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Historic Sierra Nevada House (May-June 2005)

image of Sierra Nevade House in 1850In 1839, when the foothills of the Sierras were open wilderness and the unchallenged domain of the Miwok and Maidu Indians, an adventurous Swiss pioneer wandered into the Central Valley and built a modest fort at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. His name was John Sutter. His arrival would soon change the shape of American history, ushering in an era of economic boom from which the Sierra Nevada House, and much of the history of the West, would eventually find its roots.

Mining towns and camps sprang up throughout the Sierra foothills. Coloma Valley, the discovery zone itself, grew especially fast - housing some 4,000 new arrivals by July 1848. And with these new arrivals came, of course, the slew of cottage industries, businesses, and facilities catering to the needs and entertainment of the human population. Saloons were built. Banks erected. Mail carriers summoned. Lawmen hired.

image of Robert ChalmersAnd into this mix of 49er's, just down river from Sutter's Mill, and right next door to the first Wells Fargo Depot in Northern California, a beautiful hotel was constructed. It was called the Sierra Nevada House.

In the early days of the Gold Rush, the Sierra Nevada House was a way station for miners and tradesman. Throughout its heyday, the hotel was owned and operated by Robert Chalmers, a successful businessman who held 'fancy' parties in the Coloma area.

The hotel remained in operation until 1902 when it was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt shortly thereafter and became a silent movie house as well as the local Community Hall. Many local elders still remember times from their childhood spent in and around the Sierra Nevada House. The structure burned again in 1925 and was rebuilt and restored to its current standing.

Today, the Sierra Nevada House is gem from the past. One walk through the grounds or one meal in the old dining hall will take you back to a time that, even now in our modern world, sings quite uniquely to our imaginations. The Sierra Nevada House is a true piece of the Old West, surrounded on all sides by the ancient beauty of the rivers and mountains.

image of Sierra Nevada House MirrorOne striking piece of history that is passed from owner to owner is the full length mirror embellished in elaborate gold carvings, located in the large ball room ... rumored to be haunted. The ball room has been the host to many weddings over the years. [Photo by Bob Darling Photography]


Historic content courtesy of the Sierra Nevada House, May 2005
Edited By Sharon Baldwin, El Dorado County IT Dept.