Drytown (No. 31 California Historical Landmark)
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. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
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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Founded in 1848 and with a peak population of 10,000 people, Drytown was the largest mining settlement in Amador County. Today 200 people live here. The name comes from the creek that ran dry in the winter. The town was certainly “dry.” With 26 saloons in town, the camp became a focal point for the first prohibition movement in California.
The names of area mines also give clues to the area’s wild past. Rattlesnake Gulch, Murderer’s Gulch and Blood Gulch are reminders of the intense competition and violence among miners as the magnetic lure of gold attracted men in a search for quick riches.
Today the town presents clues to its former glory in the Gold Rush Era buildings that remain. Antique stores and gift shops line the main street. A butcher shop still stands. Another building thought to have been a print shop of George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon who built Hearst Castle in Cambria, on California’s central coastline.
During its heyday, between the first discovery in 1848 and 1857 when the town began its decline, a common days work was $100 worth of gold found in a single pan. By 1857, fire swept the town and the mines began to run dry. Many towns of the Gold Rush Era were subject to destruction by fire because so many structures were made of wood.
In Drytown’s most recent history, from 1959 through 1994, the city hosted melodramas. Those voices are also silent today. Today, Drytown and many other Gold Rush Era towns in Amador County are surrounded by agriculture and vineyards.
The historical marker is located on Highway 49 (P.M. 13.7) . 2 miles north of Drytown.
The eastern slope of Amador County begins at Kirkwood’s historic stage stop known today as the Kirkwood Inn.
Amador County was one of the most productive of the “Mother Lode” counties. The mine shafts were reported to be among the deepest in the world. Mining continues in select areas today. The eastern slope of Amador County begins at Kirkwood’s historic stage stop known today as the Kirkwood Inn. The relatively narrow county is aligned between the Mokelumne and Cosumnes rivers and roughly follows an important emigrant trail route. Gold rush camps and boomtowns abound in the history of the area. Amador County is also recognized for its dozens of vineyards and wineries.
Time Period Represented