The life of Sarah Winchester in San Jose, CA

Most people know the legends around Sarah Winchester, but now is your chance to learn more about this real historical figure from San Jose, CA.

A exterior photo of a Victorian mansion with ornate architecture details, with a stony gray statue in the foreground.

Sept., 5, 2022 marks 100 years since Sarah Winchester’s death.

Photo by SJtoday staff

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This year, September 5 marks the 100th anniversary of Sarah Winchester’s passing in 1922.

On this day, visitors to the Winchester Mystery House participated in a Celebration of Life + left flowers, cards, photos, and mementos in the front gardens.

Sarah Winchester was one of San Jose’s most famous + misunderstood residents, so we’re paying our respects by shedding some light on her life.

A black and white photo of an elderly women in heavy black clothes seated in a carriage.

This is the only known photo of the enigmatic Sarah Winchester — it was taken outside her San Jose estate, known then as Llanada Villa.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

👻 Sarah: The mystery

Most locals know the Cliffnotes version of Sarah’s life — she inherited the Winchester fortune after the death of her husband and was cursed by the spirits of those killed by the infamous rifle. Legend says she built her “beautiful, but bizarre,” 160-room mansion with doors + staircases to nowhere to appease or confuse the ghosts that haunted her.

A woman stands next to an average sized door and a smalled closet door, which is several inches shorter than the woman.

City Editor Nicole stands beside a door perfect for Sarah, who stood at 4ft, 10 inches tall. | Photo by SJtoday staff

Photo by SJtoday staff

👀 Sarah: The person

Whether or not you believe the legends — Sarah was an influential San Jose resident. Here are our favorite lesser-known facts about her:

  • She was a child prodigy who spoke four languages + developed a deep interest in gardening, architecture, and engineering. 🧠
  • Her mansion was filled with the latest technology, including electricity, elevators, and a shower. 🚿
  • Most of her 140-acre estate was farmland + orchards where Sarah grew apricots and prunes.
  • She was a progressive employer — hiring people of all ethnicities for twice the going rate (if not more) and providing free homes for her workers’ families. 🤝
  • In her obituary, Sarah was remembered for her philanthropy, which included hosting ice cream socials for local orphans at her mansion. 🍨
An exterior photo looking from the ground level at the second floor facade of a Victorian mansion where a door leads out to a 9 foot drop.

The infamous “door to nowhere” — which may have been used to move lumber during construction.

Photo by SJtoday staff

🔎 Learn more

Though not much is known for certain about Sarah’s life, there are more ways to get to know this notable San Josean:

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