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A Brief History of the Ainsley House


The Ainsley House was the third and final home of John Colpitts Ainsley, an Englishman, and his American wife Alcinda May Shelly.  Mr. Ainsley came to California in 1886 and made his fortune in the canning of fresh fruit, which was almost exclusively exported to England.

On January 20, 1925, Ainsley signed a contract with the Whiteside-Davidson Construction Company to build the house and garage on the southwest corner of an 83-acre orchard at present-day  Hamilton and Bascom Avenues. Construction took less than one year; by December of 1925 the Ainsleys had moved in and Christmas dinner was served in their new home. The total cost to build the house was $50,881.77.

John Colpitts Ainsley died in 1937, at age 77.  After his death, Alcinda Ainsley left the house to live with friends and never returned. The House remained in the family until 1989 when the house was given to the City of Campbell by the two Ainsley granddaughters: Geraldine Lloyd Hicks and Georgene Lloyd Bowen.

On November 18, 1990, the Ainsley House was moved to its present location, at a cost of $230,000. It opened as a historic house museum in 1994 and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. 

Ainsley House, c. 1930s


Ainsley House, c. 1926


The Ainsley  House is an example of Tudor Revival architecture, with influences from the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1920s. After World War I, Craftsman architecture replaced Tudor Revival in popularity, though the two styles use many of the same motifs. 

The most striking feature of this house is the roof, which is designed to look like a thatched straw roof. Notice how the shingles wrap around the dormers and the eaves. Though very much a part of the style's roots, it is rare to find this thatched roof effect on Tudor Revival houses in this region, making the Ainsley House an especially fine example of this architectural style. The roof also differs from many other Tudor Revival homes in the gentle pitch of the roof; Tudor Revival houses often have steeply pitched gables. The gentle roof slope is more characteristic of Craftsman style architecture. 

Bay windows are also common elements of the Tudor style, though they are generally only three bays rather than the five used at the Living Room and Breakfast Room. The bay window over the front door is called an oriel window.

The Ainsley House incorporates several of the decorative details that were commonly found in Tudor and medieval houses. One of the easiest to recognize is half-timbering, where the frame of the building was left exposed, and the spaces between the timbers filled with brick, stone or other materials. On the Ainsley House, the half-timbering is false and used only as a decorative detail.  The multi-paned windows, with a lead strip separating the panes, are another easily identifiable feature of the style.

tour the carriage house

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About the Carriage House

What we today call the Carriage House was referred to by the Ainsley family as "the garage". Built in the same style as the house, it is 31 feet wide, large enough for three automobiles. The second floor contained a two-room living area for the gardener and, later, for caretakers. The bathroom/shower for these quarters was on the first floor. The building served several purposes, with a laundry room on the east side and a tool storage room on the west side of the building. Behind the car parking area was a place to wash the cars. This area contained a wall sink and the walls were a series of multi-paned windows, which helped in drying the newly washed cars.

We know that Mrs. Ainsley drove an open touring Studebaker. There was a Canary Island palm tree located in the same position at the original property, apparently to help slow down Mrs. Ainsley’s lead foot.

Now the building is a multipurpose space, serving as a visitor center, exhibit gallery, museum store boutique, classroom, and event space, with a bridal changing suite on the 2nd floor.

Carriage House, c. 1926


Virtual tour provided by Capture My Space.

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