Bidwell Mansion

Sowillenno Ave., Chico, California


Street View 


General John Bidwell (B. 1819, D. 1900), early pioneer, farmer, and U.S. Congressman, arrived in California in 1841; he was employed as manager of various holdings of John A. Sutter. Acquiring in 1849 his own ranch lands, he built a log cabin and later an adobe house, and laid out the city of Chico. Beginning in 1865, Bidwell built this Italianate style mansion at a cost of $60,000; he occupied it with his bride in 1868. The house was used as a college facility from 1921 until 1964, when it was acquired as part of the system of California Beaches and Parks; it will be preserved as State Landmark No. 329. / John Bidwell was an important figure in California history. One of the successful early gold miners (Bidwell's Bar), he went on to purchase a very large acreage in the Chico area (about 26,000 acres) and to make it into one of the show place farms and horticultural centers of his time. Bidwell's marriage to Annie Kennedy precipitated completion of a great mansion, to replace the early cabin and later two-story adobe house in which Bidwell had been living. Begun in 1864 and completed in 1868, with Henry Cleaveland of San Francisco as architect, the Bidwell Mansion cost between $56,000 and $60,000 to build. A massive residence of brick, with a central tower on the facade and encircling one-story veranda of wood, Bidwell's new Mansion represented the Italian Villa at its purest in California. As the social center of Bidwell's vast Rancho Arroyo Chico, it was a mecca for the great and near-great of his time. After Mrs. Bidwell's death, the house was willed to the Presbyterian Church to be utilized as a Girls School. Due to lack of funds the Mansion was sold in 1921 for $10,000 to the State of California for Chico Normal School (now Chico State College). Used variously by the School, the building is now being restored by the Division of Beaches and Parks and will be a complete House Museum. Rancho Chico and Bidwell Adobe is California Registered Historical Landmark No. 329. The Bidwell Mansion, nearby, was completed in 1868. -- Historic American Buildings Survey

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on March 24, 1972
Reference number
Architectural style
Victorian: Italianate
Areas of significance
Education; Politics/Government; Architecture; Agriculture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction; B - Person
Property type
Historic functions
College; Single dwelling; School
Current function
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1875-1899
Significant years
1865; 1919; 1921
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 3

Update Log 

  • October 31, 2016: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger