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Groveland (No. 446 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. –

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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When Groveland was first established in 1848, it was part of the Savage Diggins area, settled by James Savage. Several Mexican bandits were notorious for robbing miners as well as stealing from and burning area trading posts. They also were reported to have stolen horses, and they were guilty of murdering miners. Savage hunted down the bandits and they were eventually hanged at an oak tree near the trading post. The mining camp became known as “Garrote,” the Spanish word for “death by strangulation.” Shortly after the first hanging, there was another one a few miles away. That camp was named Second Garrote, because of the second hanging.

The population of Garrote grew quickly after 1851. The Miwok Native Americans settled into a reservation, while the Mexicans and Caucasians lived in town. Bustling with saloons and bordellos, miners visited on Sundays to enjoy a day filled with drinking and gambling.

The gold rush slowed during the 1860s and 1870s, leaving a population of only 100 people. Cattle ranching had replaced gold mining. Specialty cooking and catering took the place of saloons and dining halls. The remaining residents decided to give their town a more respectable image with a new name. They took the name Groveland because it was the Massachusetts hometown of one of the town’s prominent citizens.

Gold rush fever returned to Groveland in 1875 when the price of gold increased. Miners returned to recover the gold that remained deep under the ground. This time mine workers dug deep shafts into the mines and the boom lasted for the next 40 years. Even as the second gold rush was ending, Groveland was gearing up for yet another “boom.” This time workers rushed in to set up headquarters for building the Hetch Hetchy Dam, a number of other reservoirs, canals, mountain tunnels and the railroad.

Building new Hetch Hetchy Dam was vigorously opposed by John Muir, an activist, writer and founder of the American conservation movement. Losing the battle for Hetch Hetchy was his worst defeat. He died in 1914 and the dam construction began the following year and continued until 1925.

Groveland is home to the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. The historic Groveland Hotel, built in 1849, provides luxurious accommodations for guests traveling to and from Yosemite National Park, 26 miles away.

Groveland is located on Highway 120. The historical marker is located on the northeast corner of Main Street (State Highway 120) and Back Streets. This town is part of the Mark Twain Bret Harte Trail.

Tuolumne County

A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the county, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the gold rush.

Time Period Represented


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