Edith-Adele Bellmer, who grew up with strong ties to Sacramento history in her family’s grand Heilbron House mansion, died Feb. 22 at 95, her family said.
Less than 2 years old when her mother died, Mrs. Bellmer and her younger sister went to live at their grandparents’ stately home at Seventh and O streets. The house was built by her pioneer grandfather August Heilbron, who immigrated from Germany as a teenager and made a fortune as a grocer and cattleman in the Gold Rush era.
Completed in 1881 at a cost of $10,000, the three-story Italianate with an ornate mansard roof, brass chaneliers and a series of marbled fireplaces with elaborately carved mantels was designed by architect Nathaniel Goodell, who also designed the historic governor’s mansion at 16th and H streets. Along with a mansion around the corner for railroad tycoon and former Gov. Leland Stanford, the Heilbron residence was one of the most impressive trophy homes lining the blocks near the state Capitol.
The showcase house hosted lively gatherings of the extended Heilbron family, including aunts, uncles and fun-loving cousins, Mrs. Bellmer recalled. On the Fourth of July, the youngsters lined the public streetcar tracks nearby with cherry bombs and hung streamers of fireworks from power poles, she told The Bee at the home’s centennial celebration in 1981.
At Christmas parties, she said, the children “had a grand time watching Father draw the bird for dinner, remove the bladder, blow air into it and toss the balloon to us to play with.” She recalled racing with cousins through the house, flying down the hand-rubbed bannister “until it stung” and converting the huge copper bathtub into a water slide.
Mrs. Bellmer lived in the home until she married in 1942. Her relatives continued to live in Heilbron House until it was sold in 1953 to the Barbaria family, who converted the residence into an upscale restaurant.
The house – which survived redevelopment after World War II that replaced most of the beautiful neighborhood homes with bland state office buildings – changed hands over the years among a savings and loan association, Wells Fargo Bank and the nonprofit La Raza/Galeria Posada. The state Department of Parks and Recreation eventually bought the property for use as office space for about $1.5 million. Today, the Heilbron House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mrs. Bellmer had “a remarkable memory,” her son Richard said. She enjoyed telling stories about the history of Heilbron House, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, where the Heilbron family also had a house in the Homewood community.
She was born to Lucile and Edwin Heilbron on Dec. 27, 1918, in Sutterville, a town about 2 miles south of downtown that was the site of a Union training camp during the Civil War. The community later was acquired by Sacramento and became the Land Park neighborhood.
Her father owned and worked a farm while she grew up under the watchful eye of four unmarried aunts and her grandmother at Heilbron House. She graduated from Sacramento High School and Sacramento City College and worked as a secretary at Stanford Junior High School.
She married Edgar “Bud” Bellmer and lived in Colorado while he served with the 10th Mountain Infantry at Camp Hale. They returned to Sacramento after World War II, had a son and lived in Orangevale before settling in Loomis in 1965.
Mrs. Bellmer’s husband, a retired Folsom Prison administrator, died in 2002. In addition to her son, she is survived by two grandchildren. No public service is planned.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.