Skip to main content

Become Part of a Different World in Ferndale

08/21/2015 09:23AM, Published by Jordan Venema, Categories: In Print



Gallery: More photos [5 Images] Click any image to expand.



Slice of Americana

By Jordan Venema
Photos: James Mazzotta

While on vacation in 1989, Karen Pingitore and her husband found, or really lost themselves in the small town of Ferndale, population 1,371. South of Eureka, a five-mile drive from US Highway 101 and four miles from the coast, surrounded by wooded hills and fields, the hamlet might as well be a million miles from anywhere, a portal to another time.

While enjoying a cup of coffee on Ferndale’s Main Street, the Pingitores watched as children and animals paraded past, led by leash and pulled by wagon, cows and cats and ducks and you-name-it, even banana slugs. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, how can this still be happening in 1989?’” laughs Pingitore. They were watching “a slice of Americana we didn’t expect to find, nor did we think existed anymore.”

Three months later, the Los Angeles natives purchased a Ferndale home over the phone, and they’ve been here ever since. Now as president of Ferndale’s Chamber of Commerce, Pingitore is happy to report, “26 years later the parade is still happening.”

For a town that’s only a mile wide in any given direction, Ferndale is replete with “only in Ferndale” moments, events like the Pet Parade, which contribute to what Pingitore calls the “Ferndale mystique.” Like Brigadoon, she says, “you cross the bridge and you’re in a different world.”

But Ferndale’s mystique and timelessness is tied to the right here, right now, as a living history. California Historic Marker 883, Ferndale is the only entire city registered as a historical landmark, and driving down Main Street, it’s easy to see why.

Walk along the thoroughfare, from town hall to commercial district, passing perfectly preserved Victorian homes, whose owners aren’t afraid to wave at strangers passing by. There’s an air of the Truman Show about Ferndale, a mood almost too good to be true. And yes, Pingitore says, “it’s like a movie lot, but it just happens to be the real deal.”

Ferndale was founded during the Gold Rush, though its prospect didn’t pan out. But settlers remained anyway, cutting down ferns and building farms instead. Dairy led to better wealth, and by the 1870s, architect T.J. Frost began building what have come to be known as the butterfat palaces.

A combination of Queen Anne and strict Victorian, Pingitore calls Ferndale architecture a photographer’s paradise. “It’s like the frosting on a cake,” she continues, describing the details and colors that accentuate buildings like the drug store, gazebo and inn.

Because of its architecture, Ferndale’s history is visibly palpable, but Pingitore recommends beginning at the town’s museum, “which just has a ton of information about the background of the city.” And for those who don’t find it morbid, she also suggests a walk through the town cemetery, which dates back to Ferndale’s founding.

“I liken it to a European statue garden,” says Pingitore, since it represents its earliest settlers, with Scandinavian, Portuguese and German names etched in stone.

Ferndale’s history may be written on its walls and etched in stone, but the town’s real commodity isn’t its past. Without a living, thriving community, these buildings would be dead as a Hollywood backlot, just colors and facades.

“Truthfully,” Pingitore says, “it’s the architecture that brings people to see us.” But as Pingitore knows too well, that’s never the reason they stay.

Ferndale’s charm isn’t inherent to the butterfat palaces, but comes from something more pervasive, an atmosphere generated by the people who live here, like the very breath they exhale. Ferndale looks the part, but its residents provide its authenticity, the nostalgia of Midwestern hospitality and pies on windowsills.

In Ferndale, pet parades still happen and draw people together with the kind of excitement usually reserved for events like the Super Bowl. “But we’re small,” says Pingitore, “so we can
pull these things off.” Especially at times like Christmas, when every Main Street business erects a tree that’s decorated by local school kids. “So we’ve got 40 trees lining the street with all these ornaments. You just don’t see that anyplace else,” she says.

Pingitore also claims Ferndale is home to the tallest living decorated Christmas tree. “Our volunteer firemen literally climb the tree to put lights on because we don’t have a hook and ladder truck.” And even if they did, she laughs, “it wouldn’t get that high anyway.” But what really makes the tree special is its lighting ceremony, when the community gathers with hot chocolate and baked cookies. “Folksy isn’t the right word,” says Pingitore, “but it just warms your heart when you see things like that.”

Definitely not folksy, and definitely not isolated, either. Ferndale might preserve its sense of timelessness, but not without wi-fi. “It’s not like we’re cut off from humanity or modernization,” insists Pingitore. In fact, Ferndale boasts a vibrant arts culture, with a repertory theater and the finish line of the world championship Kinetic Sculpture Race, started by a Ferndale sculptor in 1969.

Ferndale offers within a stone’s throw what most cities fail to provide in miles of sprawl. So how does one plan a trip here? How much time does one spend time, between the theater and parades, the beach and butterfat palaces? Because while the town can be walked in any given day, it’s easy to imagine getting lost in the details, as a day turns into a weekend, and a weekend into a month. And as that sense of timelessness washes over you, perhaps you’ll wake one day, like the Pingitores, living in your very own butterfat palace. But after 26 years, even Pingitore says it sometimes feels like she arrived just yesterday. “I feel I’ve always been here, and that I’ve only been here a year.” Well, add that sentiment to the long list of things filed under “only in Ferndale.”

www.victorianferndale.com • (707) 786-4477





  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/25/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/25/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/27/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/27/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Shasta Bike Month

    04/27/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Location: Brandy Creek Marina Boat Ramp, Whiskeytown Lake Several courses available (challenging...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/27/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/28/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Shasta College Gender Equity Conference

    04/28/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    REDDING, CA – Join us for the Shasta College, Student Center Stage for our 2017 Gender Equity C...


  • Gender Equity Conference

    04/28/2017
    01:30PM — 03:30PM

    Following the Gender Equity Conference, there will be a LGBTQ+ Safe Zone Workshop from 1:30pm-3:3...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/28/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/28/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Race begins at 9:00 am at Brandy Creek Marina (boat ramp) 26.5 Mile Long Course 20 Mile Interme...


  • Mosaic Rock Class

    04/29/2017
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    When: Saturday, April 29, 2017 Time: 1-4 pm Place: Strawhouse, Big Flat, CA (20 miles west of...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/29/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tours

    04/29/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    04/29/2017
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/29/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Plant and Community Ecology Walk

    04/30/2017
    09:00AM — 11:00AM

    Ever wonder what the name of a plant is or why the plant is growing where it is along a trail? Or...


  • Bike to Pint

    04/30/2017
    02:00PM — 06:00PM

    Wildcard has partnered with Shasta Living Streets to bring you a great bike friendly event. Meet ...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/30/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Shasta Bike Month

    05/01/2017
    07:30AM

    Enjoy the security of valet bicycle parking while you shop, eat and play at the Redding Farmers’ ...


  • Healthy Eating and Being Active Class

    05/01/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Looking for FREE classes on tips for healthy eating and being active? Then this is for you! Cla...


  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/25/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/25/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/26/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    04/26/2017
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesday and get $3 off a growler fill.


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/26/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/27/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/27/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Shasta Bike Month

    04/27/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Location: Brandy Creek Marina Boat Ramp, Whiskeytown Lake Several courses available (challenging...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/27/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Past & Present COLLIDE

    04/28/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Great artwork from LOCAL artists that is available for purchase . Featuring art work of classic c...


  • Shasta College Gender Equity Conference

    04/28/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    REDDING, CA – Join us for the Shasta College, Student Center Stage for our 2017 Gender Equity C...


  • Gender Equity Conference

    04/28/2017
    01:30PM — 03:30PM

    Following the Gender Equity Conference, there will be a LGBTQ+ Safe Zone Workshop from 1:30pm-3:3...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/28/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/28/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Race begins at 9:00 am at Brandy Creek Marina (boat ramp) 26.5 Mile Long Course 20 Mile Interme...


  • Mosaic Rock Class

    04/29/2017
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    When: Saturday, April 29, 2017 Time: 1-4 pm Place: Strawhouse, Big Flat, CA (20 miles west of...


  • Art Roster 5th Annual Forgery Show

    04/29/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Forgery Show is an annual art exhibit featuring the work of Mt. Shasta's ArtRoster Atelier pa...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tours

    04/29/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    04/29/2017
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/29/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Plant and Community Ecology Walk

    04/30/2017
    09:00AM — 11:00AM

    Ever wonder what the name of a plant is or why the plant is growing where it is along a trail? Or...


  • Bike to Pint

    04/30/2017
    02:00PM — 06:00PM

    Wildcard has partnered with Shasta Living Streets to bring you a great bike friendly event. Meet ...


  • Marvin's Room

    04/30/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    Bessie lives in Florida where she cares for her pain-ridden aunt and ailing father, Marvin, who i...


  • Shasta Bike Month

    05/01/2017
    07:30AM

    Enjoy the security of valet bicycle parking while you shop, eat and play at the Redding Farmers’ ...


  • Healthy Eating and Being Active Class

    05/01/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Looking for FREE classes on tips for healthy eating and being active? Then this is for you! Cla...


  • Mornings with Mommy

    05/02/2017
    09:00AM — 10:00AM

    Mornings with Mommy isn't preschool and it isn't childcare. It's something different. Mornings wi...


  • Jason Michaels is a professional speaker and entertainer with astounding expertise in the arts of...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    05/03/2017
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesday and get $3 off a growler fill.


  • At Minds Matter, people can connect with local resources that provide mental health and wellness ...


  • Minds Matter

    05/04/2017
    02:30PM — 08:00PM

    Dealing with mental health challenges, big and small, can be tough. But there is help. Join us ...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    05/04/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch Spotify for t...


  • Pints with Purpose

    05/04/2017
    05:00PM — 07:00PM

    Wildcard wants to highlight some of the amazing community leaders and non-profits taking our comm...


Enter to Win!

 

Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living
Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors