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Jamestown (No. 431 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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Considered the gateway to the Mother Lode, Jamestown has both preserved and prospered long after the boom and bust years of the Gold Rush. Visitors strolling through the town will see period architecture in city buildings and homes. The railroad was one of Jamestown’s primary assets from its earliest days. The railroad transported quartz, lumber and other goods out of the county. By 1898, working on the railroad was the primary place of work for area residents.

The first person to find gold in Jamestown was Benjamin Wood from Oregon. He arrived in 1848, a few months after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Woods Creek was named for him. The town was named for Colonel George F. James, a wealthy attorney from San Francisco. James became the first mayor and later presented the town residents with a series of shady get-rich schemes. None of them were successful and James left town under the cover of night and never returned.

The Historic National Hotel is one of a handful of continuously operating hotels since the Gold Rush. The Jamestown Hotel currently operating has been renovated and used for multiple purposes since the Gold Rush. The hotel burned down twice and was rebuilt again in the 1970s.

At one time, the Jamestown Hotel was the Mother Lode Hospital. A young woman from out of town stepped off the train and checked into the hospital to deliver her baby. Unfortunately, the young woman, Mary Rose and her baby died during childbirth. She had been forbidden to see her husband in her homeland and he was sent away. He later died a war prisoner in India. Shortly after her death, there were instances where she and her husband’s spirit were said to be staying in the hospital room where she died.

Today the railroad continues to be a major part of life in Jamestown, as the home of the Steam Sierra Railway and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Railtown is a fully operational locomotive repair and maintenance facility and open for public tours, events and rides. Visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and California State Railroad Museum for more information about trains.

The California Historical Landmark is located on the northeast corner of Main and Donovan Streets in Jamestown. This site is part of the Mark Twain and 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 country, 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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