Placer County Museum
The exhibit "What Killed the American Hat?" in December 2013 has just undergone an update with a whole new collection of women's hats. Guests, particularly children, are given a note to fill out and turn back in telling what they believe the hats were from (one answer was "From Aliens" and another "From Godzilla") and why they thought that. The answers are cute and clever.
Example: The hat is from "ALIENS"
Because: Aliens are here!
I think hats were done in by: Tornadoes
Because: When a big storm rips up your town the first thing to go are hats.
Open Daily 10:00 am – 4:00 pm - Closed Holidays
The Bernhard Museum Complex is a history museum located at 291 Auburn-Folsom Road in Auburn, California. It consists of one of the oldest buildings in Placer County, Traveler's Rest, which was built in 1851 as a hotel. The hotel was popular with miners and those traveling along Auburn Folsom Road. In 1858 it became a home. In 1868 it was bought by German immigrant Bernhard Bernhard. The property became a winery in 1874, with the addition of a winery building and an additional building for processing in 1881.
The museum features the restored winery and processing building, and the home which is decorated in the 1870 Victorian period style and is filled with antiques.The tour guides are dressed in period clothing and are very friendly and knowledgeable about the family and operations of the home and winery. It was intriguing to see and hear the way people lived more than 100 years ago. The house is filled antiques and the tour takes you right through the middle of everything (small children need to be watched carefully).
You can tour the home in less than an hour. Outside there is also a carriage barn which was built by the Native Sons of the Golden West. It houses a collection of wagons, including a buggy and a mud wagon. You can't get too close to the vehicles but they are very interesting to look at. In 2007, the Placer County Museums Living History Program built a summer kitchen.
Open Tuesday through Sunday 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Closed Holidays Admission Free
WALKING TOUR DOWNTOWN
WALKING TOUR OLDE TOWN
These tours are comprehensive with maps and photos along with history and interesting facts you can read as you go along and since they are self guided, go at completely your own pace. Very interesting points to see, or pass up as you like! Take a look on the website and print out the brochure to guide you when you go. And all FREE!
There are trails that go along the river on both sides. Trailheads are generally down form the old bridge area, and are under control of California Parks; thereby costing $10 to enter-not for me just to hike. I took the hike toward Calcutta Falls, both from the old Foresthill Bridge, just off the bend where it splits towards Foresthill and Hwy 49. that hike is about 2 /12 miles one way. I also hiked it for 3 miles one way off of Hwy 49, about 1 1/2 miles before the bridge. both hikes are free and parking for 20+ vehicles is along Hwy 49 right at the river.
Swimmig can also be an activity near the start of the trailhead.
This is seldom open for tourists coming to town, but it is used for local events and school children to see. It depicts the times of Chinese that lived on this block that climbs up form the center of old town section. Many of the Chinese house burned, but this remained.
This was a very nice tour presented by volunteer docents on the hour. The main house was built in 1851 by George Bishop and John Long to be a hotel stay for people coming to the region, and traveler tourists later. Most arrived by stage coach and this was a place to rest. They had at one time 150 acres of ground and most was used for grape vines for making wine. A number of outbuildings were on the grounds, and next to the house today is the original wine storage facility, and it has an underground tunnel connecting to the main house. Bernard purchased the property in 1858 after the hotel ceased, and he added to the house and turned the property into wine making.
A number of local people re-obtained period furniture to accompany some from the family still on premises. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11-4PM. Admission is free.
This Courthouse is in use today for activities of people residing in the County. Construction began in 1849, and was dedicated in1898. It sits on top of a hill at the peak of the town center. A nice museum is inside, housed in two rooms. One has a display of gold nuggets and fragments that was purchased back in early 1900's for $394, 000. Today, at $1300 per ounce for the 194 ounces, this gold is worth $4,035,000. It was used as a stables base for the county in its time to back up public activities. The Sheriff's office is the same as back from 1920's. There also is a room that displays Indian artifacts and interactive history of the Nisenan tribe that occupied this area for 1,000 years.
The museum is open 10-4PM daily, and admission is free.
This is a four story small, but tall building that dates back from 1891, and is one of the oldest remaining structures from that era. It was moved to the current location to accomodate the I80 freeway that came through the area just to the west 1/2 block away.
The doors usually are not open as best I could determine, but inside is an old firetruck
Old Town Auburn is an interesting diversion and worth a hour or two to explore. There are a few interesting buildings to walk and stores to explore. Sacramento Street runs roughly north and south and is the main street on which most of the Old Auburn businesses are. Most of these businesses either have a red brick or wooden painted red finish. According to one local source after major fires in 1855 and 1857, Auburn went from wood to brick construction. A couple of the streets that intersect Sacramento are a little steep such as Lincoln but shouldn't present a challenge to walk.
An interesting tidbit on Auburn is that it has the oldest continually operating post office in California. Now called Station B it is located in Old Town on the corner of Sacramento Street. Going inside the post office you feel like you are in a turn of the century small bank (see picture)
There is also an interesting old fire station that dates back to 1852 when it was built by community volunteers. It remained part of the fire department until 1954 and was moved to its current location in the 1960's.
If you walk south on Sacramento Street up the hill you will see many private residences that were built in the late 19th century. One home worth noting is a restored home that housed many chinese laborers working in the mines.
Turning up Lincoln off of Sacramento Street you will see on the left hand side a gorgeous white older colonial looking that is now a law office. (See picture below). The fence on this home is original dating back to the late 1800's.
Hidden among the Placer County Fairgrounds is the Placer County Gold Museum.
The Gold Country Museum, housed in a historic Works Progress Administration (WPA) building, interprets Placer County’s Gold Rush history. The building consists of moving in the dark through a recreated hard rock mine. Once you leave the mine, you see a a stamp mill and an assayer’s office. It’s here that gold was processed from the raw material removed from the mines. Exhibits of a miner’s cabin are also on display.
If you have kids they may want to pan for gold on an indoor water feature. You can also pan for your own gold in our indoor stream.
I found the museum to be ok but I have seen better mining museums other places. If you are pressed for time I would focus on the Bernhard Museum unless of course you have kids. One of the nice things about the museum is that it sits on the Placer County Fairgrounds and since the fair only operates for a few weeks a year there is plenty of room for the kids to run around in.
Admission to the museum is free. Panning for gold costs $3.00.
Located on the first floor of the old County Placer County Courthouse the museum explores the history of occupancy of Placer County. The museum is located in two areas of the first floor of the courthouse. Several coaches are located in one area and a much more detailed museum is further down the hall. The museum was worth a quick visit and staff were more than willing to answer any questions I had.
I;m not usually one for touring a period home but driving by the Bernhard Museum and seeing its bright white colors and well kept buildings lured me in. It was time well spent and I would encourage anyone interested in what gold rush life was like for a well to do family in the late 1800's to visit.
While walking the grounds and taking pictures I was offered a personal tour by Bev Jones who is a docent and storehouse of information who works as a volunteer for the museum. She explained to me that the structure was built in 1851 by George Bishop and John Long as the Traveler’s Rest Hotel. The reason that it was built there is because it was right on the main stage coach trail between Auburn and Folsom. She explained to me that the house and is one of Auburn’s oldest surviving buildings. The Bernhard home was either purchased or deeded to the Placer County Historical Society in the 1970's.
In 1868, the building became the home of Bernhard family. The Bernhard’s and their descendants lived here for nearly 100 years. Mr. Bernhard became a pioneer in the field of viticulture. Vines were planted, a wine storage building was constructed more land purchased, and in 1874 the two story stone winery was built.
A tour inside of the house is well worth the time. The house is furnished in time appropriate artifcats, many of them original, to show what life was like in the 1860's. The parlor and the kitchen were particularly impressive and well done.
Set on 2.3 acres and adjacent to the Placer County Fairgrounds, the Bernhard Museum Complex includes the Bernhard residence, wine storage building, wine processing building, and a barn.
The wine processing building contains artifacts pertaining to winemaking and barrel making. A hearse, sleigh, buggies, wagons, and blacksmithing equipment are on display in the barn.
Ken Fox is a dentist who beginning in the 1960's started sculpting statues out of concrete on his lot where his dental practice is in Auburn. At first his statues were met by disdain by local residents who saw them as grotesque and inappropriate. However his most famous work of a gold mining prospector was funded with taxpayer and private money and sits prominently in old town Auburn. Another statue of a Chinese Coolie laborer with a wheelbarrow is also on display downtown. Both of these statues appear on virtual tourist review pages.
However what fascinated me is still on his commercial lot in Auburn. Located in an industrial area of town are three large statues. The most prominent of which is a kneeling nude woman who Dr. Fox refers to as, "Freedom of Prayer." The statue is located right adjacent to his dental practice.
Just 2-3 miles east of town is an area not only with great ravine views but spectacular recreational opportunities. It is called the Auburn State Recreational Area. The recreation area constitutes about 35,000 acres of land along 40 miles of two rivers that were be part of the recreational enhancements with construction of the Auburn Dam.
At the confluence of the North Fork and Middle Forks of the American River (picture below) is one of the most popular areas for hiking, fishing, running, rafting, swimming and sunbathing. At the time I was there which was early November there were still at least two folks both sunbathing and swimming in the river.
Several multipurpose trails where hikers, mountain bikers and runners coexist were at the confluence area as well. The two I took were the Stagecoach Trail, where some of the first California settlers past, and the Lake Clementine trail which winds it way underneath the Foresthill Bridge up to the lake. Lake Clementine was created in 1939 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the North Fork Dam.
I recommend taking the Clementine Lake trail, which is just east of the Stagecoach Trail. Total walking time up and back is less than 2 hours with plenty of time for stops.
The Foresthill Bridge or as it sometimes called the Auburn Foresthill Bridge is the tallest bridge in California. At 732 feet it sits above the North Fork of the American River.
The bridge was constructed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1973, at a cost of just $ 13million, as a replacement for the for the existing Auburn-Foresthill bridge which would have been inundated by the construction of the proposed Auburn Dam. The bridge as well as the dam, which was never built, was fiercely objected to by environmentalists who were concerned about the loss of recreational opportunities on the American River below. However to the bridge's credit the new bridge is much safer than the winding old road and provides a more direct link between Auburn and the town of Foresthill.
The bridge is popular with parachutists and hangliders and has been the place for several movies who have shown vehicles sailing off the bridge to the river below.
There is no fee to view the bridge and Old Foresthill Road, where the best views are, is open 24-7 weather permitting.