Visiting Porterville’s Zalud House Museum
Whenever I head out of town I try to learn all I can about what’s to see in the area I’m visiting. I use various resources to find out information – the local visitor’s bureau is a good start – but I also like to check out secondary resources like Roadside America or Atlas Obscura. When planning my trip to Visalia I hit up all three trying to find the best of the area and Atlas Obscura provided a most interesting attraction,The Zalud House Museum in Porterville, and I decided to make it my first stop on my trip.
Porterville is a small town located about 30 miles southeast of Visalia. To get there I got off the 99 just beyond Bakersfield and took the rural route 65. I passed by more oil derricks than I’d ever seen in my entire life and orchard after orchard of avocados, citrus, nuts and more. Soon I found myself traveling down Main Street Porterville and through its historic downtown.
Really, getting off the main road is the best way to travel. How else would I have known Porterville is home to one of the most beautiful post offices I’ve ever seen? But, I digress. A few blocks away I pulled in front of the Zalud House Museum and headed inside.
The Zalud’s, John and Mary Jane, were born in Bohemia and immigrated to America as children. They met in Chicago, married in San Francisco and by 1891 settled in Porterville with their three children, Anna, Edward and Pearle. John Zalud owned a saloon and, through good investments, the family became wealthy owning over 3,000 acres of land in Tulare County.
The family home was built in 1891 and the Zalud’s remained the sole occupants until Pearle’s death in 1970. Sadly, during their time in Porterville the family endured their fair share of tragedy as Anna’s husband was murdered in 1917 and Edward died in a horse accident in 1922. As Pearle never married she and Anna lived together for the rest of their lives dividing their time between the Porterville house and a home in Los Angeles.
Upon Pearle’s death in 1970 the home and all its contents were left to the city of Porterville and in 1977 the Zalud House Museum was opened. In 1987 the house joined the National Registry of Historic Places and it remains open to the public to this day.
As Pearle donated all of her belongings along with the house it remains one of the few historic homes that still contain all of their original contents. I’ve been to many historic homes and to find one containing a few family artifacts is a rare treat. The Zauld house is entirely furnished with family artifacts making it a truly unique historic site.
To visit is to not only get a first hand glimpse into life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but also to learn about two very interesting woman, Anna (Zauld) Brooks and Pearle Zalud.
They completed not one but two around the world trips and you can still see the brochures they collected along the way.
Anna was an avid painter and the walls are hung with her original artwork while Pearle loved needlework and the pillows and chairs are upholstered with her designs.
There’s even the chair Anna’s husband William was killed in and if you look closely you can see the bullet hole. I admit it is morbid but it does give an interesting glimpse into the past. You can read a bit more about the murder here and it’s a pretty crazy story.
When I decided to get off the highway and head to Porterville I figured I’d see an interesting historic home. I had no idea I would see so many, beautiful historic artifacts and get a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the incredible Zalud sisters. It was a delightful surprise and I’m so happy I visited the Zalud House Museum.