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image of Bell TowerStroll Down Historic Main Street

Placerville’s Historic Main Street district is vital and thriving. Housed in many of the City’s historic buildings are unique specialty shops, antique stores, great restaurants, and an assortment of service businesses. These businesses blend to provide a wide variety of goods and services to both visitors and locals. Please take a stroll through Historic Downtown Placerville ... Courtesy of the Placerville Downtown Association.

An important historic landmark that still remains on Main Street is the Bell Tower, standing as a monument to the city’s volunteer firemen. In 1865 the Bell tower was placed in the in the plaza and was used as an alarm system to call out the firefighters. This tower has watched most of Placerville's history pass beneath it for well over I 00 years. It has been remodeled, relocated, and most recently, renovated.

Today it proudly stands as a monument to honor our city's volunteer firemen. The history of the Bell Tower began back in l856. Three fires that year in April, July and August, claimed most of Placerville's business section.

The need for an alarm system to call the volunteer fire department was obvious, and a bell was ordered from England.

image of old City HallCast in 1860, the bell arrived in Placerville in 1865. The city gave it's approval to place the bell in a tower in the plaza. All this was done at a cost of $380. Today, the Bell Tower serves as a gathering place for parades, celebrations, and other Historic Main Street events.

Placerville was also known as "Hangtown" in its’ early days. Although many stories exist on how this name was acquired, the most famous story involved a colorful event that occurred in January of 1849. A gambler named Lopez gained a lot of attention for his big winnings at a local saloon. After he retired for the evening, several men tried to overpower him. Lopez fought back, and with the help of others, the robbers were captured. During their "flogging", three of the robbers were also accused of being wanted for a murder and robbery.

With no more evidence than that, a short 30 minute trial took place and a unanimous "guilty" verdict was given. The crowd demanded that the men be sentenced to "death by hanging" and the rest was history. The famous hanging tree once stood in Elstner’s Hay Yard, next to the Jackass Inn. Today, the original stump from the old tree remains in the cellar of "The Hangman’s Tree" tavern on Historic Main Street.