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Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, Chico  California

 parks - state

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park (SHP)

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park in Chico, California is not only a state landmark, it also is one of the finest examples of Victorian homes in California. Significant for its history as the home of John Bidwell, known throughout California during the late 1800's.

When John Bidwell galloped into Butte County on the heels of horse thieves back in 1847, he encountered a valley so pretty he was almost stopped in his tracks. Instead, he kept on going, caught the thieves, and turned them over to his boss, John Sutter, one of the known entrepreneurs of the California Gold Rush. A year later Bidwell witnessed history when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in the Sierra; he turned prospector and made a fortune. But he never forgot the verdant valley he'd seen near Chico Creek, 90 miles north of Sacramento. By 1850 he traded his gold for 26,000 acres, planted wheat, and planned a new town.


Bidwell was one of the first Northern Californians to install an indoor toilet, a tidbit you discover during the tour of the mansion. The ballroom upstairs never felt the step of waltzing feet, as Bidwell's wife, Annie, was a prohibitionist who did not believe in drinking liquor or dancing. The irony that "the craziest campus in the nation" according to Playboy magazine, is located on the former Bidwell cherry orchard makes this property even more fascinating.  Bidwell Mansion, 525 The Esplanade. Daily tours. (530) 895-6144.


Bidwell Mansion is a beautiful, three story, 26 room Victorian House Museum that stands as a memorial to the Bidwell family legacy. Recognized as an important pioneer, farmer, soldier, statesman, politician and philanthropist, John Bidwell was known throughout California and across the nation. 


John Bidwell, a progressive fellow, married Annie Ellicott Kennedy Bidwell, the daughter of a socially prominent, high ranking Washington official. Unlike her husband, Annie a staunch Christian committed to  moral and social causes. Active in the suffrage and prohibition movements, Annie worked to remove alcoholic beverages and did not believe in dancing, among other things. Among her contributions, Bidwell Park was established on July 20, 1905 through the donation by Annie Bidwell of approximately 2,500 acres of land to the City of Chico. Since that time, the City has purchased additional land, such as Cedar Grove in 1922, and 1,200 acres of land south of Big Chico Creek in Upper Park in 1995. Today, Bidwell Park size is 3,670 acres (nearly 11 miles in length), making it one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.

The Bidwell's were married April 16, 1868 in Washington, D.C. with then President Andrew Johnson and future President Ulysses S. Grant among the guests. Upon arrival in Chico, the Bidwell's used the Mansion extensively for entertainment of friends. Some of the guests that visited Bidwell Mansion were President Rutherford B. Hayes, General William T. Sherman, Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard, Governor Stanford, John Muir, and Asa Gray.

When constructed, Bidwell Mansion featured the most modern plumbing, gas lighting and water systems. The overall style of the three-story brick structure is that of an Italian Villa. The building's exterior is finished with a pink tinted plaster.

Location – Directions
From Highway 99: after you take East First Avenue and go left onto The Esplanade, the Mansion is on your right (west).

From Highway 5: Take Highway 32 exit at Orland east 20 miles to West Sacramento Avenue. Turn left (east) onto West Sacramento Avenue to The Esplanade where you turn right (south).

The Mansion is located at 525 The Esplanade, Chico, California.

The first floor of the Bidwell Mansion features wheelchair access with a ramp from the exterior of the Mansion. The entire first floor may be seen on a regular tour. The second and third floors may be seen on video at the Visitor Center. The first floor and video are approximately one hour long.

The Bidwell Mansion Visitor Center is completely accessible. There is a gift shop, museum, theater and a lobby area. There are also restrooms and water.

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