The names on the (green) plaques are the first owners as recorded in the Monterey County Tax records in Salinas. We do not know for sure why so many homes recorded only a woman as the owner. Many long time residents are surprised when they find out that their family home was “officially and legally” owned by their great-grandmother with no mention of their great-grandfather. Other descendants are surprised when they find out their “family home” was really owned by a great aunt or, in a few cases, someone not even related to their family. In other cases we find that the bank or the Pacific Improvement Company was really the owner until a loan was paid off, although in many cases they are listed as only having a mortgage interest in the property. Of course there were some that built and owned many homes, living in one and renting out the others.
Although this is just speculation, here are some of my thoughts on why there are so many plaques with a woman’s name:
- Women lived longer, so perhaps it avoided some tax issues when the man died.
- Many of the men owned their own business, so perhaps it was to protect their home from creditors should the business fail.
- In some cases the woman was a widow or unmarried when she had the house built.
- Perhaps it was a generally accepted practice at the time.
- Religion had nothing to do with it. Although Pacific Grove was founded as a Methodist retreat, nothing precluded men from owning real estate in the Retreat.