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Placerville Real Estate
Highway 50 is an interstate highway of sorts as it stretches from California to the Atlantic shore, but follows the continental backway rather than the throughway. It is sometimes described as the first transcontinental highway, dating from the turn of the 20th century. A couple of stoplights allow Highway 49 and local traffic to cross, the only signals for hundreds of miles along Highway 50.
Past this hurrying parade, Placerville pops into view. The main street is amazingly called Main Street -- rather uncommon in Gold Rush towns. The thoroughfare is agreeably crooked and follows historic mule pack train trails. It features a fork at town center that is marked by a venerable fire bell tower. The fork is symbolic of Placerville’s mindset -- for the town mixes the old and the new in a curious but acceptable fashion. The downtown feature storefronts with old western style facades and are a palette of earth tones -- brown, green, and bluish. But the old buildings have new contents. It is a reverse facelift in a way. Instead of a new face on an old exterior, it is an old surface with fresh interiors. The businesses are typical of the larger Gold Country towns, with an emphasis on tourism and free enterprise in full riot. The imposing three-story red brick Cary House dates from 1860. It was from the second-floor balcony that the famous newspaper editor Horace Greeley delivered a rousing speech about his hair-raising, rough-and-tumble stagecoach ride from Genoa, Nevada, to Placerville. The County Courthouse is a stately faux classical style government building that emits a cool efficiency. It stands in contrast to the warmer, homier aspects of the rest of town.
Across Main Street is the Hangman’s Tree Historic Spot. This saloon refers to Placerville’s earliest incarnation as Hangtown. The Gold Rush boomtown had a string of lynchings and was known by this macabre moniker until 1854. The bar marks the spot of the Elstner’s Hay Yard hanging tree. A plaque of the wall indicates that the tree’s stump is still under the building. Just so you don’t miss the point, a life-size dummy victim hangs from a noose above the entrance.
Placerville also is celebrated as the originator of the “Hangtown Fry.” The story goes that a placer miner struck it rich. He approached a local restaurateur and asked what were the three most expensive items on the menu. When informed that the three were eggs, bacon, and oysters, the miner exclaimed, “Well, fry ‘em up!” and the Hangtown Fry was born. Some places in town still serve up this tantalizing concoction.It is the geobiographical stew that gives Placerville additional interest. This blending of noteworthy personalities and legendary landscape provides this Gold Country town with a certain stature that others are hard pressed to match. All the Mother Lode towns have claims to fame, but Placerville had a more frequent intersection of celebrity and location. Placerville saw visits from Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, John Studebaker, Phillip Armour, Edwin Markham, and a host of other 19th century celebrities. Placerville was also the terminus of the mail route of “Snowshoe Thompson” who delivered mail by skiing through the mountains in the winter. For more about Thompson, see Dan DeQuille, “Snowshoe Thompson” in the Literature section of the SNVM Arts Gallery.