Judge Eaton’s Wedding Garden
Do You Remember Judge Eaton’s Garden?
I’d like to know if you do. And here’s why . . . A lot of us in Shasta County know someone who was married by the well-known Justice of the Peace, Judge Richard B. Eaton. Before he died in 2003 at the age of 88, his records show he married hundreds of couples at venues all over the area -not just at the courthouse. And some of those weddings took place in the gardens at his home in downtown Redding.
Built in 1895, the two-story, Classic-Revival style clapboard house was for many years surrounded by a flower garden of old-fashioned favorites – hydrangeas, climbing roses, wisteria and boxwood. This lovely oasis was the work of his mother, Edna Behrens Eaton, and her sister, Ella Behrens. The Behrens were early pioneers of western Shasta County. In 1898, Judge Eaton’s grandfather, Charles Behrens, was elected county Sheriff. He moved his family to the county seat at Redding, into this house on West Street conveniently located near the jail. Three generations of Behrens and Eatons lived here until the Judge’s death 105 years later. Early historic photographs taken from the family’s extensive collection and Shasta Historical Society records show the house surrounded by ornamental arbors and porches covered with flowering vines. Long garden beds of irises and peonies flanked brick foot paths, and fences were festooned with English ivy trained into a diamond pattern. At the back of the garden stood a quaint three-portal gazebo (see photo) where the Judge would have pronounced many people husband and wife.
Today, this charming scene is gone. After his mother’s death in 1969, the Judge did little to maintain the property. The house, which is being turned into a museum, has required extensive reconstruction, and in the process, the garden has been swept away. We are left with only remnants – the still-living stump of a once-vigorous wisteria vine, a single windmill palm (quite the fashion, back in the day) standing alone by the front porch, and ivy running amok along the old wire fence, abandoning its earlier training.
But wait – that’s not the end of the story! Along with the house, the gardens will also be reconstructed. The new plan, now being developed, aims to balance a re-creation of the previous Victorian home garden with a
gracious special events venue. Complete with a new catering kitchen, the house and garden will welcome family, business, and community celebrations, while also helping support the museum’s operations. Soon, there will be weddings in the garden again.
Do you remember anything about this place? Were you ever a visitor to the garden? Do you know someone who was married here? As the landscape designer for this unique project, I am seeking recollections, photos, and snippets of memories from the past. No detail is too small to share, as it will add richness and depth to this garden’s “stone soup.” Just as it will take hard work and contributions from many service-minded individuals and philanthropic organizations to build this new cultural institution, our collective memories of this place can also be pooled to resurrect its lost outdoor environment.
With your help, the new gardens at the Behrens-Eaton House will resonate with familiarity to those who knew it before, and provide an evocative setting for new brides and grooms taking their vows among the flowers.
Karen McGrath is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach Karen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (530) 222-4277. Check out her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.