image of the American River InnThe American River Inn

One of El Dorado County's Best Kept Secrets
Edited from the original work written by Anthony M. Belli

image of the American River InnThe American River Inn of Georgetown, an historic Gold Rush era building, surely must be one of El Dorado County's best kept secrets. Surrounded by native timber, wildlife and the natural beauty of the Georgetown Divide, this late 19th century town will take you back in time - to the days of the gold rush.

George Phipps, a miner from Salem, Massachusetts, was one of the original 49er's who pitched his tent near the head of Empire Canyon, at the trailhead of the recently blazed path leading into Oregon Canyon. By December of 1849, George had 462 new neighbors who had taken to calling the area "George's town". It was estimated that 5,000 miners were hard at work in the surrounding canyons and hills of “George’s town,” and gold seemed to be everywhere. Stories of rich strikes passed around many a camp fire. In town, folks found one nugget worth $850 above Graham & Hall's store. On Main Street, several nuggets were found that were worth $2,000. In another instance, two "greenhorns" dug $3,000 worth at a spot not far from the Odd Fellows building, in a week. Even miners who weren’t optimistic believed that they had found the fabled El Dorado. With all the gold discovery, George's town rapidly grew into a major trade center and eventually found itself surrounded by more than 700 miner's camps. By that time, most folks had taken to calling “George’s town” Georgetown.

In 1852, construction began on the Sharp Home on the corner of Main & Orleans Streets in Georgetown. It was completed in 1853, and later sold to Joseph William, who converted it to the Orleans Hotel. In 1862, William sold the hotel to Sam Currier who renamed it the American Hotel. Currier then sold the hotel to partners George Bundshuh and William Hueser who turned it into "one of the most luxurious hotels in the Mother Lode." When the hotel was sold to William and Julia Ceque in 1869, they renamed it the Creque House. However, the name never took and locals continued to call it the American Hotel. The American Hotel operated as a boarding house through 1944. In 1984, new owners Will & Maria Collin entirely restored the hotel and once again changed the name. They called it The American River Inn, which is what it is today.

Today, Georgetown is a quiet, rural, mountain community. Although the town has suffered six devastating fires, The American River Inn is one of the few structures fortunate enough to have survived them, retaining its dignity as an original gold rush era inn and stage stop.

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Original work copyright 2001 – Anthony M. Belli
Sources: Leonard M. Davis, Georgetown - Pride of the Mountains (Roseville, CA.: Georgetown Divide Rotary Club, 1976)
Sheryl Rambeau, and Halmar Moser-Flynn, Georgetown and the Divide (Placerville, CA.: the Heritage Association of El Dorado County, 1998)