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Georgetown (No. 484 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District

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 1800’s 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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Georgetown was founded on August 7, 1849 by a sailor named George Phipps, who first pitched his tent near the head of what has since been called Empire Canyon. Georgetown was nicknamed Growlersburg because of the heavy nuggets that "growled" in the miner's pans.

The first log house in Georgetown was erected on about September 20, 1849 and became the first store. By January 1, 1850, the number of buildings had increased to a dozen. Most of these buildings operated as stores. In the summer of 1850 a stage line had been created from Georgetown to Coloma and on to Sacramento. The "Georgetown Cut-Off Road" provided a way for those emigrating on the Carson Emigrant Trail to get to Georgetown and was essentially a highway to other mining areas, including river bars on the Middle Fork of the American River: Ford's Bar, Volcano Bar, Big Bar, Sandy Bar, Junction Bar, Gray Eagle, and others. Georgetown also served as a distributing point for supplies to those working on the bars and flats in the surrounding area.

Georgetown was a hub to not just mining bars, but mining hills as well. Mamaluke Hill, Bottle Hill, and Volcanoville were rich mining areas located nearby. Mamaluke Hill produced $5,000,000 in gold and was probably the richest hill in California for its size.

After the disastrous fire of 1852, the old town was moved from the canyon in lower Main Street to the present site, and unique in early-day planning, Main Street was laid out 100 feet wide, with side streets 60 feet wide. The wide streets made Georgetown unique among other towns in the Mother Lode. By 1854-56, the population of Georgetown had grown to a population of 3,000. In 1856 another fire ravaged the town, and the only structures to survive were the Masonic Hall and the Shannon Knox House and many structures were rebuilt.

In addition to the Masonic Hall and the Shannon Knox House, several other buildings from the gold rush era still stand. The Balzar House, now the property of the Odd Fellows, an old stone Armory built during the Civil War, the American Hotel (now known as the American River Inn), the Georgetown Hotel & Bar, and The Miner's Club, built in 1862 as a morgue but is now a bar, remain.

Two of Georgetown's citizens were US Senators: Cornerlius Cole and John Conness. Today Georgetown has a population of 2,367 and is near the popular swimming hole University Falls. The annual Jeeper's Jamboree begins here.

The Georgetown marker is mounted on a wall in front of the fire station on Main Street, Georgetown.

El Dorado County

Stretching from oak-studded foothills and the shores of Folsom Lake to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County is probably best known for the 1848 gold discovery at Coloma. “Old Hangtown” sprang up during the Gold Rush and was later renamed Placerville. The county name comes from the mythical land rich in gold sought by Spanish explorers. The first inhabitants of El Dorado County were the Maidu and Miwok Indians, followed by miners attracted to the area by the Gold Rush.

El Dorado County was one of the original counties in California. The Pony Express Trail ran through the county approximately where Highway 50 is today, from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861. The first county seat was Coloma, and it was superseded by Placerville for this position in 1857. El Dorado means “the gilded one” in Spanish; a fitting name considering the mines in El Dorado County produced millions of dollars of gold.

Time Period Represented

Gold Rush (1849-1860)

Nearby Places