Placer County history dates back to before the Gold Rush in 1848. Explore the Gold Country's rich history by visiting one of its museums.
The history of Placer County is an exciting part of California's cultural experience. To be able to view on site and up close the history of Placer County is an experience you will only be able to do by visiting the many varied museums within the county boundaries.
Placer County was home to the peaceful Nisenan Native Americans for hundreds of years before the discovery of gold in 1848 brought hordes of miners from around the world.
Each of the museums will give you a background on various aspects of Placer County's history.
557 Lincoln Street
Roseville's first permanent library was constructed in 1912 with Lincoln-made brick, terra cotta from Gladding McBean and granite from Rocklin. The library was funded in part by Andrew Carnegie. In 1979 Roseville moved its main library to a new location and the Roseville Historical Society set up the museum which houses a music room with instruments from 1865-1926 and an airplane collection of 80 models ranging from the 1920s to the World War II era. Also on display is a model of the Sacramento Northern Street Car Line.
1970 Johnson Ranch Drive
Guided museum tours, changing exhibits, summer campfires, and programs teach the wisdom of an ancient culture. The nature area is dotted with oak trees and offers a loop trail that takes you past ancient petroglyphs (rock art) and hundreds of bedrock mortars (acorn grinding holes), which provide evidence of the native people, the NIsenan or "Southern Maidu", who were the original residents of the site. Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm; Sat, 10am-1pm; 3rd Saturdays also open 6:30pm to 8:30pm to coincide with Roseville's Third Saturday's Art Tour. Note that there are some closures during the holiday seasons (notably, the week following Christmas 'til Jan. 2nd).
3895 Rocklin Road
Go back in time to relive and explore Rocklin's history of Rocks, Rails and Ranches. See the tools and images from the time when Rocklin was the "Granite Capitol of the West". The Central Pacific Rocklin Roundhouse provided engines to power the Transcontinental Railroad over the high Sierra in 1869. Discover the remarkable story of the 27,000 acre Spring Valley Ranch. The museum is located in the building previously known as the Fletcher-Moon House.
Built in 1883 at St. Mary's of the Assumption Catholic Church, the 125 year old building was abandoned and in abject disrepair. Today it is restored to beyond it original condition in 1883. It is now "Old St. Mary's Chapel" and is used for wedding ceremonies, receptions, concerts and other gatherings It is located at 5251 Front Street, Rocklin. (916) 415-1150.
106 Vernon Street
With exhibits detailing the history of telephone communications and of the Roseville Telephone Company, this museum offers a portrayal of an often-overlooked aspect of our past. Displays include old-style switchboards and telephones; models range to present day.
5000 Rocklin Road
Located in Rocklin, Sierra College has a museum of Natural History which houses biology exhibits of North American mammals, marine mammals, Eurasian mammals and African mammals. They also have paleontology and geology exhibits and several nature trails that wind through the local woodland. The most popular trail starts from the northeast corner of parking lot K off of Sierra College Blvd.
The Gold Country
291 Auburn-Folsom Road
This complex was built as an inn in 1851 called Travelers Rest. The house, one of the oldest wooden structures in Placer County, was added c. 1868. Now restored, the house is furnished with late Victorian pieces. Also located here is an 1874 winery, one of the first in the state.
99 Railroad Street
This Heritage Museum is housed in the old Colfax Depot which has been completely remodeled. The museum will take you back in time with exhibits of days gone by.
24601 Harrison Street
Museum displays portray the history of the Foresthill and Iowa Hill Divides and include a model of the Foresthill Logging Company, firefighting equipment, blacksmith shop, jail, depictions of life during the Gold Rush and early modes of transportation.
219 Maple Street
Tours by Appointment Only: 530 878-4510
The first hospital in Placer County was established in 1855 in a building at 219 Maple Street, Auburn by a $1400 grant from the State of California to care for the indigent. This stately Victorian has now been returned to its medical roots as a history museum displaying the course of medical care in knowledge from the Gold Rush era to the mid 20th Century.
Gold Country Fairgrounds
1273 High Street,
Tours: 530 889-6500
This museum chronicles the rich history of gold mining in the region. Exhibits include gold panning demonstrations with an opportunity for hands-on panning, a walk through a mine shaft, an operational stamp mill model, and displays showing the lifestyle of gold country residents during the Gold Rush.
Corner of Taylor & Rock Springs Roads
A major supplier of granite for many of California’s buildings, including the State Capitol in Sacramento, Griffith Quarry’s history dates back to its founding in 1864. The museum houses exhibits reflecting the history of the granite industry in this region. The park boasts three miles of nature trails that offer views of the old quarry sites.
Corner of Sacramento Street and Brewery Lane
Old Town Auburn
Tours by Appointment Only: 530 346-7121
The Joss House is currently undergoing restoration. The original temple altar is preserved in this Chinese house of worship, and on display are artifacts representative of the lives of the Chinese people during the Gold Rush. Open to the public during the Heritage Trails in August and at other times. Call for a schedule.
101 Maple Street
The courthouse, completed in 1898, is truly representative of the rich natural resources that have brought prosperity to Placer County. It was constructed of marble from Colfax, granite from Rocklin, slate from Slatington, and lime and bricks from Auburn. The museum, home to the Pate Collection of Native American artifacts, is located on the first floor of the Courthouse. The Gold Collection is housed in the lower vault inside the former Treasurer's Office. An information center is located on the first floor.
The High Sierras
32820 Main Street
Dutch Flat, CA
Tours: 530 389-2617
In a village that makes visitors feel transported to an earlier era, this museum tells the story of the area encompassing Dutch Flat, Gold Run, Alta and Towle. The exhibits explore the history of these communities and of the mining and railroad industries in the region. Open summer only.
Donner Memorial State Park
12593 Donner Pass Road
The museum depicts the history of the area and those who emigrated to California from the east in the mid-1800's. Included in the museum are displays and information about one of the earliest pioneer wagon trains, the Donner Party, forced by circumstances to camp at the east end of Donner Lake in the winter of 1846-47, resulting in human suffering and loss of life. Also including local Native Americans and builders of the transcontinental railroad.
760 North Lake Boulevard, 2nd Floor
Tahoe City, CA
The Museum was created to preserve and display our wonderful ski heritage, with exhibits that travel through medieval history showing how in this period skiing was mainly used for hunting and warfare. The exhibits then lead you through modern history beginning you through the history of skiing in the Sierras and then onto the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Squaw Valley Aerial Tram at High Camp
Olympic Valley, CA
Take a trip back in time and learn about 1960 Winter Olympics that took place at Squaw Valley. The story of the games starting from the very beginning with the Olympic proposal, to photos, videos and memorabilia from the historic Games. The 1960 Olympics transformed winter sports in western America and are notable as the first Winter Games to be fully televised, as well as the first to use a computer to tabulate scores.
130 West Lake Boulevard
Tahoe City, CA
The Gatekeeper's Museum, situated among ancient conifers on the south bank of Lake Tahoe's only outlet, was built in 1981 with funds raised by the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society. The hand-carved log cabin is built from Lodgepole pines. It stands on the same foundation as the original Gatekeeper's Cabin which was destroyed by arson in 1978. The museum features the history of Lake Tahoe including Indian artifacts, natural history displays, stories of our pioneers and the Ellen Attardi Library. It also houses the Marion Steinback Indian Basket Collection. Winter hours (Oct 1st to May 25th): Fri - Sat, 10am-4pm; Summer hours (May 26th to Sept 30th): Wed - Mon, 10am-5pm.
560 North Lake Boulevard
Tahoe City, CA
530 583-8717 or 530 583-1762
Overlooking Lake Tahoe and the Commons Beach in Tahoe City is an unimposing little log cabin of significant historical interest. It still stands on the original site where it was built of local logs and is an outstanding example of turn-of-the-century log cabin construction in the Lake Tahoe region. Robert Montgomery Watson and his youngest son, Robert Watson started the cabin in 1908. It was completed for the wedding of the son and Stella Tong in l909. The Watson Cabin is open Memorial Day thru Labor Day, Wed - Mon, 12pm-4pm, and closed the rest of the year. General Admission (ages 13-64) is $5; Seniors (65 & older) are $4; Children 12 & under are Free. As a Blue Star Museum, Active Duty Military Personnel and their families are free as well.
5205 West Lake Boulevard
The Tahoe Maritime Museum, modeled after a historic wooden boathouse on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, offers visitors a varied collection of photographs and other memorabilia that date back to the 19th century. Not only does the museum house an extensive history of all types of boating around Lake Tahoe. It is also home to the largest collection of outboard motors on the West Coast. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the museum is the display of wooden hulled ski boats -- Chris Craft, Gar Wood and Stephens, to name a few.