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Community Profile: Historic Placerville has a hometown feeling

By Tinka Davi

Jack Russell Brewery is located in downtown Placerville.
Jack Russell Brewery is located in downtown Placerville.

At this time of year, Placerville is full of the holiday spirit, with decorations, carolers, holiday stagecoach rides on historic Main Street and shops packed with Santa’s treasures.

It reflects the community, which Vice Mayor Wendy Thomas said is a “real hometown and that’s what sets us apart.”

Broker Debra Miller of Bella Real Estate said, “People love to relocate to Placerville for the lifestyle it affords: a hometown feeling, a sense of community pride, friendliness, great restaurants and shops in the adorable Historic Downtown, the many festivals and location.”

It’s close to Lake Tahoe, Sacramento and surrounding areas, she said.

“We are super close to playgrounds, the American River, skiing, boating and that’s a tremendous benefit,” Thomas said.

She added that the downtown reflects the local community. It’s a place where people can stop and gather and go out to dinner. It has many restaurants and stores that are unique and the owners are part of the community. Those restaurants are booming as are the wineries and two breweries, Jack Russell Brewery Restaurant downtown and Outbreak Brewing Co.

Thomas was born and raised in Placerville. Her family moved there in 1850 (the Gold Rush).

Miller and her husband live in downtown. They’ve lived in Santa Cruz, Carmel and communities in El Dorado County.

“We had ranch animals in Carmel Valley and moved here so our children could ride off of the property and enjoy the farm life. As our farm and family aged, we became ‘empty nesters’ and decided that the City of Placerville was the place for us.”

“We can't imagine living anywhere else. We can walk to town, ride bikes on the trails and enjoy the restaurants at a moment’s notice.”

There are great bike and hiking trails and world class white-water rafting, she said.

“I have friends who visit me and wonder, ‘Why is that person waving to me as I drive by?’ I explain that we are very welcoming and like to say, ‘Hello’ to our neighbors.”

Placerville has single-family homes, condominiums, new senior-housing, historic homes, ranches and more. There’s a wide variety of homes that will suit most people's needs, Miller said.

Prices are affordable compared to the Bay Area, another reason people like to relocate here.

The new senior housing is Eskaton Village, which Thomas said is the largest older adult-community in the heart of Placerville. It’s a multilevel community with private homes, patio homes for single seniors, apartments and full-care memory units.

“People can age in place, no matter what place that is.”

Probably the most exciting is that next year the Hampton Inn and Suites will open, Thomas said. There’s been a long, critical need for our community to have a full-scale hotel.

Miller said that currently 60 homes are on the resale market in Placerville with a wide price range from $179,000 for a 2-bedroom, 1-bath fixer to $2,399,000 for a 3-bedroom, three-bath home on 131 acres. The median price for a Placerville home is approximately $350,000.

“The market is a ‘crazy’ one,” she said. “We have a very low market inventory with no end in sight for the shortage.”

“California has a low inventory in general due to the lack of new housing starts which raises prices across the board,” she said. “The California Association of Realtors forecast is home prices will increase an additional 4.2 percent in 2018, rising to $561,020. If the forecast proves accurate, then existing single-family home prices will exceed the record high of $560,270 set in 2007. Prices, however, will remain well below pre-recession records when taking inflation into account. The prediction for home prices to rise in 2018 is modest but expected.”

Tinka Davi is a freelance writer and editor based in Folsom.


Where: approximately 45 miles east of Sacramento

Size: Approximately 5.8 square miles

Population: 10,556

Government: Council-Manager

County: El Dorado

Incorporated: 1854

A Look Back: Gold Bug Park

Placerville is rich in history, said Vice Mayor Wendy Thomas who pointed to Gold Bug Park as a prime example.

It was developed early during the Gold Rush when prospectors were panning gold in the stream running through the park. Every spring the streams and rivers produced a new crop of gold into river bottoms.

In 1860, hard rock mining came into being and in 1888, the Hattie Mine was opened by William Craddock and John Dench.

John McKay took over in 1926 and searched for a more prominent vein structure. Tracks were laid for ore cars to assist removing the ore which was run through a crusher to extract gold.

The last owner of the mining claims was William Meagher who spent hours working the mines to keep his property title.

Later, when mining claims were no longer worked or expanded, the Bureau of Land Management took over the land as public property. In the early 1960s the federal government under the Recreational Use Purposes Act leased properties to government entities for recreational use. In 1965 Placerville received the lease with the promise that the land would not be sold, divided or used for any other purpose than recreation. Under a 25-year-lease agreement the city prepared to create a park. In 1980, Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park Development Committee, Inc., was formed to clean up, protect and defend the property for public use.

In 1985, the park was approved for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and also as a State Point of Interest on the California registry.

Gold Bug Park is now owned and operated by the City of Placerville, the only municipality in the state of California to own a gold mine.

Gold Bug Park reflects the historic era with a blacksmith shop, Hattie’s Gift Shop and volunteer docents dressed in period costume.

Information compiled from the Gold Bug Park website.