Excavator, water truck, shovels and rakes were on scene at the historical Pleasant Grove House on Sept. 20. A crew from Al’s Land Clearing had been dispatched to clear away the trash and demolish the outbuildings, including the barn, once reputedly a Pony Express way station.
The three-man crew got to the site Thursday morning and had to make a decision. “We looked at some of the buildings, like the old blacksmith shop and the barn and realized how old they were, ” said foreman Tim Pafford. That’s when the crew decided to confine its activities to clearing away exterior trash and demolishing an old cinderblock building.
Concerned neighbors stopped by and told the crew about the history of the 162-year-old house and the famous barn.
“Until we get some kind of documentation, we won’t be taking down the barn,” said Pafford. “There’s too much controversy, so we want to stop until we’re sure. Once you take it down, you can’t put it up again.”
The abandoned and decrepit condition of house and property associated with State Historical Landmark No. 703 was featured in an Aug.15 Mountain Democrat article. At that time, the buildings were unlocked and open to weather and animals. Now, red Code Enforcement Violation stickers are plastered on every exterior door, citing the house for being an attractive nuisance used by juveniles; for needing exterior trash removal and for maintenance issues.
As crew members Andy Garcia, Brad Dales and Pafford cleared years of trash from the yard, a rattlesnake slithered from under a pile of trash and was promptly relocated.
“Anyone could see that these are historical buildings,” said Dales. “We were hired to take down the outbuildings, including the barn, and clear out the trash. The house is to be left alone. You’d need a permit to take that down.”
Dales and Garcia said they weren’t comfortable taking down a barn that might be part of the Historical Register.
Despite a plaque commemorating the Pony Express erected by the side of Pleasant Grove House by the Placerville Chapters of the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West in 1937, and a State Landmark monument designating the site as a Pony Express stop, there is controversy about whether the Pleasant Grove Hotel and barn were actually used by the Pony Express. Mary Corey, executive director of the El Dorado County Historical Museum said, “The Pony Express route went off Durock Road in Shingle Springs, but I’ve been told that in certain circumstances, the alternate route at Green Valley was used.”
Neighbor Rodi Lee, a member of the Rescue Historical Society said the house and barn are not on the State or National Historical register despite former owner Lillian Dixon’s attempt to put them there.
“It’s the only roadhouse left on Green Valley Road,” Lee said. “I was so worried when I saw the chain link fence go up last week and then I saw the old Dixon cinderblock dairy barn pulled down this morning. It would be good if we could just get in there and do some documentation before it is gone.”
Lee said that when the terminus of the railroad was Sacramento, the Pony Express route went through Shingle Springs on Durock Road, but when the terminus changed to Folsom, the route went along Green Valley Road and Pleasant Grove House was one of many remount stations.
John Dahmen, who lives nearby, has kept an interested eye on the deterioration of the site. “I’ve contacted everyone — the historical societies, the state parks, to try to do something about this site, but no one has done anything,” he said.
Dahmen said that he had also contacted the two owners, attorney Linda Parisi and Mahmoud Sharif, about the deterioration, but Parisi did not return his calls and Sharif said he was unaware of the code enforcement violations.
“Whenever a structure more than 50 years old is being torn down, I receive a notification from the County Planning Department so that we can go in and do some documentation first,” said Mary Corey, “but I have not received any notification about the Pleasant Grove House or the barn.”