The history of Glendeven Inn, our Mendocino Inn, begins with two brothers’ search for gold and a courageous family’s trip by land and sea from coast to coast.
Isaiah Stevens built the farmhouse which is now Glendeven Inn's main building. Emily Etta Stevens Pullen, his fourth daughter, kept a detailed diary beginning in 1864, when she and her family made the daring voyage from Maine to Little River, California. She continued writing until 1935, just two years before her death. From Etta's diary and the work of the Kelley House Museum, we have an interesting account of the period around the turn of the 20th century in Little River.
In 1856, Silas Coombs and his brother came from Maine to California in search of gold in the Sierras. When it became obvious that hardships in the gold fields would bring limited success, they looked to California's vast redwood forests.
Familiar with the lumber trade from the forests of Maine, they came west, where they found work with the Albion Lumber Company. Shortly after their arrival, they claimed a large tract of land two miles north of Albion and signed a logging contract with the operator of the Albion Mill. The brothers began to build capital for their own venture, a mill at Little River, and in 1863 they returned to Maine to arrange for relatives and friends to join them in Little River. In 1864, Isaiah Stevens and his second wife, Rebecca Coombs Stevens (Silas's sister), and three of their children (including Etta) left their native Maine to claim acres of virgin redwood forests on the northern California coast.
They departed on ship from Boston, sailed south to Panama, traveled by land across the isthmus, boarded another ship, and sailed north around Baja. After an arduous six weeks, they arrived in San Francisco on July 22. From there, they continued by stage coach for an additional three days to reach their uncertain, but hopeful, future south of the new lumber town of Mendocino. In the spring of 1865, the Stevens family completed the tiny cabin that can be seen in the photograph, just to the right (east), of the main farmhouse, which was completed two years later.
In October 1868, Isaiah received a land grant of 160 acres from President Andrew Johnson. This included the properties surrounding Glendeven and stretched west all the way to the Pacific Ocean. On the south side of what is now Van Damme State Park, Silas Coombs built his family home, which now houses the restaurant and offices of the Little River Inn. This property remains in the Coombs-Hervilla family to this day, and the Park camp area and Visitor Center occupy the site of the original Coombs lumber mill.
Isaiah Stevens was the comptroller at the newly formed mill operation and also bred horses and cattle, as can be seen from the photograph. Isaiah Stevens was known for his entrepreneurial nature, and over time sold off some of his land for the town of Little River to be built around him. A hotel and dance hall, bootery and smithy were established near his home, and Little River's first post office, with Isaiah as Post Master, was attached to the rear of the building that is now The Inn at Cobbler's Walk Mendocino.
In 1874, Etta Stevens married Wilder Pullen, a young man who journeyed from Maine on the same ship as the Stevens family. Wilder and Etta's first home remains as the main building of the Heritage House inn, above Dark Gulch. Much of the land that today makes up the grounds of the Heritage House was planted in vegetable gardens, and on that sheltered spot outstanding soft fruits such as peaches, plums and cherries flourished. In 1913, Etta and Wilder moved back to the Stevens farmhouse, the main building of Glendeven Inn, in Little River, where she lived until her death at the age of eighty-eight in 1937. During her latter years, she frequently boarded local school teachers.
Etta meticulously maintained the property, including large barns and outbuildings across the highway where ranching activities took place. Even though these buildings have been replaced by meadow and forest, the water that irrigates the Inn's gardens still comes from the spring which was an important water source for the ranch and Little River community in the 1860's.
A great deal is known from Etta's diary about the comings and goings of Little River's families, beginning with her journey from Boston and continuing through her lifetime, and her writings have made the history of Little River settlement a fascinating tale. A transcribed copy of the diaries are available in the inn room named "Etta's Suite".
In 1949, Warren & Dora Zimmer purchased 13 acres from Etta's estate, and during the 1950's they put a foundation under the farmhouse, added the sun room to the living room, and expanded the first floor with what today is the Garden Room, Eastlin Suite's bedroom and the inn office.
In 1977, the Zimmer's sold 2 ½ acres, including the farmhouse, to Jan and Janet deVries, who created a six-room bed and breakfast inn called Glendeven, one of the first bed & breakfast inns on the coast. During their 22 years here, the deVries's converted the tired and nearly rotten hay barn into a refined second and third floor residence for their family, now named The Barn Loft, designed and built the Stevenscroft annex, which added four lovely fireplaced inn rooms to the five rooms in the farmhouse, and created the first floor gallery.
Sharon and Charles "Higgins" Williams purchased Glendeven from the deVries's in March 1999. Their first project added a tenth room, the Carriage House Suite, which opened that summer. In January 2000, they purchased Little River's former blacksmith shop across the meadow south of the farmhouse and named it "La Bella Vista".
Sharon and Higgins continued reassembling Isaiah Stevens' farmstead when, in 2002, they acquired the property just south of the farmhouse which included the Fappiano family's vacation house, now called the "Abalone Shack" and the meadows and woods east of the inn totaling 10 acres. Over the years Sharon and Higgins upgraded the infrastructure of the inn and kept it in spectacular condition. One of the major upgrades was the installation of a backup electrical generator capable of powering the entire Glendeven complex which starts automatically whenever the regular electrical service is interrupted in winter storms.
In August 2007, John, moving from Southern California, and Mike, originally from Magdeburg, Germany, purchased the entire estate with the exception of the La Bella Vista house where Sharon & Higgins now reside. John & Mike live on property and rent out the second and third floor residence of the old barn - The Barn Loft -- as a vacation rental.
John and Mike brought along their small herd of six llamas to graze in the pastures surrounding Glendeven putting the "farm" back in "farmhouse." In October 2008 The Wine Bar[n] opened in the former gallery space that is now the first floor of the barn. The inn's reception and wine hour location were moved there as well.
In May 2008 the first flock of 25 chickens arrived at Glendeven in the original farm's coop in the northeast corner of the property, and now there are 100+ laying hens in two coops and a third coop housing free-ranging "showgirls" wandering the gardens. There are farm-fresh eggs daily, but not to worry, there are no roosters to interrupt your sleep!