Touring Central Arcata, Destination # 43

Vaissade House

927 J. Street

Built: 1905

Period: Transitional Architecture c. 1900-1910

Bret Harte, a writer later to become famous for his moving stories of California mining camps, began his writing career in Arcata. He stayed in the original house at 927 J Street. This was in 1860, in the midst of troubles between whites and Indians. As a newspaper reporter, he felt compelled to condemn the deplorable massacre of the peaceful Wyiott Indians on Gunther Island by a small band of white men on the night of February 26, 1860. Harte, temporarily editing the local Arcata paper, The Northern Californian, wrote a courageous and scathing editorial on this atrocity, reminding his readers that "the secrecy of this indiscriminate massacre is an evidence of its disavowal and detestation by the community," Though he spoke for many citizens, his opinion was resented by a minority, placing him in considerable danger and resulting in his sailing for San Francisco and ultimate fame. He was 24 years old when he left Arcata.