The Gold Rush started in 1949, which created a need for many mining camps. Many of these camps later evolved into towns that still exist today. They are rich in history and many of the historic downtowns have become great escapes. Looking for a quick get-away destination, then head east on I-80 from Sacramento. In less than 45 minutes arrive in the town of Auburn in the Heart of Gold Rush Country.
There is a larger then life statue of Claude Chana (created by Dr. Kenneth H. Fox) when zooming off the freeway. Be sure to wander back over and take a closer look at it and the mining equipment. Claude discovered the gold that started the gold rush not far from Auburn in the Auburn Ravine on May 16, 1848.
In the historic downtown, there are over 30+ specialty shops, museums, wineries and mouth-watering restaurants. The stores have some of the best names like Totally Cool (old fashion toys, candy and unique gifts) and Tucked In (a natural sleep store). A local favorite is the Front Porch. Just walk in and try coming out without buying something!
Tucked away in the Gold Rush Plaza is the Brookside Grill. It has a sunny fun outdoor seating area with a bridge over a brook that must be crossed to get to the tables. The sound of the brook is soothing and adds to the enjoyment of eating there. It was voted as having the Best Burger in Auburn. They are open for lunch daily and for breakfast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Fire – Like many old towns in the 1800s, Auburn was destroyed by fire in 1855, 1859, and 1863. Look for the plaque for the American Hotel, one of the first hotels in the area, which burned down in 1855, was rebuilt in 1857, burned down again in 1905 and was not rebuilt.
- Fire House – The volunteer firemen of Auburn Hook and Ladder Company No 2 erected the Fire House in 1891 with funds raised by public donations. It was dedicated on May 21, 1892 and was in continuous use until 1954. Looking inside the fire house there is a 1914 fire truck. Take a look at its old license plate that says “California Horseless Carriage 5928.” On the wall is a list of what the alarms meant – what street/location a fire might be. Towards the freeway don’t miss the old gong made out of part of a Central Pacific Railroad Engine wheel. The Auburn Volunteer Fire Department used it in the late 1880s as a fire alarm.
- Lincoln Highway – Historic US 40 Route, the Lincoln Highway, starts in Times Square in New York City and ends in San Francisco, California. The highway goes through the historic center of Auburn. There are many signs that show the way.
- Post Office – Auburns first mail service was in 1849. The first Post Office was built in 1853. It has had daily mail service since June 1888 (almost 130 years). The Post Office that is in the heart of the old town has been located there since the 1870s. It is not very big but worth taking a peek inside to see the old PO boxes still in use. This is the oldest working Post Office west of the Mississippi.
- Auburn Name – The area was first known as “North Fork” or “Wood’s Dry Diggings.” The settlement was given the name of Auburn in the Fall of 1849. It soon became an important mining town, trading post and stagecoach terminal.
If the restaurants, historic buildings, museums and souvenir shopping is not enough, there is a farmers market on Saturdays. In addition, there is a flea market on most Saturdays. The 49er Flea Market is held at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, check their website for dates and times.
Auburn has an active community with many events held throughout the year. Check the Welcome to Auburn website for event times and dates.
Auburn is an easy short drive from Sacramento; take I-80 East to exit 119A – go slow it is right there! Make a quick turn right onto Sacramento St. and be in the middle of Auburn’s historical downtown.
Just think, Auburn is only one of a dozen Gold Rush historical downtowns in the area. Go north a little further on Hwy 49 there is Grass Valley and Nevada City, go south there is Coloma and Placerville. As Mark Twain wrote, “There’s gold in them thar hills,” now go and find it.