Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sacramento Mystery: Hart Mansion Secrets

One day when I was visiting downtown Sacramento I drove down a quiet street to admire the historical homes that were built in the "Merchant Row" of H Street. On the corner of 22 Street and H Street there sat a very stately mansion that stood out like a sore thumb. Now I could see how someone could mistake the old appearance as having a bit dark, almost Gothic style to it. But you have to remember that this house was built in 1907 and was probably one of the first, if not the first house built on that street.

I came back home with thoughts swirling in my mind about the house. I knew there had to be some sort of story behind its doors, good or bad. It was then that I wanted to know the history behind the house. I stumbled across websites mentioning 2131 H Street as The Martinez Home. Many sites claim that its haunted, and go on to state ridiculous rants that the original owner was a mad doctor who performed experiments on people and tortured them in his basement and even some claimed that he murdered his wife and that no one could prove it.

There were other claims of people having taken pictures of the house and seeing orbs and blue smoke coming from within the photograph. Even some others commented on paranormal websites stating that they had toured the home and witnessed apparitions of a Asian man and two children roaming the halls of the upstairs part of the house.

There were myths that the family patriarch suffered from a mental disorder and murdered his entire family. Others claimed that the 'unidentified' Martinez family lived in the house in 1973 and that the entire family witnessed ghostly apparitions and objects being thrown across the room or glasses breaking in the middle of the night. Some people claim to have seen a ghostly dog peering out of the upstairs window. Even one person mentioned that if you Google the address that Google maps photo of the house shows ghosts sitting on the front porch.

Yes, these Urban Legends are good for scaring and telling creepy stories to freak people out but really there are no facts to any of these stories and I am here to debunk all the myths you may have heard or read about this beautiful home.

I am a history fanatic, you could say. If there was a story to tell here I most certainly would have found one. I have dug through archives and books about the history of Sacramento and found nothing that would substantiate any claims of murder, torture, medical experiments or even one single death at that residence.

Uncovering the Truth- Debunking the Rumors-
Why do people call it The Martinez Home?

First and foremost, the home was never under the ownership or residence of any family with the name Martinez. In fact, I was fortunate enough to have spoken with the current owner of this beautiful home and he explained that the only possible conclusion as to how that rumor came to be is that when the house was on the market for a short time in 2002 there had been a family who had a "walk through" of the home to look inside, nothing more. He could not recall whether they were the Martinez's or not but he stated for a fact that the home has only had two owners since being built, Dr. Aden C. Hart and then his Grandparents who bought the home in 1942.

Who Actually Built The House?

In 1907 an Architect known as Alden Campbell designed the house for Dr. Aden C. Hart and his wife Alice. Hart was a founder of Sutter Hospital and the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement. He was elected an honorary member of the American College of Surgeons and often traveled to study advanced medicine at both The Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins.

Dr. Hart and his wife lived in the home from 1907 until his retirement in 1942 when the property was sold to the Amaruso family. Dr. Hart and his wife then moved to San Francisco to live out the remainder of their lives together along with their family. The house has remained within the Amaruso family for nearly 68 years.

Why Was The Architecture So Dark?

Alden Campbell designed the house specifically according to Dr. Hart's taste. There is no doubt in my mind that the fact that Dr. Hart was a member of the Union Lodge of Masons, The Sacramento Commandery Knights Templar, Temple of the Shrine and Sacramento Chapter Royal Arch Masons played a role in where the masculine and almost Gothic influence came from.

Did Anyone Die In The House?

Sorry to disappoint you but the answer is no. Dr. Hart and his wife passed away in their late eighties in San Francisco. There is no record of them having children, however Dr. Hart's obituary reads that Mrs. Hart and her grandson Lloyd F. Chase Jr. were the last surviving relatives. It also states that his step-son was Lloyd F. Chase Sr. meaning that Mrs. Hart must have been married previously and gave birth to a son. Sometime later she married Dr. Hart. There are no records of them having any biological children together.

According to Peter Amaruso (the current owner) he stated to me personally that no one in his family has ever passed away at the home.

Is The House Haunted?

The house is old, there is no doubt about that. The house has a bit of a creepy vibe to it some people say. But is it haunted? No. There is no reason why it would be. Two families lived their lives together in that home that was built over 100 years ago. The first family lived there for 35 years until Dr. Hart decided to retire and move to the Bay area, possibly where his step son was since his grandson was said to have been from Palo Alto. The Amoruso family has had this home for 68 years and it doesn't seem as if they are planning to sell it any time soon. It makes no sense to conclude that any evil presence inhabits that home.

Why Do People Keep Creating Stories About The House That Are Untrue?

Personally I think people just want to believe in something scary and unreal. But I think it is shameful for people to create such slanderous stories about a man who contributed so much to the medical field and to the community of Sacramento, especially when there has never been any sort of evidence to prove any one of the ghost stories. Dr. Hart, a man who worked so hard to make a good impression on his patients and yet in death he is unable to defend himself against ridiculous accusations that seem as far fetched a horror movie plot. I even read a article where someone claimed that the home was similar to a house in the Harry Potter Movies.

This house is a part of Sacramento history. And the lives of the people who lived in that home are a part of history as well. It is wrong to start these urban legends about people who do not have the ability to set the record straight.

What Does the Owner Think?

I spoke with the current owner of the home, and frankly he is tired of everyone making up stories about the house as well. He was one of the nicest people I had ever met and remember that he didn't have to speak with me, but he did. I was intruding on his space, and yet he was so kind and willing to answer my questions. I know he could feel in his heart that I was searching for the truth, not far fetched paranormal fantasies that others bother him with. I wanted to show the history of this house and to reveal that there is no ghosts, no deaths, no murderous plots, no tortured souls in the basement, or ghost dogs peering out windows. The orbs people see, just dust (it is a old house you know).

Bottom line is that this house was special, to the Hart family and the Amoruso's. This is their family home, a place where they have happy memories. A place they called HOME. Remember that next time you hear a story such as this one and think about the real history not the lies. Although its easier to believe the bad things you hear, sometimes the good stuff is the real truth.

* I want to thank Peter Amoruso for being kind enough to speak with me about this subject and allow me to photograph the home.


Some of my sources:
Sacramento Boulevard Park, Don Cox.
Sacramento Bee Archives

Peter Amoruso


  1. Thanks so much for posting this story about the fine old Hart house, we just walked by and wondered about it. It's just such a wonderful old house. I would love to see the inside, I wish it would be on one of the mansion tours.

  2. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting. I really appreciate your kind words, as I have been emailed by several people who still want to believe it's haunted even after I spoke to the owner myself. Sadly, this house has been marked by so many fictional stories and urban legends that has tarnished it's great story within it's true history. I am glad you appreciated the truth! Take care :-)

  3. I would also like to sincerely thank you for writing this article. I am a life-long resident of Sacramento and have a love of local history as well as a degree in residential design. I have taken photos of this house and sketched it several times. It has an intrigue and an aura of mystery, but I never once felt it was "haunted" or "evil". Just very special. I have also read the stories of so-called ghost hunters who have checked into the house and found it interesting that they could not (or would not) produce the mystical "orb" pictures they claim to have taken. Thank you again for taking the time to research this for everyone who has always wanted the truth. And thank you to Mr. Amaruso for setting the record straight! I'm sure many, many Sacramento residents will also appreciate both of your efforts.

    1. Dear Anonymous- Thank you for stopping by to read and to comment. Your words are much appreciated. I too have a love of history within California, be it Los Angeles, Sacramento or even up into the foothills of the Mother Lode. When I write my articles I do my utmost to provide the facts (well researched) to the public in order to shed truth for those seeking it. I find that the truth is far more enjoyable than fiction. I am so pleased that you stopped by and I hope that you would read more of my stories here, as you may find them quite interesting. Take care- J'aime

  4. Fascinating article, thank you for writing! How unusual to find such an old house with so few owners. I love that. I've always wished to own a home that had been in my family for decades, full of our memories.

    I have to tell you, though, that I'd never read ANY of the silly rubbish written about that house until quite recently; yet, when I first walked past it one summer's evening in 2000, I was absolutely brought up short by the fascinating and rather dark energy of the place. I *don't* fancy myself a psychic and I've never seen a ghost, nor investigated any; I don't even really believe in them. I just got a strange vibe from that house that was unlike any other I'd encountered in my evening walks around central Sacramento. In fact it was quite rare in my experience overall. Years later I could recall that house and even its address with no trouble at all--and I'm a forgetful sort, lol.

    Mind you, the impression 2131 H St. made upon me doesn't have to have anything to do with ghosts. It could be something else, who knows what, perhaps even something that happened there before that house was even built. Or it could simply be that the architect was a strange fellow and, as you acknowledged, the design of the house is unusual--perhaps a tad forbidding, even. It doesn't help that for a long time (I haven't seen it in a few years) it looked quite unloved and not well kept up. I hope that's changed! Imagine a beautiful garden with roses, for example, rather than the windswept plateau of leaves and dried grass and uncollected newspaper deliveries I recall. It is much too remarkable a home not to be treated with love. But anyway, I think the point I'm trying to make is that this home's imposing and unusual facade definitely played a part in the creation of its legend as a haunted house. I don't believe that's the entire reason it startled me so at first sight, though; but probably therein lies a mystery to which I'll never know the solution. And that is fine. :-) I too would absolutely love to see the inside. I've always found that old houses are the best houses, built of the best and most lasting materials, with so much care and skill and attention. *sigh*


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