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Stories from the valley

The Placer County Museum & Old Town Auburn: Two Historic Gems

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

Sitting at the top of Maple Street, the Placer County Courthouse is the crowning jewel of Old Town Auburn. After admiring the magnificent building from the outside, I entered the Placer County Museum, located on the first floor. Admission is free. Because court is held on the upper floors, all visitors pass through security.

I began my exploration of the museum in the historic County Treasurer’s Office, which showcases the Placer County Gold Collection. The 194.11 troy ounces of unrefined gold, all of it mined in Placer County, is an impressive sight. While in this room, be sure to grab “A Walking Tour of Historic Old Town Auburn” from the brochure rack.

I paused in the lobby to study Auburn Centennial, created by Thomas Kincade in 1988. This original painting was commissioned by the city in honor of its 100 years of incorporation. I then entered the main museum, home to a variety of informative displays documenting Auburn’s rich history. Being a writer, I appreciated the communications exhibit. Another display I found interesting features farming and fruit growing. By the 1890s, agriculture had surpassed mining as the primary industry in Placer county. Visitors are welcome on the second and third floors, too, where cases are still heard in the historic courtroom.

Upon leaving the courthouse, I peeked under the staircase to the north, where the women’s jail was located from 1905 to 1941. Armed with my Old Town Auburn map, I headed down Lincoln Way but didn’t make it far before I was captivated by Brye Mansion. This stately white Colonial Revival home, with its inviting balconies, was occupied in its early days by a saloon keeper and a butcher. It later served as an apartment building and a restaurant. Today, it’s an attractive office building.

Old Town Auburn lies at the bottom of the hill with the courthouse keeping watch above. My husband and I strolled the streets, stopping to take pictures along the way. Firehouse #2 with its red and white striped roof, the Union Saloon building with its rounded front, and the red-brick post office that’s been in continuous use since 1878 are some of the most notable attractions.

The historic downtown offers many restaurant choices. At the recommendation of a kindly sheriff’s deputy at the courthouse, we ate at the Edelwiess Restaurant. This cozy eatery, known for its 45 different omelets, offers a variety of tasty sandwiches, burgers, and salads too.

Old Town Auburn’s Classic Christmas will take place December 14 and 21, 2019 from 5-9 pm, making those two Saturday evenings a great time to visit. Hayrides to Victorian Park, chowder at the firehouse, a craft corner for kids, vendors galore, photos with Santa, and more await those who come to enjoy the festivities. The event is free and will take place no matter what the weather brings. Fun is sure to be had by all who attend the holiday event taking place in this historic setting.