Historical Architecture of Trinidad

From ancient to recent times in Trinidad, there is common purpose: survival in a remote, inaccessible landscape. The Yurok people of Tsurai village built redwood homes to protect themselves from the elements and to gather families together. The Spanish mariners and later the fur traders and 1850s seekers of treasure wrote about this.

Trinidad is a working town. Only in very recent times has it become a tourist destination for visitors seeking serenity and the beauty of natural wonders along the ten-mile coastline which is greater Trinidad today.

The first Gold Rush buildings were utilitarian, prefabricated ones brought on schooners from San Francisco. No one had time to build any homes or shops of substance or elegance. It was not until the redwood harvesting and mills of the 1860s and 1870s that most buildings were constructed from home grown materials. Even the Trinidad Head Lighthouse built in 1871 was made from materials brought up from San Francisco on the “Lola.”

This Photography Room exhibit shows the earliest photographs, many by A.W. Ericson, of hotels, stores, schools, churches, gathering places, saloons, garages, the first pier along Trinidad Head, lighthouses, the railroad station, Town Hall and homes, including the one owned by the Sangster-Watkins-Underwood families that was transformed into the Trinidad Museum.

Between 1850 and 1900, the town dominated the landscape in the lower parts of Trinidad near the beaches. In the early 1900s, the town moved uphill to where much of the commercial center is today, except for fishing-related enterprises. It is possible that the dramatic 200 foot “big wave” which swept over the Trinidad Head Lighthouse in late December 1913 and early January 1914 and permanently damaged the 1859 Ryder pier influenced the move “uptown.”

Photographs have come from many sources: A.W. Ericson, Gwyneth Susan, Alice Johnson Spinas, Edith and Milton Hunter, Martha Underwood, Reuben Forbes and others, many of which were collected by Trinidad’s Katie Boyle.

Ashley Mobley is curator of this exhibit assisted by Humboldt State University intern Sjell Merrick and Trinidad Museum Society board members Patti Fleschner, Joan Berman and Scott Baker. The exhibit is up through Summer 2018.