History of the McHenry Mansion
Built by Robert and Matilda McHenry, the McHenry Mansion was designed by Jeremiah Robinson, a Stockton architect. Mr. Robinson was also the contractor responsible for the Stanislaus County Courthouse. Construction began in 1882 using day labor. The bricks for the foundation came from local kilns. The Mansion's architectural style is that of High Victorian Italianate style which was popular at the time. It was finished in 1883. The tax assessment for 1883 valued th property at $12,000.
About the Original Owner
Robert McHenry probably came to California before the Gold Rush and was involved in a variety of business enterprises. In the 1850 census, he was listed as a trader living in Stockton. We know he established a butcher business with L.O. Brewster at Chinese Camp. Over the years, he acquired various parcels of land through purchases or the Homestead Act. Besides his cattle interests, he grew crops, one of which was winter wheat. In 1878, McHenry became a director of the Modesto Bank and the following year its cashier. He prospered in his positions. In 1880, McHenry purchased five lots at the corner of 15th and I streets, the site of his future home. It made sense to have a house in Modesto, as well as at the ranch since much of his time was now taken in running the day-to-day operations of the bank.
McHenry lived in the house until his death in 1890, and Matilda continued to reside there until her death in 1896. Their son, Oramil, then moved into the house with his wife, Louise, and their three children, Robert, Albert, and Ora Louise. Later in 1901, Oramil divorced his wife. Louise and Ora Louise moved in with her brother, Albert Bilicke, in Los Angeles at that time. By 1902, Oramil had married Myrtie Conneau, and they had one child, Merle, the following year.
Oramil McHenry died of stomach cancer at the age of 44 in 1906. His widow remarried in 1908 to William Langdon, a San Francisco attorney. Because of his commitments, they established a household in Alameda, but they continued to use the McHenry Mansion for activities and business in Modesto. In 1919, the house, although owned by the Langdons, became Elmwood Sanitarium. It remained a treatment facility until 1923. At that time, it was converted into apartments and was known as the Langdon Apartments. Beginning in 1930, subsequent owners maintained it as an apartment house.
In 1976, the McHenry Mansion came on the market. At the urging of Mayor Lee Davies, who wanted it to be saved since Modesto was rapidly losing its historic buildings, Aileen and Julio Gallo purchased it through the Julio R. Gallo Foundation. The Mansion was given to the city of Modesto with the understanding that it was to be restored and also to be made available for community use.
Beginning in 1977, the Mansion restoration was undertaken to bring it back to its former appearance. It was opened to the public in 1983. On December 6, 2011, a fire caused extensive damage to the front of the building, but smoke and water affected the entire structure. A second restoration was then completed in 2013.