The Chichizola Family Store Complex is composed of 12 buildings constructed from 1850-1937, 2 miles outside of Jackson in the small community of Jackson Gate. The first structure completed here was the store. In addition to the store, the Complex includes a livestock barn, lumber barn, the Chichizola family home, a kitchen and garage, the home of James Chichizola, another garage and a servant's quarters, a hot house, cap house, powder house, and a pigpen. Over the last 50 years, only minor alterations have been made to the structures. The Chichizola Store was once the largest retail enterprise in the County, and now represents the early mercantile history of the region.
The Chichizola store was established by an Italian native named Augustino Chichizola. Chichizola came to Amador County in 1848 to strike it rich in the Gold Rush. Like many others who came to the Mother Lode during the Gold Rush, Chichizola turned out to not be a successful gold miner. Instead, he began selling supplies and food to the area's miners, taking orders from families and miners in the area on horseback. The orders were brought by wagon and distributed by Chichizola. By 1850 his business had become so successful, Chichizola constructed a brick-and-mortar store, which still stands today.
For Chichizola, Jackson Gate was an excellent location for his booming business. Mines remained productive for decades, and he faced little competition from other general stores that only managed to stay in business for a few years at a time. The store was centrally located to the Kennedy and Argonaut mines, and many of Jackson Gate's residents lived within walking distance to the store. Chichizola's business continued to grow, and included buying product from Sacramento and the Central Valley and selling the goods not just in Jackson Gate, but to the surrounding communities as well. In 1860, Chichizola built a livestock barn, which held 26 mules, horses, hay, and grain. By 1875, another section had been added to the barn for milking cows, allowing Chichizola to add dairy products to his stock. In 1890, the Chichizola's became the sole distributor of explosives for the mining industry.
Over the decades, the Chichizola family and the business expanded.Chichizola's sons, his brother, and his nephews worked in the store. Augustino's great-nephew, James Augustus, also went on to work the store and help expand his family's enterprise. The Chichizola's opened a sawmill on Tiger Creek, and in 1875, they built a lumber barn on their property to store the lumber. The original store was expanded to hold more supplies in 1904 and again in 1912. 1905, two structures were built to hold larger amounts of explosive powder and related equipment. By 1912, the store was selling everything miner's and regional families needed, from household furniture and clothing, to groceries, livestock feed, and mining equipment.
Additional buildings continued to be constructed at the property. In 1903, a large Queen Anne-style home was built to replace the original house. Augustino's great-nephew built another home on the property in 1911 for his family. Between 1935 and 1937, a hot house, two garages, and servant's quarters were constructed.
The success of the business was closely tied with the success of the area's mines. Mining techniques shifted from Placer mining, to quartz mining and hydraulic mining, and finally underground mining. Business at the Chichizola store remained steady until 1942, when the government closed the gold mines at the onset of World War II to encourage miners to work in industries that supported war efforts. Once the mines were closed, the region's population and the number of customer's to the Chichizola store dwindled.
The structures of the Chichizola Store Complex are largely unchanged and retain their architectural integrity. The James W. Marshall Chapter No. 49 of E Clampus Vitus commemorated the building with a plaque in 1970. In 1992, the Chichizola Store Complex was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. The complex represents not only an early mercantile enterprise, but also the story of an emigrant's journey, drawn to Amador County by the allure of the Gold Rush from his home in Italy, creating a family business legacy that lasted nearly 90 years.
The Chichizola Store Complex is located at 1316-1330, Jackson Gate Road in Jackson, 47.7 miles southeast of Sacramento.
The eastern slope of Amador County begins at Kirkwood’s historic stage stop. The relatively narrow county is aligned between the Mokelumne and Cosumnes rivers and roughly follows an important emigrant trail route. Amador County was once a rich gold mining county, and many of the county’s towns began as gold mining camps. The largest Native American grinding stone with 1,185 mortar holes and dozens of petroglyphs is in Amador County at the Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, which also houses the Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum. Amador County has a booming wine country with over 35 small wineries in the foothills.