Wednesday, June 20, 2012


City Hotel

While traveling around the Gold Rush area we made a point of returning to Columbia, the Gem of the Southern Mines. It’s a wonderful old town that never became a ghost town but did fall into disrepair until it was acquired by the State of California and turned into Columbia State Historical Park.

Columbia is a Gold Rush town that never died. If you're wondering what life was like in 1800’s, come here. Columbia State Park makes the preservation real. There are no cars in the historic area, it’s a quiet old town, especially after dark.

Like most towns in the Mother Lode, it's quite small. The state park portion is only a few blocks long; but then, so was Columbia in the 1800’s. It's good for a day trip, but you could also stay over night at the old time City Hotel. It has a fine dining room and is in the center of town. We’ve stayed there, it’s a great place.
Historically, the town started in 1850 when a handful of prospectors made camp near there. They found gold and before the month was out, a tent and shanty town housing several thousand miners was started. Its original name was American Camp and was soon changed to Columbia.

Streets were laid out, and in 1854, fire, the scourge of many mining towns, destroyed everything in Columbia's central district except the one brick building. When the town was rebuilt, locally produced red brick was used for 30 buildings. Iron doors and window shutters were included for additional fire protection.

At its peak, Columbia was the second largest city in California. Its businesses consisted of four banks, 30 saloons, 27 produce stores, hotels and an express office. The residents were thought to be “wicked,” because they brought in bears and bulls to fight each other for entertainment. Horace Greeley was said to have considered the opposition between “bears and bulls” the source for the famous Wall Street description of stock market dynamics.

Wilson-McConnell House
This was our second trip to Columbia and on our first trip we were lucky enough to meet Geraldine McConnell who was known as Mrs. Columbia. She was in her 90’s when we met her and she was very friendly and full of knowledge about Columbia. She was instrumental in saving the town working with Gov. Earl Warren but she unfortunately passed away at 99 years old. Her house, the Wilson-McConnell house was built 1878 and has been used in many movies including High Noon with Gary Cooper and Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood among many others. It’s a beautiful old house.
There is a lot to see and do in Columbia. It’s a wonderful old town, and it’s a must see if you’re in the Gold Rush area.
Highly Recommended!
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