California Gold Country is a strip of land about 120 miles long north to south in the Sierra Nevada foothills and about five miles wide. Many of the oldest hotels in California opened during the 1850s Gold Rush era still operate today. The Gold Country region of Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties offer dozens of small towns with local flavor, gold rush history and dozens of wineries to add to an itinerary when driving the gateway highways to Yosemite National Park. This region is rich in natural resources, however, the local economy these days is greatly reliant on tourism.
Jamestown (pop. 3,500) in Tuolumne County is one of the small towns in the heart of the gold bearing strip of California. Jamestown got its start in 1848 within months of the news of gold. Many of these towns in the California Gold Rush area had more residents in the 1850s than they have today. Jamestown is a California Historical Landmark with many 19th century buildings and a few 19th century hotels on its Main Street.
Main Street, Jamestown
I arrived in Jamestown at sundown and the fading light on the trees of Main Street made for an appealing vision. These gold rush towns of the Sierra Nevada are quaint tourist destinations now. These were rough towns in the gold rush era. Jamestown was the region’s red light district until the 1930s. The remoteness of these gold country towns meant 1920s prohibition was a law often ignored in local saloons.
1859 Historic National Hotel
1859 Historic National Hotel was one of the first permanent structures of Jamestown. The property survived two fires that ravaged the town in 1901 and 1927. The current owners have operated the hotel since 1974 and remodeled the National Hotel to maintain its historic charm.
The property is categorized as a nine room B&B and ranks #1 on TripAdvisor for B&Bs in Jamestown.
This is another Gold Country hotel with a resident ghost. A few weeks ago I wrote about Lyle, the resident ghost at Groveland Hotel on Highway 120, the northern gateway to Yosemite National Park. I don’t think much about ghosts, but apparently there is an entire demographic of travelers who do, based on the number of ghost tales I saw associated with hotels in the Gold Country of California and ghost tales I read at hotels in Savannah and Charleston last month.
In disclosure though, I once felt I had an encounter with an other worldly presence in the Le Meridien Singapore Changi Beach back in June 2006. I had not thought about that encounter for several years until the Gold Country trip last month after several conversations about ghosts. Haunted Hotel or Singapore Changi Madness? (Oct 29, 2008).
I was at the National Hotel for a dinner as part of a Tuolumne County Visitors Center press visit in May 2014. I did not stay the night at the hotel, although I did get an opportunity to photograph some rooms on my own self-guided tour upstairs.
Stairway to second floor hotel rooms.
National Hotel room with queen bed. Apparently, there is one room of nine rooms with a single bed. The other eight rooms are queen beds.
This is an historic sign outside the room for Edison electrical lighting.
This room is equipped with Edison Electric Light.
I read the book The Devil in the White City this past weekend about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where Westinghouse underbid Edison to bring electricity to the fair and exposed millions of visitors to their first experience seeing electricity light up the night in an outdoor public space.
1859 National Hotel Jamestown room. Stuffed animals on the bed were featured at historic Groveland Hotel too where I stayed the following night.
Doors to Dining and Saloon rooms. The little features like the engraved metalwork on the door with the word ‘PUSH’ are the aspects of historic hotels I find charming.
Saloon ceiling of 1859 Historic National Hotel.
Saloon bar at 1859 National Hotel.
Dining room at 1859 National Hotel.
As part of the media dinner at the National Hotel, there was a wine presentation from Jamestown’s local winery, Inner Sanctum Cellars. Several hours at the hotel eating good food, drinking local wine and spending time with fine company is the kind of getaway Gold Country offers visitors.
Rates are around $140 per night. The hotel is a couples romantic destination. Children under 12 are not appropriate for the hotel according to the hotel website. A few miles away is the larger town of Sonora with some chain hotel lodging.
One of the primary attractions of Jamestown is Railtown 1897 State Historic Park with exhibits and information on the Sierra rail network built for transporting gold quartz to San Francisco and timber industry. TripAdvisor Things to Do Jamestown, CA.
Blogger Disclosure: My visit to 1859 Historic National Hotel in Jamestown, California was part of a sponsored three day press & media trip to Tuolumne County and Calaveras County, California May 19-21, 2014. Dinner and wine at the hotel were complimentary as part of a 12-person group of media, local vendors and tourism officials of Tuolumne County, California.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
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