James Lick was a native of Pennsylvania and a carpenter and piano maker by
trade. Lick was a shrewd trader, amassing fortunes in land and various
business ventures in South America, San Francisco and the Santa Clara Valley.
After accumulating $30,000 in South America, he came to San Francisco in
1848. In 1855, Lick built a four-stone water-powered flour mill on the
Guadalupe River. The Mansion was constructed in 1858 and contains a lovely
mahogany interior. The house, although reminiscent of southern plantation
homes, is considered to be the Victorian- Italiante style. The design was
similar to his Lick House Hotel in San Francisco.
It is believed that Lick built the home, originally 24 rooms, to provide a
home for himself, his son and his nephew. This never happened but he did live
in one sparsely furnished room for a short time. Lick moved into a small house on
the property when the two young men showed a preference for living in other
quarters. In 1873, Lick gave the mill, mansion and property to the Thomas
Paine Society in Boston. The property subsequently passed through other
hands. The only time it was occupied by a family was in the 1920's or 30's
when a chemical company executive resided there.
Lick died in his hotel in 1876 leaving the balance of his considerable
fortune to benefit charitable and scientific organizations. Lick's most famous
bequest was the $700,000 to establish Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton where
he is buried.
The James Lick Mansion is located in a beautiful park like setting within a
colonial style condominium development at 554 Mansion Park Drive, Santa
Clara. The Mansion is privately owned and rented to a private public service
organization who maintain offices in the building.