(Back to Washington Haunted Index)
The Rothschild House –
Haunted Place: The Rothschild House
The Rothschild House
418 Taylor Street
Port Townsend, Washington 98368
Rothschild House web site
Open May through September * Open Daily from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM
$4 for adults * $1 for children 3-12 * Group rates are available by calling (360) 385-1003
Admission is free for Jefferson County Historical Society members, and on the first Saturday of each month for Jefferson County residents.
The Rothschild House sits at the top of the Taylor Street stairs, between downtown and uptown, at the corner of Taylor & Franklin Streets.
Rothschild House on MapQuest
From 1868 to 1959, This sensible, yet handsome Greek Revival Victorian-era house, minus the over-the-top frills and extravagance of other mansions of the time, was the beloved home of the various members of the Rothschild family. While it doesn't show off the wealth of the family in a showy way, it has the aura of quiet respectability that was valued by D. C. H. Rothschild, his wife, Dorette, and his five children.
The Rothschild House was built upon a foot thick stone foundation, that created a cool, basement cellar to hang meat, store wine and big barrels of sauerkraut. Upstairs there were four bedrooms, while downstairs there was another bedroom, a dining room, a parlor, a large kitchen with a wood-burning stove, and a large copper boiler attached to the stove, to access hot water easily. The heating system relied on fireplaces. For example, there were back to back fireplaces that kept the dining room and parlor warm.
A washroom with a tin tub and washstand was also on the first floor, located just off the kitchen. Gas lamps were also used by the Rothschild family to provide light their home, even after electricity was a common amenity, as this too was seen as an unnecessary expense.
The privy that was located outside the house was used for years. A modern bathroom with an indoor toilet wasn't installed until the late teens, as Dorette Rothschild continued to be very frugal with the family money. A stable and carriage house, servant's quarters, a two story wash house and an orchard also were all on their property as well.
Careful construction inside did show a high level of craftsmanship, as labor was cheap, and a lot of time was invested. Two good examples that can be seen inside are the glorious Honduras mahogany stair bannister, that was gently curved by steaming and slowly bending the wood. Plus, much of the woodwork was hand-grained to simulate oak.
Visiting this house museum is like stepping back in time, back to 19th century culture of a first generation German family that succeeded; and it seems like the Rothschild family just stepped out for a walk. "Original furnishings and artifacts of the family fill the house. The piano that came around Cape Horn sits in the parlor as it has for over 130 years. The dining room table is set with the family's best plates and settings."
In fact, every room of The Rothschild House is displayed as if the Rothschild clan still lived there, from the children's playroom to the sewing area, containing the actual family furniture and items owned by the various family members; making this museum a true snapshot of 19th, and early 20th century culture.
There is always something new to see every season at The Rothschild House. Every year, a new textile exhibit is on display at the Rothschild House. As of May 1st, 2013, some of the most amazing handwork seen on 1890-1930s' dresses from the Rothschild family collection can be seen by visitors. The dresses in this display, showcase the fancy handwork, done by the Rothschild women, that included the use of beads, sequins, fabric roses and embroidery.
This story begins with German immigrant, D. C. H.(David Charles Henry) Rothschild, who had great skill in making money in the mercantile business. He became wealthy from his mercantile stores in California and Bellingham, and when he decided to settle in Port Townsend, Washington, he opened another well-stocked and popular mercantile store, called "The Kentucky Store." It was located on the pier, so that ships could directly unload the items ordered right into the store.
Wanting to marry, he sent away for a business partner's seventeen year old sister, Dorette, and brought her from Germany to the state of Washington. They married in 1863. The twenty year age difference between this couple didn't matter at all. At first, they lived on the top floor of The Kentucky Store. Their first three children; Henry, Louis, and Regina were all born there.
In 1868, D. C. H. Rothschild bought some land that over-looked his mercantile store, up on a bluff, and built the sensible family dream home, known as The Rothschild House. Two more children, Emilie and Eugene, were born in this house. The family was warmly accepted into Port Townsend society, for the Rothschild family was hospitable and friendly.
In 1881, wanting to start a new venture with his two oldest sons, D. C. H. Rothschild sold The Kentucky Store, and tried to start a shipping business, that was a very competitive field in Port Townsend. In 1886, a recession hit the economy, and the Rothschild shipping business began to have its struggles, which pushed D. C. H. Rothschild over the edge into mental illness. Not able to face this perceived failure in his mental state, D. C. H. Rothschild became very depressed to the point of causing concern for his welfare by his family to grow, who watched him closely.
However, somehow D. C. H. Rothschild slipped away from watchful eyes, and shot himself in the head, leaving his sons to struggle with the challenge of their lagging shipping business. D. C. H. Rothschild's suicide was covered up and dropped, as all were mindful of the pain and embarrassment such a disclosure would have on the surviving family members, who were well-loved and respected.
However, his sons, Henry and Louis, would have made their father proud, as they came up with a solution to weather the recession and come out financially on top! Henry and Louis did just fine with the business, as they moved it clear across The Sound to the Seattle area, where business opportunities were much more available and promising.
Henry and Louis wound up moving to Seattle, where their marine shipping business was located. Regina eventually married and moved away, probably to the Seattle area as well. However Emelie stayed with her mother, Dorette, and helped to raise her younger brother, Eugene. Emelie made a decision not to marry, choosing family obligations first. Eugene was raised in The Rothschild House, but he too eventually joined his siblings in the Seattle area.
Because of their temporary loss of fortune, the Rothschild family at first lived very frugally, watching every penny. Thanks to the hard work and wise decisions of the older sons, their financial situation did improve. Though their financial crisis passed, Dorette and Emilie continued to live frugally, refusing to let the modern conveniences and inventions of the era come into the family home; choosing to live the way they had always lived. They used their horse and buggy until the horse died, but they never got a car, because it was an unneeded expense.
The one improvement that was allowed, was the installation of a toilet inside the washroom on the first floor, off the kitchen, because of Dorette's needs that appeared during her last years of life. When Dorette died in 1918, Emelie continued to live in the family home, living the life style she loved, while keeping the house in good shape and running order. It was like living in a time capsule, as Emelie kept all the essential tools of living that they had used for so long. Emelie had a full life, living comfortably within her means. Though she never married and had a family of her own, she enjoyed the frequent visits of her siblings, her nephews and her nieces, who all loved her.
After living nearly 78 years in her beloved family home, Emelie died in the late 1950s. Her youngest brother, Eugene, inherited this property, but he had his own home in Seattle, yet didn't want to sell the beloved family home either. So, in 1959, he solved the predicament by giving the property to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Jefferson County Historical Society stepped up to the plate and willingly became in charge of this remarkable authentic house museum.
Though The Rothschild House was in good repair, it was updated with modern amenities, including electricity, running water and heat. Original wallpaper was restored. The outside gardens were replanted, and are in good shape, featuring herbs, and many older varieties of peonies, roses and lilacs acquired throughout the United States. The Rothschild House opened as a museum, in 1962.
HISTORY of Manifestations:
People who kill themselves, sometimes find that they gravitate back to their favorite spot in this world.
( Ernest Hemingway House * Stranahan House * Barnstable House * Lemp Mansion )
A very depressed and distraught D. C. H. Rothschild shot himself in the head, on the beach south of town, so his family wouldn't be the first to find his body. He might have had regrets, and decided to spend his after-life in his dream home, remembering the good times, as well as keeping an eye on the surviving family members. If members of his family still come to visit or stay in their home, he may join them, making up for the years that they struggled on without him.
People who care a lot about their home, and have certain plans for it, sometimes like to visit or stay, as well as keep a friendly eye on the living now taking care of it.
( Kelton House Museum * Frick House * Andrew Baine Memorial Library * Moss Mansion * Historic Bush House Museum )
Perhaps a spirit or spirits feel the need to watch carefully all these visitors to their home, being good hosts.
The plus for them would be they would still have the house to themselves when the museum closes for the day, and during the off-season. They may enjoy the reactions of visitors who love to see and learn about the Rothschild's way of life and admire the family heirlooms.
When the living neglect or change the beloved structure's usage or renovate a structure in a way that annoys the former owners who are in spirit form, these spirits may find ways to show their displeasure with the changes.
( The Catfish Plantation * The Hermitage * Bullock Hotel * Bowers Harbor Inn )
Eugene, who they might have hoped would move in, donated the property, along with all the family's personal stuff. The new owners, the state park system and the Jefferson County Historical Society, brought the house up to modern standards, with such costly items as electricity, heat, phones, and plumbing on the first floor.
Personal and cherished possessions on display for public view, can draw into this world entities who once owned them, to check up on their mementos and treasures.
( Parry House Museum * The Pittock Mansion * The Custer House * The Historic Bush House Museum * The Historic Moss Mansion Museum )
Emelie kept the family possessions and things they used to live their way in such detail that The Rothschild House Museum is a true step back into time, showing in great detail how life was lived n the late 19th century. Emelie or any other family member may like to come and visit their stuff.
No one knows who may be still in the family home. If they are there, possible candidates may be D.C.H. Rothschild, Dorette, and Emilie. Any of the other family members may also come and visit, as is the case in many other house museums listed on hauntedhouses.com.
Staff and perhaps visitors have heard the slamming of doors in areas of the house where no one from this world is located. Slamming doors is a sign of anger, frustration or annoyance in this world, and it may mean the same thing on the other side.
Perhaps a spirit or spirits are/were annoyed at first, when the museum opened:
Showing their disapproval of all the money being wasted on unnecessary modern perks; (Possibly Emelie, or Dorette)
Showing their disapproval of all the strangers traipsing through the house, which may disrupt the aura of quiet respectability that they so wanted. They may want or appreciate quiet atmosphere to dwell on their memories.
They may have thought that the last survivor of the family should be living in the house, in the traditional way. Eugene gave it all away for free, as a house museum, including all their stuff.
Perhaps a spirit or spirits is/were just trying to let the staff know that they are still in their house. It can be frustrating not being able to communicate with the living who can't hear spirit voices and ignore other simple attempts to communicate.
The staff has experienced odd and wild temperature changes, with no reasonable explanation.
These unexplainable temperature changes could be signs of spirits trying to manifest, creating cold or hot spots to let the living know of their presence. It would be the polite, and friendly thing to do, and they were known for their hospitality.
Sensitive people have felt a watchful, unseen presence on the 2nd floor.
Some attuned, spirit-sensitive people get a tingly dizzy feeling, or experience the hair standing up on the arms, etc., when a spirit is near, giving them a good indication. Perhaps the spirit or spirits feel it would be rude not to let such sensitive people who can feel them know that they are standing near.
A few general signs of possible paranormal activity have been experienced by the staff and perhaps visitors; Slamming doors, odd and wild temperature changes and the tell-tale signs that are felt when an unseen presence is near. ( The Parmly Billings Library )
No Psychic investigations, except for my own personal experience reported below have been made public either.
Tom and I took the tour; We love historic house museums! When I was on the second floor, I got the tingly dizzy feeling that I experience when spirits are near. The presence wasn't hostile, just letting its presence being known, which is the hospitable thing to do.
Paranormal Scientific Results:
No hard, scientific evidence that could back up the manifestations listed above have been made public.
Perhaps So. Not enough has been reported to say for sure, though the possibility definitely exists.
The Jefferson County Historical Society hasn't felt the need to have a paranormal investigation done in The Rothschild House. If they did schedule an investigation, it was on a private client basis, and if anything was caught, it wasn't shared. The focus of the museum should be only on The Rothschild House Museum, and the life of the family that lived there.
If this organization knows that they do have spirits, they know it is a member or members of the Rothschild family. Letting in investigators may annoy their spirits, upsetting the applecart.
What spirit or spirits that they may have in their house museum is/are very benign. Though the spirits may get a little annoyed at times, they also may feel hospitable and friendly with visitors and staff, as they were well loved by their community because of their friendliness and hospitality. People's personalities stay with them when they pass over and become spirits. ( The Olde Pink House * Liberty Hall )
Part of being hospitable for the Rothschild family spirit or spirits may be to basically stay out of the way when the living are showing their house and possessions to the history enthusiasts, except for a few exceptions; When they let their presence be known possibly to staff and perhaps sensitive people.