What a great public service. The El Dorado County Historical Society conducts monthly tours of historical downtown Placerville during the summer and at other times by request. A couple of weeks ago the society volunteers hosted 30 visitors from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Placerville has some great history to relate, having hosted Mark Twain, newspaper editor and presidential candidate Horace Greely, stage-coach driver Hank Monk. John M. Studebaker made a fortune making wheelbarrows to sell to the miners. He went back home to South Bend, Ind., and founded the Studebaker Co. with his brothers. The wagon and buggy company eventually became an automotive manufacturer, closing its Indiana plant in 1963 and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1966. The Budweiser Wagon pulled by its famous Clydesdales is a Studebaker Wagon.
Next to the Placerville News Co. is the original site of the business owned by Albert and Frederick Bee, who built the Placerville-Humbolt Telegraph Co. in 1858. The line ran through Genoa to the Great Salt Lake, both of which at that time were in Utah Territory. Col. Albert Bee built a grand residence on Bee Street that is now a restaurant serving wedding parties.
The two buildings that were originally Florence’s dress shop and are now a beauty parlor and a wedding dress shop, were originally express offices, with one of them being Wells Fargo & Co. Express office.
The east half of the old City Hall was built by Mary Jane Shroyers, who made her money by driving a band of horses across the Great Plains. “In later years she was renowned as a horsewoman and was seen about the countryside, a romantic figure in a black velvet riding habit,” according to a Walking Tour of Placerville by Jane Schlappi and Marilyn Ferguson.
And everybody knows about Placerville Hardware, which has been a hardware store since 1856. The hardware store has since expanded into space that was the Mountain Democrat newspaper office for 102 years. We, of course, are now located at 2889 Ray Lawyer Drive. Come by and see our new building, especially if you have trouble getting through on our phones, which are temporarily idiosyncratic.
The folks downtown aren’t paying $1,000 for the right to dig up a vacant lot and panning the diggin’s in Hangtown Creek to sort out the gold. Now the downtown hosts visitors from throughout the county and state, from as far away as Florida, Germany, Spain and China. That’s the new gold. And thanks to the El Dorado County Historical Society for making the trip a memorable one for these visitors.