Ophir (No. 463 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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The town of Ophir was originally known as “Spanish Corral” and renamed in 1850 after the Biblical Land of Ophir. In Biblical times, Ophir was widely known for its plentiful supply of the highest quality gold. The true location of this ancient city was never found; and its location remains one of today’s great mysteries, in spite of the efforts of contemporary scholars, historians and scientists.
The mines of Ophir were rich with gold. In 1852, the town of 500 residents was the largest and most prosperous of all in Placer County. Ophir offered the typical amenities of Gold Rush communities: bank, hotels, Wells Fargo office, daily stagecoach services, and numerous stamp mills. The Opherville Post Office opened in 1852 and closed in 1866. Another post office in Ophir opened in 1872 and closed in 1910.
The booming life of Ophir was short. A fire destroyed most of the buildings in town in 1853 and nothing was rebuilt. Many structures were either canvas tents or wood frame buildings. Residents moved to settle elsewhere in areas of new diggings.
Today the hills of Ophir are still scarred from the diggings; and still hide quartz deep within the mountain. The foundation of an old and abandoned stamp mill remains standing. Visitors to the area will see vineyards and orchards growing on the surrounding hillsides surrounding Ophir as well as cemeteries where pioneers of the area are buried. The lone building still standing in town is thought to be part of a stone bakery from the 1850s.
The California Historical Landmark is located on the southwest corner of Lozanos and Bald Hill Roads, three miles west of Auburn. There is an Ophir exit from eastbound Highway I-80.
Placer is a Spanish word describing surface mining. Gold that had been “placed” in streams or on the ground through natural erosion was processed by planning, rocking, and similar techniques. Such mining efforts made Placer County residents some of the richest in California.
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