Mokelumne Hill History
With discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, the land was quickly overrun by prospectors. Mexicans from Sonora and other provinces brought well-honed mining skills. Sitting astride rich deposits, Mokelumne Hill soon became the economic and social center of the mining district: “Mokelumne diggings on-the-hill.” Devastated by fire in 1854, reconstruction used a distinctive volcanic stone, rhyolite, that was quarried close by.
The cosmopolitan population of the early days included French, Germans, Chinese, Irish, Mexicans, Jews, and Chileans, besides American Yankees. A unique microclimate (inspiring the modern nickname, “Miami of the Sierra”) brought a steady stream of immigrants from Genoa resulting in the prosperous Upper and Lower Italian Gardens that sent produce to other towns. The Upper Garden is now Marredda Park. Commercial winemaking has its remains in the stone walls along West Center Street; the barred windows suggesting the misnomer: “The Jail.”
By 1866, when the County Seat was moved to San Andreas and as gold gave out, the town experienced a significant decline in population. Cattle ranching became the most important activity and grazing lands still dominate the surrounding landscape. Lumber mills and a major cement-production facility nearby gave employment to remaining residents. People enjoyed Town Hall dances and movie shows, and card games in the saloons.
Protected by historic ranches, “Moke Hill” is uniquely populated by descendants of its pioneer families while welcoming to newcomers. Volunteer efforts support the thriving Town Hall and Public Library, while its parks – including a baseball field, horse arena, and tennis courts – are a popular part of life. Mokelumne Hill is a vital part of the Mother Lode’s “Gold Country.” While its historic architecture is featured in virtually every guide to the region, the close-knit community has avoided being transformed into a modern tourist town.
Get more information on the fascinating history of Mokelumne Hill by visiting the Mokelumne History Society which shares a building downtown with the Mokelumne Hill Library. Here you can also see photos by Edith Irvine, a resident of Mokelumne Hill for most of her life from the 1880s onwards. Not only do her photos feature Mokelumne Hill during this interesting time in its history, when hard rock mining was still taking place, but she also happened to be in San Francisco on the day of the 1906 earthquake and captured many fascinating imagines of the effects on the City. More Mokelumne Hill history can also be found on the CalaverasHistory.org website.
Mokelumne Hill Historic Walking Tour
Use this map to learn the history of each building in historic Mokelumne Hill. Scroll down for details. This map and tour is also in the Calaveras Experience Guide along with maps and historic guides to Angels Camp, Murphys and San Andreas.
NOTE: DHB I Designated Historic Building
- Shutter Tree Park 8360 East Center St
In the 19th century, commercial buildings faced Main Street and Chinatown faced on Center Street. In the 1970s, the then vacant land was conveyed to the Veterans Memorial District for a park, designed by resident landscape architect John Grace. An iron shutter embedded in a tree was a park landmark for many years.
Chinatown ran east along Center Street from Shutter Tree Park to the Catholic Cemetery and south up China Gulch. Chinese miners came for traditional food and goods, companionship and to visit the Temples. An 1898 fire started by rival Chinese wiped out most of this community.
- Mary Wilborn History Garden 8322 Main St
Remnants of a stone wall against the side of the library are all that remain of the original Gold Rush building on this lot. About 1900, a livery stable was here with a dance hall above. The two long stone footings in the center of the lot held supports for heavy wagons. The small park is dedicated to Mary Wilborn, generous town resident.
- Bernardi-Gobbi Saloon (c.1895) 8316 Main St
(DHB 20) This commercial frame building was built as a saloon by Frank Bernardi, periodically operated by Severino Gobbi, former owner of the popular Oasis Saloon across Main Street. By the 1930s the building housed a barber shop with upstairs private residence.
- Calaveras County Courthouse (1854) 8304 Main St
(DHB 21) Built in 1854, was the County Courthouse until 1866 when the county seat moved to San Andreas. The building was then sold to the Peek family who installed a store, saloon, and offices. George Leger purchased the building in 1874 and incorporated it into his newly rebuilt hotel. (see No. 6).
- Hotel Léger (1875) 8304 Main St
(DHB 22) The Hotel de France was purchased by George Leger in 1853, and was reconstructed as a one-story stone structure after the 1854 fire. After another fire in 1874, the current two-story building was built and incorporated the former Courthouse on the north (see No. 5). Tt has served as the social center of town for over 160 years.
- Hexter House (1889) 8320 Lafayette St
(DHB 24) This fine, Italianate-style home was reportedly built by Kaufman and Fannie Hexter for their daughter Amelia and her husband Louis Schrag. Both families, German Jews, were town butchers from
- Telegraph Office (c.1890) 8284 Main St
(DHB 23) This Ttalianate-style building is one of the town’s oldest wooden commercial buildings. lt housed the Post Office in the 1890s and the telegraph office by 1912. Dr. Simon Stuckey, the town’s doctor for many decades, had his offices here.
- Eugenie Baudin House (c.1895) 8278 Main St
(DHB 47) The lower story of this house dates to the 1850s and features arched doors facing Main Street, likely housing a commercial venture. The current frame house dates to the 1890s when French-born widow Eugenie Baudin lived here with her daughter and son-in-law, Jeannie and John Meyer.
- Danz House (1936) 8266 Main St
(DHB 55) This house was constructed by town blacksmith Charlie Danz in 1936, along with the detached garage on the south. It sits on the stone foundations of a Gold Rush building that housed his father, John’s, carpenter shop in front with family home behind.
- Bakery (1970s) 8252 Main St
The current building is a replica of the town bakery that sat here from the later 1800s until the 1940s. It featured a domed, wood-fired stone oven operated by Emile and Mary Mangold for many years (see No.14). The building was reconstructed by Emilio Prunetti, town historian.
- Bondsteel House (1890s) 8220 Main St
In the 1870s, Church Street was the route to San Andreas and by 1890 this home served as a landmark at the busy intersection. Added onto over the past century, it was occupied for some 60 years by Lynford and Irene Bondsteel, featuring their year-round flower garden.
- Thomson House (1850s) 8202 Main St
One of the earliest residences in town, this home once featured a “shift room”: a small walled-in sleeping room in the center of the basement, complete with a door and screened windows, where miners who worked the night shift could sleep soundly in a cool, quiet space under the house.
- Mangold House (c.1890s) 8197 Main St DHB 35
The Mangolds were the town bakers by 1910 (see No.11), Emile from Switzerland and Mary from Germany. Married in 1908, they lived in this home that Mary had shared with her husband, butcher George Seifre, before his death.
- Fred Lombardi House (late 1930s) 8215 Main St
(DHB 44) Fred Lombardi, grandson of Swiss immigrants Attilio and Mary and son of Alex, (see No. 22) resided in this home in the 1950s. Descendants of the Lombardi ranching family still live in this historic home.
- Parsonage (c.1855-1860) 8237 Main St
(DHB 34) Constructed for the Congregational Church to the north (see No. 17) the home was sold to private owners in 1905. Recently renovated, it retains much of its historic character, with siding matching the church.
- First Congregational Church (1856) 8243 Main St
(DHB 1) Said to be the oldest Congregational church building in California. The $2700 needed for its construction was raised by ladies of the congregation taking up a collection every Saturday night from the celebrating miners.
- Biebrich Brewery (c.1854) 8261 Main St
Biebrich Brewery (c.1854) 8261 Main St
This rhyolite stone building was once home to the Pacific Brewery owned by Jacob Biebrich and later by Frederick Schnebely. By 1890 the building was in ruins but was restored as a shop and dwelling before 1912. It features a full basement with arched ceilings. The front facade was modified in the mid-20th century when the traditional double iron doors were replaced with a large single light window.
- Hutchinson House (c.1910) 8273 Main St
(DHB 53) In 1866 this building was the single-story home of Horace Ray with his “Tin Shop.” Major renovations by Ed Hutchinson, circa 1910 eliminated the shop, and added a second story along with elegant Queen Anne style elements.
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- Town Hall (1903) 8283 Main St
(DHB 2) Built as a Town Hall and Theatre in 1903, it replaced a fire house that had a banquet room/town hall above. In 1936, a WPA work crew, (a Depression Era federal work program), excavated a basement and added a dining room. In 2012 a major exterior restoration was accomplished with funds raised by the community.
- Gebhardt House (c.1854) 8331 Stevenson St
(DHB 36) This home was built by Augustus Gebhardt, a German butcher, behind his store on Main Street (see No.25) and sold with his business to Joseph Halk in 1861. The home and adjacent buggy house have been restored.
- Alex Lombardi House (c.1930s) 8285 Clark St
(DHB 45) Alex Lombardi’s parents, Attilio and Mary, from Switzerland, married in Mokelumne Hill in 1876 and founded this large ranching family. Alex, a blacksmith, and his wife Frances raised nine children in town.
- Fire House (c.1950) 8295 N. Main St
A fire house was on this lot as early as 1890. A new building was built by 1910, replaced by the current structure in about 1950. This building is now privately owned; the town’s modern firehouse is near the intersection of Church Street and Hwy 26.
- Hodapp & Friend Store (1854) 8299 Main St
(DHB 3) This southernmost building is part of a three-lot complex of stone stores. In 1861 it was operated by early merchant Edward Wiehe supplying groceries and provisions. Later Davidson & Peek offered groceries, hardware, wines, and liquors.
- Center Market (1854) 8303 Main St
By 1854 a meat market was established by Augustus Gebhardt between the walls of No. 24 and No. 26, advertising beef, veal, smoked hams, mutton, pork sausages, poultry and game. Its stockyard and slaughterhouse was located west of town and the owner’s residence directly behind. Subsequent owners were the Halk and Hexter families.
- McFadden Stone Store (1854) 8307 Main St
(DHB 4) Built by grocer William McFadden, the store was operated by Conrad Platt as a hardware store and tin shop by 1858, then by merchant William DePew and his wife in the 1870s and 1880s. John Meyer had his Oasis Saloon here in the early 1900s. The Reed family operated it as a grocery.
- Danielewicz Stores (1854) 8317 Main St
(DHB 5/6) Originally two stores built by brothers Julius & Gustave Danielewicz of Prussia. A sequence of owners operated a saloon and sold clothing, groceries, books, cigars, furniture, watches and pianos. In 1874 L. Weil advertised he was selling all of his variety store stock in preparation to “remove to Virginia City”. By 1882 it housed Peters’ Drug Store. ln the 1910s, the
- McFadden Store (c.1854) 8317 Main St
(DHB 7) Nestled between the walls of No. 27 and No. 29, this popular liquor store was operated by McFadden & Patterson in the 1870s. Patterson added the Italianate false façade in the 1880s. By the early 1900s it was combined with the Danielewicz Stores.
- McFadden Liquor Store (c.1854) 8325 Main St
(DHB 8) William McFadden’s widow Julia operated a liquor and tobacco store from 1864 until the early 1880s. The rhyolite building was briefly the residence of John Rider before becoming Henry Krim’s saloon in the early 1900s and the Marre Saloon by 1911.
- Union House (1854-1865) 8345 Main St
On this site in 1854, Henry Atwood built his three-story stone hotel featuring a famed dining room and bar with billiard table. In 1865, a fire consumed the building and spread to adjacent parts of town. In the 1950s, Syd and Joe Mathos’s gas station was built on the empty comer. It was transformed into a restaurant in the 1960s.
- Levinson & Bro. Store (1854) 8373 W. Center St
(DHB 9) Greek Revival in style, this rhyolite building was first a store run by Levinson and in 1855 also housed Wells Fargo. From 1861 to 1880 it was occupied by the Miner’s Drug Store run by the Hoerchner family. (see No. 38) In the 1920s the two center front doors were combined into one large opening for the Frank Peek Garage.
- Rapetto & Rogers Stone Store (1854) 8353 W. Center St (DHB 10)
This Greek Revival style building of rhyolite stone had a series of owners beginning with Rogers, Rapetto, and Raggio. Louis Baldwin operated it as a hotel for many years. The lower story has housed several enterprises including a wheelwright and Jolm Gardella’s mortuary.
- Weihe House (c.1860) 8437 W. Center St
(DHB 11) This striking Gothic Revival residence was owned by Edward Weihe, an early merchant who, by 1861, was advertising groceries and provisions in his store on Main Street opposite Leger’s Hotel, as well as at his “branch store” at nearby Chile Gulch.
- Belisle House (c.1860s) 8475 W. Center St
(DHB 40) This stately Greek Revival home fronted what was once the main road to Jackson. In the 1930s Paul and Ella Belisle resided there. Paul emigrated to Caifornia from South Dakota and married Ella Lester, working as a blacksmith at a local mine.
- Queen Anne House (1890s)8448 W. Center St
- Sturges/Costa Stone Store (1854) 8402 W. Center St
(DHB 12) Built of local rhyolite after the 1854 town fire, a Greek Revival building owned by H.M. Sturges in 1856. During the 1860s it was Lancaster & Scott’s shoe store, in the 1880s and 1890s Charles Jacobs’s merchandise store, and after 1900 a warehouse for G. Costa. Now a residence, it has recently been restored.
- Greve House (c.1850s) 8450 Peek Circle
(DHB 52) One of the town’s earliest frame homes, a Greek Revival style complete with French doors and windows extending nearly to the floor level. By 1900 it was occupied by the pioneer Greve family who operated the Hotel Leger for many years. It
- LaForge/Hoerchner House (1854) 8489 Hoerchner Place (DHB 32) Built by A.B. LaForge, this is one of the oldest frame homes in town. Dr. Adolphe H. Hoerchner, who operated the first County hospital near Rich Gulch, lived here with his family from the 1860s into the 1890s, practicing medicine. Its distinctive three gables distinguish this Gothic Revival landmark. It has been carefully restored.
- Cazaretto Home (1880s) 8468 Hoerchner Place
This traditional style home with gable roof and wrap-around porches is typical of many in the Mother Lode. It was home to the Antone and Louise Cazaretto family in the early twentieth century. Their daughter Flossie, was born here, and later raised her family in the home with her husband Elvin Sabatini.
- Sturges/Peek House (c.1854) 8409 Peek Circle
(DHB 17) The rhyolite stone residence was originally one-story, built for H.M. Sturges who owned the nearby store on Center Street (see No. 41). In 1866 the home was purchased by Deputy Sheriff G. F. Wesson. In the 1890s, the Frank Peek family added the Italianate-style second story.
- Sturges Stone Store (1854) 8459 E. Center St
(DHB 18) Originally a two-story Greek Revival building owned and operated by H.M. Sturges. In the 1870s it served Hexter and Adler as the Washington Market. From the late 1880s through the 1920s it housed the Peek Store, and during much of that time, the Post Office. After a fire in 1945, the second floor was demolished and its stones were used to construct the present building on the east.
Adams and Co./IOOF Hall (1854) 8360 W. Center St
(DHB 16) Originally only two stories, this handsome town landmark first served as the Wade Hanson & Co. store and by 1858 housed the express office of Adams & Co., followed by Wells Fargo in 1868. The International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) purchased the building in 1861, adding the third story meeting room and leasing out the lower floors. Contrary to popular legend, it is not the first three-story building in the Mother Lode.
- Webb Stone Store (1854) 8386 W. Center St
(DHB 15) Built for J. Webb, within a few years it was serving as the town’s Post Office. By the early 1860s, L.M. Hellman’s “Segar Store” was in residence followed by numerous other businesses. In the automobile age it was renovated as a garage and housed Swanson’s Body Shop into the 1960s.
- Abrams/Sokolosky Stone Store (1854)8368 W. Center St (DHB 14)
Owned by Samuel Abrams in the 1850s, and the Sokolosky family after that, this rhyolite building was the home of the Calaveras Chronicle, one of the first weekly newspapers in California, with a paid circulation of 16,000 in 1872. Later it served as a store operated by C. Guiffra and, in the 1910s, by the Nuners.
- L. Mayer Building (1854) 8388 W. Center St
(DHB 13) This rhyolite stone building was built for entrepreneur L. Mayer. It later served as Ferdinand Bach’s long-popular barber shop and store from the 1860s. By 1895 the building housed a restaurant. Only the stone facade remains today.