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Altaville (No. 288 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
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California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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The history of Altaville is closely identified with that of Angels Camp. Altaville has been the foundry town of Calaveras County since D.D. Demerest established a foundry there in 1854. Most of the stamp mills and a large part of the mining machinery erected in Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties were built at the Altaville Foundry. A brick schoolhouse was built at Altaville in 1858 and the townsite was established in 1873. In addition to the foundry and schoolhouse, by the 1880s, a hotel, fairgrounds, livery stable, wagon making shop, blacksmith, dance hall, stores, and saloons had been established. Several quartz mines, mills, and churches were also constructed during this time.

Previously known as The Altaville Foundry & Machine works, the Calaveras Iron & Steel Company, and the California Electric Steel Company, it is the oldest continually operating foundry west of the Mississippi. In 1995, Princess Parlor No. 84 erected a marker for the foundry.

In 1912, Altaville was annexed to Angles Camp.The Prince-Garibardi Building and the Altaville Grammar School are also located in Altaville.

Altaville was known as the site of an archeological hoax in 1886. The Calaveras Skull, a human skull was reportedly evidence of an early-man descendant from the Pliocene Era that was determined to be a modern-human skull. Famous Calaveras County author Bret Harte even wrote a poem about the hoax in 1899 titled "To the Pliocene Skull."

The marker is located at the intersection of State Highways 4 and 49 in Angels Camp.

Calaveras County

Along with Mark Twain’s famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story that spun into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, Calaveras County is rich with Gold Rush history and folklore. Remnants of the railroads and Hispanic culture add to the charm of the county located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, and the uncommon gold telluride mineral Calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861, and is named for it.

Calaveras is a Spanish word meaning "skull." The name was first given to the river because of the great quantities of human skulls found along the lower reaches of the river.

Calaveras County is famous for its lode and placer mines, and the largest gold nugget from the United States was taken from the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in 1854, weighing 214 pounds. For many years it was the principal copper-producing county in California. Cement deposits from its vast limestone deposits has become one of the county's major industries in recent years.

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