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Monterey, CA 487 Foam Street, Monterey, California 93940
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The History of Monterey Bay's Victorian Inn

The precise origins of the stately Victorian house at the intersection of Foam and McClellan, on the sloping hillside above the rocky coast of New Monterey, are still concealed in the first few years of this century. The first record of the unusually substantial house amid the jury-rig homes and semi-rural buildings that dotted the landscape of its time indicates that the Lang Family resided there as early as 1907. It's possible that Frank Lang, on record as having been a carpenter, was the home's builder.
The decision to construct such an elegant and distinctively Victorian house in that location may have reflected the early assumption that this area, with its sweeping views of the Monterey Bay, was to become far more up-scale than the history of this century would bare out. Even at the time, though, there were signs that the sophisticated ambition of the elegant Lang House, and the grand Murray-Tevis estate built on a near-by beach, was not the direction in which the area would ultimately move.
McWay Falls Big Sur at California
In February of 1908, the Lang House witnessed the purchase of the rudimentary fish packing shed on the rutted coastal road below by James A Madison and Joseph Nichols, with help from another to-be-legendary name in Cannery Row history - Ben Senderman. But that was just one of the many indicators of the changes coming. The financially troubled canning operation of Harry Malpas, who built the first crude fish canning operation in New Monterey, had begun in 1901 with help from his Japanese connections at the Point Lobos Canning Company.
The Japanese, in turn, had been working with A. M. Allen canning abalone since before the turn of century. The new Pacific Fish Company venture of Madison, Nichols, and Senderman, however, became the first major cannery on what was to become Cannery Row. After its opening, things began to change rapidly.
The Chinese settlement at China Point was destroyed by fire in 1906 and a new Chinese district had grown up on McAbee Beach, which included the Monterey Fish and Canning Company. This Chinese venture was Cannery Row's earliest "reduction" plant, which processed the fish cuttings and offal from neighboring canneries into fertilizer - a messy, filthy, smelly operation at its best.
The Lang House managed to remain safely distant from these distasteful happenings until the outbreak of World War I, when the demand for Monterey Bay's cheap and plentiful sardines (used as a civilian food staple and war ration) presented a windfall opportunity for fledgling canning industry.
Monterey Harbor
Monterey city leaders had, with good reason, forbidden any additional cannery construction in the harbor. City tolerance for the unsightliness and water pollution from the cannery already there, owned by Frank Booth, had reached its limit. This meant that the only location available for the cannery industry to build was on the rocky coastline of New Monterey, however poorly suited it may have been for access by the Bay's rapidly growing fishing fleet.
Knut Hovden, the young, Norwegian manager of Booth's Monterey harbor cannery, struck out on his own in 1916 and constructed the largest and most mechanized of the early canneries on Ocean View Boulevard. Wartime demand for Monterey sardines saw six additional canneries, as well as a major reduction plant, constructed along the coastline and forever changing the pristine water views once enjoyed by the Lang House.
This sudden industrial development left its mark, creating an image that the area would be branded with forever. With the expansion of fish canning and processing, also came the rapid growth of the neighborhood around the lovely Lang House - though, hardly in its image. The homes and other buildings constructed at that time and onward were largely for the immigrant labor force of the canneries and surrounding industries.
The elegant Lang House, which once stood near alone on the open, rocky plane of New Monterey, was slowly enveloped in the rough-hewn homes and commercial buildings of the sardine era.
Victorian Inn Exterior at California
By the late 1930s it passed into the hands of one of Monterey's leading fishing families, becoming the home of Dominic Mercurio, skipper of the purse seiner Mercury. With the Mercurio family in residence, the stately Victorian stood witness as its, previously empty, neighborhood transformed into the "Sardine Capitol of the World."
Perhaps because of its substantial construction, distinctive Victorian style, and attentive care for its condition, the house outlived many of its newer, if less meticulously built, neighbors. Its fateful survival into the modern era now celebrates its unique place in Monterey history, and now - as the Victorian Inn - it radiates the charm and luxury for which it was conceived over a hundred years ago.
It is in that spirit of grace that architect Paul Davis extended the classic Victorian style windows, roof shape, railings, and garden courtyards to reawaken the old Lang House as the Victorian Inn - a vivid reminder of Monterey's grand Victorian past.
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