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Stories from the valley

Folsom History Museum: A Hidden Historical Gem

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

Those familiar with Folsom are aware of the many shopping and dining opportunities it has to offer, but how did this bustling city come about? The answer to that question and more can be found by visiting the Folsom History Museum, located in historic downtown Folsom.

Before you even enter the museum, you’ll be swept back to the Gold Rush days as you admire the iron doors and cinder block construction of the Wells Fargo & Company assay office, home to the museum’s rotating special exhibits. Don’t miss the plaque on the side of that famous building, which tells the history of this Pony Express stop that was the western terminus for most of the company’s short existence.

Step inside the museum, and you’ll be greeted by one of the many knowledgeable docents eager to answer any questions you might have. I had the museum to myself the day I visited, and the docent on duty couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful.

I started my exploration by visiting the current special exhibit: the 39th Annual Quilt & Vintage Fashion Show, titled Memories Matter. Over thirty quilts are artistically displayed. The oldest of them, an English Frame Quilt, completed in 1816, includes fabric dating back to the 1770s! Visitors will appreciate the variety of patterns, from the popular Crazy Quilt to the soft curves of the Dresden Plate to the geometric angles of the Flying Crow. Sprinkled among the quilts, you’ll find vintage dresses from a variety of eras. This particular exhibit runs through April 21, 2019.

Admiring the many displays that tell Folsom’s story came next. They take visitors from the area’s first inhabitants, the Maidu Nisenan, on to the heyday of the Gold Rush. A subsequent display highlights the birth of agriculture in the area, which became the primary industry when the mining boom ended. I especially enjoyed the “’Twas Beauty Killed the Beast” exhibit that documents the contributions of women, who helped tame the rough mining town and make it what it is today, a place many are happy to call home.

Upon completing my tour of the Folsom History Museum, located at 823 Sutter Street, I visited the nearby Pioneer Village at 196 Wool Street, where Folsom’s pioneer days come to life. This living history venue is home to Ashland Station, the oldest railroad depot west of the Rockies, a collection of historic wagons, a miner’s cabin and more. Visitors can watch blacksmiths in action or try their hand panning for gold.

The Folsom History Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. Pioneer Village is open the same days from 10 am – 3 pm weather permitting. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and older, $4 for children 6 – 17, and free for those 5 and under. Enjoy your visit!