Serving customers at American River Pizza and Grill in Cool is restaurant co-owner Ray Attleberger. Specializing in burgers and ribs, the restaurant is a favorite hangout for Cool residents and travelers through the area.
Serving customers at American River Pizza and Grill in Cool is restaurant co-owner Ray Attleberger. Specializing in burgers and ribs, the restaurant is a favorite hangout for Cool residents and travelers through the area. Dave Henry

Residents seeking a country setting, outdoor recreation and a relaxing lifestyle have found it in Cool, a spot in the road at highways 49 and 193 in El Dorado County that dates back to the Gold Rush era.

"Cool has a very beautiful, rural lifestyle that's close to all the amenities in Sacramento," said Realtor Bob Sutton of Timberline Realty in Cool. "The reason families move up here is to get out of the city lifestyle."

Although the pace of life in Cool is laid-back, people have easy access to shopping, jobs and a variety of amenities.

Tami Sutton, Bob Sutton's wife and also an agent at Timberline Realty, likes everything about Cool -- the location, the atmosphere, the access to the American River and the recreational amenities.

"Cool has everything we need -- grocery stores, gyms, hardware stores, plus biking, hiking boating and canoeing -- every kind of outdoor recreation," she said.

In an area that includes Cool, buyers can find homes in a golf course community, horse and ranch properties, hilltop homes and properties with lots of privacy.

Among them is Auburn Lake Trails, a gated community with more than 1,000 lots, Tami Sutton said.

"People driving by don't realize how many homes are there," she said.

The community has a golf course, tennis courts, swimming pools and hiking and biking trails that lead to the American River. Horse trails also are a big attraction and a reason many people buy homes in Cool, Sutton said.

"About 75 percent of the Auburn Lake Trails community is built out, and there are still some vacant lots," she said. "Lots are 1/4 (acre) to 7-plus acres. Anything an acre and up is considered horse property."

As in other communities in the Sacramento region, the real estate market in Cool is starting to recover.

"It's a slow recovery, but it is a recovery," Bob Sutton said. "Prices are going up a couple of percentages over the last six years."

Inventory is low, about 50 percent to 70 percent of what it normally is. Normal was close to 300 listings; now fewer than 100 listings are in the area, which consists of Cool, Georgetown, Garden Valley, Greenwood and Pilot Hill.

The communities are within a 15-mile radius along the Divide, a marker that divides the North Fork and the Middle Fork of the American River, Tami Sutton said.

Prices range from $150,000 to $250,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on 1/4 acre to 1/2 acre. Equestrian properties and ranches are priced from $500,000 to $600,000.

Shopping in Cool includes a mall built in recent years at highways 193 and 49. The mall has a market, a bank, a sandwich shop and other small businesses.

A 100-year old retail center, Boardwalk, has the Suttons' real estate office, a flower shop and a grocery store.

People in Cool tend to live and work in the area or they commute to Auburn, 6 miles away, or Sacramento, 40 miles away.

"A lot of retirees live up here, along with working families and a large contingent of horse people with substantial-size ranches," Tami Sutton said.

Other residents are people with second homes in the area who like coming to Cool for the recreation, such as horseback riding, hiking and biking on the trails and fishing.

"Cool is the gateway to go up to the Sierra foothills," Bob Sutton said.

Youngsters attend schools in the Black Oak Mine Unified School District, which are highly rated, he said.

"The climate is very mild," he said. "It's warm in the summer, and the winters are mild. We don't get a lot of snow in Cool.

"People are very warm and friendly here," he said. "They like the small town. They're close enough to Sacramento to go an event at Sleep Train Arena. They can drive there and then come back to a rural lifestyle. People love it here."

The history of Cool begins around the time of the Gold Rush. In the early days, the community was called Cave Valley and was one of three large homesteads that included the Knickerbocker and Penobscot homesteads. All three also served as stagecoach stops.

According to local lore posted on the Timberline Realty website and elsewhere, the town was named for Aaron Cool, a circuit preacher who traveled the gold country serving miners and their families.

A second version of the history of Cool, featured on the American River Pizza and Grill website, tells of another preacher, Peter Y. Cool.

Are the two men the same?

Cool resident Jerry Pozo, who has researched Cool's origin, said the town was named for the Rev. Peter Yawger Cool of New York.

Pozo portrays the Rev. Cool, appearing in full costume at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, schools and civic organizations. He is a member of the Cemetery Players, who portray various historical people.

"Peter Cool was an itinerant preacher whose name shows up in census records of the 1850s to 1870," Pozo said.

Pozo also has discovered a diary of the minister's mining experiences in 1851 and 1852, as well as documents related to Peter Cool from the Pacific School of Religion, the California Methodist Conference and the California State History Library in Sacramento.

Pozo said the name Aaron in Hebrew means "of the mountains."

"Someone could have called him Brother Aaron, and that's how the story of Aaron Cool developed," Pozo said. "But there's only one preacher named Cool."