highway 92) famous “House of Doors” was built by Fred Nordholz, a German saloon owner. According to legend, the doors were used in buildings at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco. When the spectacular international show closed, Nordholz purchased the doors and shipped them down to Half Moon Bay where he built a house with them. Later in the 1950s Half Moon Bay’s colorful, outspoken Mayor Ann Howe (yes, think “An how!”) bought the house, hoping to turn it into a museum.
When you used to drive west on Hwy 92âand if you knew the road well—youâd anticipate that sharp curve where the famous âHouse of Doorsâ? stood against a steep rock formation.
If you were with a friend whoâd never been to the Coastside before you might even point out the place, proudly, you know, like it was a secret local landmark.
And if it was late at night, and you were the only car on the highway, you might even swear you saw a ghost drifting across the roadâeverybody said it was Ann Howe ‘s ghost–she was the one most connected with the house which originally came from the 1915 San Francisco Panama Pacific Exposition. Saloon keeper Fred Nordholz bought it and re-assembled it on the spot where it stands. Ms. Howe, a native of Kentucky, who once owned a ranch house atop Twin Peaks in the City, was driving along Hwy 92 in 1947 when she saw the house and envisioned it as a tourist attraction, a museum filled with antiques–and she had to have it.
Most of the walls are actually doors and it is said the roof rested on the door tops for support. When Ann Howe lived there, between about 1947 and 1971 when she died, most of the single story house was crammed with silver, crystal, copper pieces, old crank telephones, 1893 calendars and a very old vacuum cleaner.
Outside stood ancient wagons and wheels of all kinds and a surrey with fringe on top–and there were cats with extra toes and a dog that climbed ladders.
Ms. Howe called it her hobby, and what a delight it must have been–but have you noticed that you canât see the âHouse of Doorsâ? from Hwy 92 these days?
If you squint really hard you can pick it out among the eucalyptus groveâbut the sighting is very brief and not satisfying at all.
I fear for the âHouse of Doorsâ?.
After I wrote a little post about Ann Howe who, besides being the owner of the “House of Doors” was also affiliated and honored by many Coastside organizations, I received the following email:
Ann Howe (NEWTON) – was my great aunt – her brothers also lived in Half Moon Bay/San Mateo area. She was originally from Fordsville, Kentucky. Her brothers, Edward Newton and Oscar L. Newton also lived in Half Moon Bay and all three are buried in the same cemetery. Other family member names from Edward’s family are his wife Evelyn, Gary, Dennis & Dianne (twins) and Susan.
Oscar was my paternal grandfather. I have been trying to contact some of the descendants of the NEWTON clan and haven’t had much luck. I made a trip to Half Moon Bay in 1997 just to look at the “House of Doors” one more time. The last time I was there; before 1997, I was 15 yrs. old and that was about 39 years ago. I couldn’t see very much of it but from what I did see, it appeared to be a lot smaller that I remembered.
Ann was a part of the San Franciscan history and I wished I could have known her better. I often wonder how she and her brothers ended up in California in 1928 and am envious of their apparent enthusiasm and desire for adventure.
My name is Patricia Nichols (NEWTON) and I live in Brownsburg, Indiana and will be retiring to Marrowbone, Kentucky in July. Just wanted to share a memory.
In case anyone from my family would like to contact me:
10192 N. Co. Rd. 800 E.
Brownsburg, IN 46112
This address will change sometime this year probably around end of July ’06 and then it will be:
100 Nichols Rd.
Marrowbone, KY 42759
Email: Patricia Nichols: [email protected]
(Photos, courtesy Patricia Nichols)