FERNDALE — Drive up Highway 101 into Humboldt County and you’ll find plenty to explore in this uncrowded corner of the Golden State — giant sequoias, sandy beaches, hiking trails. But amid an endless pandemic and relentless headlines, the Victorian village of Ferndale offers an escape to another era.
Who could resist that?
You’ve probably seen Ferndale before – on the big screen, at least. More than a dozen movies, including 2001’s “The Majestic,” have been filmed here. With its colorful and lovingly restored Victorian buildings, warm small-town charm and rich history, the town is straight out of the cast central.
Ever since Danish dairy farmers started arriving here in the 1870s, butter has been the bread and butter of this region. By 1890, farmers had formed 11 cooperative creameries and were shipping their premium produce to San Francisco and beyond, sealing Ferndale’s reputation so deeply that it was known as “Cream City” – and the extravagant Victorians of Ferndale were nicknamed “Butterfat Palaces”.
These colorful Queen Annes, Italianate and Stick/Eastlake homes still line the streets of the downtown historic district, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Victorians are still cherished by the city as ever, even their colors of paint—sage, curry, purple kimono, oakmoss—must be approved by city council.
On a recent rain-splattered May weekend, we headed four hours north of the Bay Area, passed through century-old Fernbridge and through a time portal that offered both historic charm and modern delights.
Several Victorians have been turned into historic inns, so you can sleep in period quarters at Shaw House Inn, for example, which was built in 1854, the victorian inn (1890) or the gingerbread mansion (1895). Or opt for a young relative, an Airbnb on the second floor of the Lovingly restored Gazebo building (1898) on Main Street, once home to the Burrill Candy Co. We Burrells (no relation, though we love candy too) loved the confectioner’s slogan: “If a girl likes a boy, that’s her business. If a guy likes a girl, that’s his business. If a guy likes a girl and the girl likes ice cream soda, that’s our business.
Burrill Candy is long gone, of course, but there is a more modern confectionery, Softness & Light, just across the street. They don’t do ice cream sodas, but if a guy likes a girl and the girl likes handmade salted caramels, you’re in luck.
Co-owner Matt Toste learned to make chocolate here when he was in high school. Five years later, he bought the place, and he and his wife, Tami, have been making toffees, toffee, candy, and marshmallow-filled Moo Bars ever since, using butter and cream from the creamery. Local Humboldt. If you go on a weekend and find a “closed” sign on the door, don’t worry. There is also a reserve of Moo Bars at the nearby Golden Gait Mercantile.
It’s entirely possible to spend an entire afternoon browsing the 50-year-old Mercantile. Julie and John Kreitzer, who bought the store in 2014, have stocked its two floors with old-fashioned sweets, locally made chocolates and just about everything you could possibly need, from cooking utensils to picnic blankets. -nice to toys, bags and hats. Upstairs, museum-style exhibits offer a glimpse of life in the late 19th century at a former general store and millinery, where fashionable Ferndale residents may have purchased hats and ribbons there. a long time ago.
The village has more charms, too, including the Farmer’s Daughter, a rustic-chic shop that offers kitchen utensils, home decor, and cookbooks, plus an icehouse stocked with cheeses, butter, and cream. local creameries.
The food scene here also offers tasty temptations, with eateries that include the no-frills No Brand Burger Stand and Tuya’s and The Boardroom, a fantastic wine bar and deli that opened on Main Street this year. Co-owners Jason Baxter and Sonny Simonian call The Boardroom a “tasting room” for their Ryan Creek Root Cellar charcuterie, smoked meats, and fermented foods.
We had walked, explored and dodged the raindrops all day, so we thought we’d have a glass of wine and share an appetizer, then go to dinner. Two hours later, we were still there, lingering over a charcuterie board that included pickled vegetables, slices of baguette and house meats – aged salami, summer sausage, delicate Canadian bacon and a pepperoni that blew us away. Made us wonder what we’ve eaten on pizza all these years. The range of boards includes a cheese version, a board with smoked duck and a vegan option with marinated mushrooms, smoked tofu and more.
After all those tasty bites, we stopped to have a look at Ferndale’s new park, next to Shaw House. Hadley Gardens is set to open its ornate gates – designed by local blacksmith Monica Coyne – to the public on June 18. The former vacant lot has been transformed by Julian Berg Designs into a beautiful interpretive garden filled with native plants and flowers, winding paths, intriguing artwork – including a photovoltaic Smart Flower – and a dollhouse renovated giant that Willis Hadley, the gardens’ namesake, had displayed on Main Street for years.
He’s a Victorian, of course.
If you are going to
How to get there: If you’re flying, United offers nonstop flights from SFO to Arcata-Eureka Airport, 35 miles north of Ferndale. If you’re on a road trip, Ferndale is 5 miles off the 101 freeway, about 160 miles north of San Francisco. (If your car is going 30 miles per gallon, the round trip will cost about $120.)
Where to stay: Find the Gingerbread Mansion at 400 Berding St.; https://gingerbread-mansion.com. The Shaw House Inn is located at 703 Main Street; https://shawhouse.com. The Victorian Inn is at 400 Ocean Ave.; https://victorianvillageinn.com.
Softness & Light: Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at 554 Main St. Order confectionery online at www.douceureetlumiere.com.
Golden Gait Mercantile: Open daily at 421 Main Street. Browse the online store at https://goldengaitmercantile.com.
Farmer’s Daughter: Open daily at 358 Main Street; www.instagram.com/farmersdaughterferndale.
The Ferndale Conference Room: Open Thursday through Saturday at 406 Main Street; https://boardroomeureka.com