Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Sierra Gold Country Series: Jamestown (1 of 5)

FYI: We visited five Gold Rush towns in one day, the ride was great and the weather was beautiful. We have visited each and every one on seperate occasions in the past, and I thought it was only fair to give each town the notoriety it deserves. Each can be made into a day trip, and they are all worth it, as I am about to show you....

Located in Tuolumne County , Jamestown is a small Gold Rush town situated in the Sierra Nevada foothills of North California at an elevation of 1,477 feet, with an estimated population of 2,178.

Jamestown was founded in 1848, within a few months after gold was discovered in Woods Creek, a mile south of town. This discovery was itself within a few months after the original discovery of gold in Coloma, upstream from Sacramento on the American River at John Sutter's sawmill, that initiated the California Gold Rush.

Jamestown fell on hard times after the Gold Rush, but had a resurgence in the 1880s and 90s because many underground quartz mines were nearby. In 1897, a steam railroad was built, running at first from Oakdale to Jamestown, and later to Sonora and Tuolumne City, that was headquartered in Jamestown and further contributed to the town's economic prospects

The Jamestown Hotel was first built in 1858 as a wood-frame boarding house. At various times during its existence, it operated as a bordello and a bus depot. At one time, it was the Motherlode Hospital and we have had a few hotel guests in recent years who were born there. The Hotel burned down twice along with much of Jamestown. During the 1970s, San Francisco brick was used to remodel the hotel exterior. Purchased from the Crocker family in the 1980s, the hotel underwent a major restoration and is now an 8-room bed and breakfast hotel with a restaurant and old-time bar.

The Emporium is significant for its late Victorian architecture and for its historical significance in the region. It was built in 1897 by architect and builder C.H. Wilson. It was constructed of brick, with business space on the ground floor and living quarters above. At the time it was built it was cited as being, next to the Hotel Victoria, the most imposing business structure in Tuolumne County. It is remarkably unaltered from its original form except for the removal of a back balcony.
It served as a pioneer department store through its original owner, J.W. Whitney, then Moses Arendt, who acquired it six months after construction, and finally Porter and Barendreght until 1969. It also served as the county's telephone station from 1906 to 1923, and is a landmark in Tuolumne County.

In 1859, Heinrich and Hannah Neilson established a hotel, bar and restaurant, that was to become known as the National Hotel. The two wooden buildings were among the first permanent structures in this early (1848) gold-rush town of Jamestown. Earlier establishments, were mostly tent and non-permanent wooden structures. The National Hotel has been in continuous operation from this date having survived two damaging fires in 1901 and 1927 which severely damaged the National Hotel, which had to then be remodeled.

In August of 1974, The National Hotel was purchased by present owners Stephen Willey and his brother Michel Willey. While the bar and hotel had functioned continuously from its beginning, the restaurant was not open, and had not been fully utilized since 1946. With limited funds, and providing the labor themselves, the restaurant was reopened in September 1975.

The National Hotel is one of the oldest continuously operated hotels in California!

Panning for gold is an inexpensive, educational and fun activity that the entire family can get into. An expert guide accompanies your party, demonstrating proper gold panning and sluice box techniques. Everyone will have fun with this hands on adventure that can yield valuable results.

According to Gold Prospecting Adventures proprietors Brent and Bryant Shock, "as big as the 1848 California gold rush was, it's a estimated that only 15% of the gold in the Mother Lode Country has been found."

Visitors from around the world continue to browse the Main Street shops, buying antiques, original art, gifts and souvenirs.

Jamestown has been the host of the Annual Sierra Hope Ride for the last 2yrs. This event brings bikers from everywhere within the surrounding areas, and they shut down the whole town, just for this event! It's a great ride, and a good time is had by all.

Jamestown also has the nearest Harley Davidson Dealership for miles, with a Harley themed Motel in the back!

I have not given all of Jamestown's gifts of history, beauty, and nostalgia. I hope that someday, if you ever travel to this part of Gold Country, you will make it a point to stop in and enjoy what Jamestown has to offer.

Well we are off to the next town in Gold Country, won't you come with me and see what the town has to offer?


  1. Thanks for sharing this Shelia, I will have to add Jamestown and the Sierra Foothills to my must visit list! The plan (in the future) is to take a summer, jump on the bike and travel across North America to visit all places people blog about. Love the pics too!

  2. Morning Bikermomma, great story I’m looking forward to the next one. Jamestown reminds me a lot of Natchez Mississippi (I hope to do a story on Natchez soon) well keep up the GREAT BLOG!!!!!
    Big Al

  3. i LOVE jamestown. this is where i ride when the day is all for me. thanks for sharing this great post and pics.

  4. great times at jamestown hotel the place to hang Friday and Saturday live music