The El Dorado County seat, in a ravine at the junction of Highway 49 and U.S. Highway 50, is a thriving town with all the amenities you would expect for a community this size. Main Street boasts dozens of antique shops, galleries and boutiques. Bed and breakfast inns, coffeehouses and restaurants cater to discriminating travelers.

Once known as Hangtown following the lynching of a group of petty felons, the Gold Rush community was known prior to that as Dry Diggins. Three prospectors—Daylor, Sheldon and McCoon—made the first strike, making $17,000 in a week. During the Gold Rush boom years, the town thrived. In the 1850s, this was the second largest town in the Mother Lode. Entrepreneurs such as J. M. Studebaker, Mark Hopkins and Phillip Armour all got

their start here. By 1854, Hangtown was California's third largest city. Although the city was rich in gold—producing $25 million in gold—its owes its longevity to its geographic location. Not only has it been a major stopping point for visitors traveling to the south shore of Lake Tahoe, it's long been the center of a thriving agricultural area. In the 1930s Tom Raley built a small grocery store here; Raley went on to found a chain of supermarkets spread today throughout Northern California.

A strange culinary concoction known as the Hangtown Fry—essentially a bacon and oyster omelette—had its start here, probably because those were the only ingredients a local chef could find. According to one story, the dish began when a miner asked the cook at the El Dorado Hotel to prepare "the most expensive meal in the house." And so the cook put together his on-hand ingredients: eggs, bacon and oysters.

One of the town's local heroes was Snowshoe Thompson, a Norwegian who used giant skis to traverse the snowbound Sierra Nevadas to deliver mail from Placerville to Genoa, near Carson City. The arduous trip took two days, but Thompson never failed to complete a trip. Today his crudely made but effective skis are housed in the El Dorado County Historical Museum at 100 Placerville Drive.

Today, oldtown Placerville, centered around Main Street, features plenty of history along with art galleries, bookstores and restaurants. Drop into Placerville Hardware (441-443 Main Street) the oldest hardware store in the West.

Goldbug Park, a little less than a mile north of downtown Placerville, features 61 acres of trails and mining exhibits. At one time more than 250 individual mines operated in the area.Visitors can explore an actual mine tunnel and also see an eight-stamp mill. (530) 642-5207.

POPULATION (please see Census 2000 figures below)

  • Projected 2015: 12,450
  • In June-September of 2000, the median price for a home was $165,000, or $113 per square foot.

Placerville City Council, City Hall
487 Main St., Placerville 95667.

Placerville is one of only two incorporated communities in El Dorado County (South Lake Tahoe is the second).

For more information:

City of Placerville

Placerville Downtown Merchants Association

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