Columbia was originally settled in 1850 by a group of miners caught in a rain storm who decided to check out the streams while their clothing dried. In 1852 there were over 150 stores and shops open for business and by 1853 the "Gem of the Southern Mines" had a population of 25-30,000. The gold mined here helped finance the U.S. government and the Union Army during the Civil War.
This is one of my favorite buildings in Columbia ... the Wells Fargo Office and Courtroom. Originally the American Hotel in 1851, built beside a kerosene/lamp sales business, it burned down (no surprise) and was rebuilt of brick. The small stores on the bottom changed hands and ranged from a clothing store, to jewelry sales to the striped pole barber. The owner at the time became a Wells Fargo agent, kicking everyone out and making it his office. The Courtroom soon followed and is used today by the National Park Service as their Constable's Office. When Wells Fargo closed down, Mr. Conlin and his two sisters lived in the building until 1945 when the State took over.
Across the street is the Pioneer Emporium. In 1854 it was a two story saloon with 12 rooms upstairs for "rent". No mention is made if they were rented by the hour or by the day!! Of course it burned down almost immediately and was rebuilt in 1857 as the City Hotel (more than one hotel here had the same name). By 1861 it was the Post Office/Bookstore and in 1865 became the Union Restaurant. Not to say that the building codes were non-existent and buildings cheaply built, but it collapsed in a wind storm in 1876!! By 1899, this wood structure was built by Mr Brady whose name graces the top and it again became a Post Office. Twenty five different people have owned this lot from 1851 to 1947 when the Park Service remodeled it for concessionaires.
You can imagine my disappointment to read that the Johnson Livery Stable, which of course is my second favorite building, was built in 1988 or 89 for a movie set. It even has tin-lined wooden water troughs. No matter, it fits in well with the Old West Theme!!
I laughed out loud when reading through the building history list ... a comment "This stupid computer won't let me type in 1889" brought me right back to the present day!! I do have to give it up to the Parks Service for keeping Columbia alive and kicking. They are working to open more of the buildings and allowing more concessionaires in order to bring in more revenue. Thankfully, they are also keeping those businesses pretty much in the theme of the Old West, including a leather store and a blacksmith shop.
Columbia Kate has moved to town, opening a women's clothing/jewelry/gift store in this beautiful house. Around the corner they have a bakery with excellent mini quiche and wonderful walnut-dream bars, along with cookies and drinks. You can buy a snack and sit in the back yard, pretending it's 1889!! Across the street Kate's Tea House is also open for business with lots of star ratings!!
Although not the original Jail, this one did suffice in later years to keep the bad guys locked up. Originally built to house explosives used in gold mining, it became a two cell dungeon with the only light being from the food pass-through up until the 1930's.
So many buildings and so much history ... from Sheriff sales for delinquent taxes to Fire sales ... it's fascinating how many times each building changed hands over the years. Armed with my new map and history log, I think I need another road trip to the Old West!!