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Pearson, the Ice Merchant (April 2002)
John McFarland Pearson was an early Placerville businessman who emigrated from Scotland in 1852. He got his start as an ice merchant cutting ice from mountain lakes and the American River near what is known today as Riverton and Ice House Road. Pearson would haul ice into town by horse and wagon, and then sell the ice blocks to the town's people.
In 1859, Pearson built the Pearson Soda Works building at 594 Main St. where it still stands today. The Soda Works building was constructed using a mixture of fieldstone, rectangular blocks, bricks, and assorted rubble, with walls twenty two inches thick. In 1897, Pearson's sons added a second floor to the building. That was the same year Pearson branched out into the soda business, selling soda water, cream soda, and various syrups, and the second floor of the building was used as the bottling room.
The building has several interesting features; like a 135-foot abandoned mining tunnel carved into the hill behind the building that served as a cooler. It also has iron doors that help support part of the upper floor, and a water driven elevator that once transported the heavy cases of soda from the bottling room to the storage areas.
More recently, the Soda Works has been the home to a variety of different merchants offering coffee, lunch and evening entertainment (Open Mic Night). Who knows what the old building will host in the future ... ?
The Placerville Soda Works was featured on the cover of Cruciverbalist Gail Beckman's 1998 Puzzle Book "Puzzles of Historical El Dorado County Attractions". This puzzle book has 26 word search puzzles based on the rich history and places of interest in El Dorado County.