Historical Walking Tour of Alturas

Alturas is a friendly city located in the most northeastern part of California. It occupies what was originally an Achumawi (Pit River) village known as Kosealekte or Kasalektawi.  In 1870 Presley A. and Carlos Dorris and their nephew, Jim Dorris, settled and built a bridge over the Pit River in order to facilitate the moving of livestock. The Dorris Bridge Post Office opened in 1871, renamed Dorrisville in 1874, and in 1876, was renamed Alturas, which is Spanish for "heights". The census of 1880 showed a population of 148. However, settlement continued over the next two decades, until the city was officially incorporated on September 16, 1901; the county's only incorporated city. Modoc County, sectioned off from a part of Siskiyou County, came into being on February 17, 1874. 

To learn more about the history of Alturas, the Modoc County Historical Museum has created a walking tour featuring historic buildings and homes that were built between 1872 and 1938.

Read more


Latitude: 41.4797114 Longitude: -120.5416059 Elevation: 4364 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Paula Jessup

About this Establishment

Walking Tour of Downtown Alturas' Historical Building Markers and Descriptions:

Marker 1.  Modoc County Historical Museum - Look at artifacts, relics, historic photographs of Modoc, memorabilia, Native art and baskets as well as one of the finest arrowhead and antique firearm collections in northeastern California.

Marker 2.  Engine No. 2718 built by Baldwin Company in 1904 for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Marker 3.  Located at this Marker are three building the largest is Veterans Memorial Hall, which was built in 1933-34 to honor Modoc’s Veterans of Foreign Wars. Located to the south side of the Veteran’s building is the, first Modoc County Auditor/Recorders Office built in 1879 made of local quarried stone with a later wooded addition.  Jail House is a 1900 brick structure that housed inmates (the building is currently being used as the park maintenance and storage workshop).

Marker 4.  The Niles Hotel was originally constructed in 1908-09 as the Curtis Hotel. Then in 1914, J.E. Niles moved his business down the street to what is known today as the Niles Hotel. Today the hotel interior represents a living museum of Modoc history. The Niles Hotel has long been a focal point in Modoc County for business and social gatherings. The hotel is now under new ownership and is being renovated.

Marker 5. The Sears Building, the original E Lauer Building with its lower floor dating to 1876 and the second floor Masonic Temple was added in 1884. Heryford & Brock Building was built in 1890 and is actually a two story brick addition to the adjoining Sears Building. Native quarried stone was used for construction. A.E. Simonson House was built of brick in 1933, typical of the 1930's bricklayer's art. E. Lauer Building was constructed in 1902 of red brick and served many years as a dry goods store. The original painted sign is on the rear of the building.

Marker 6.  I.O.O.F. Building is the 1924 second floor meeting hall of the I.O.O. F. that was constructed on top of an 1880 single story building of local stone. The Modoc Arts Building was constructed in 1900 and is another example of local stone cutter's art. Ingraham's Hardware building was built in 1912 and is typical of the small red brick type store building constructed prior to World War I. Note the black pressed-glass tiles over the entrance. The building once housed Killer Kane's Bar. Coleman Building was built in 1889 and housed the Hole-in-the-Wall Saloon. Rumor has it that a fire broke out and burned down part of the town, but the bar never closed.

Marker 7.  The Laird Building was built in 1908 by J.E. Niles Hotel and the Laird family this hotel was known as the Royal Hotel. Historical displays of pharmaceutical memorabilia, construction of building and Laird family.

Marker 8.  Main Street Antiques (Formerly the Modoc Pharmacy) occupies a stone building contoured in 1909. Across the way was the Ford Building built in 1910 and was originally an Essex car dealership and then a Ford dealership.

Marker 9.  The Miller/Arena Blacksmith Shop was constructed out of local stone for Mr. Brunell W. Miller in 1909. It was used periodically as a blacksmith shop by Mr. Albert Arena up until his death.

Marker 10 & 11.  Old Alturas City Hall was built in 1912 of red brick and the adjacent Fire Department building (City Fire Hall)  was built in 1936 out of local quarried stone.

Marker 12. Niles Theater was constructed of pressed brick during the Great Depression for local businessman J.E.Niles in 1936-37 to bring entertainment to Alturas.

Marker 13.  Modoc County Courthouse was built in 1914 in the Neo Classic style at a cost of $90,000. Inside is an historical display of Modoc history and beautiful, original architectural detail.

Marker 14. Belli Building was constructed in 1929 at a cost of $39,000. It is a poured concrete structure with an ornate brickwork facade. Its internal structure consists of massive steel I-beams, and it represents a blending of 19th and 20th century architectural styles. The Bus Stop was originally built as a two-story wooden structure in 1879 as a wagon shop. It became Modoc High School in 1903 and the Pythian Hall. The original wood structure was bricked over around the turn of the century.  Masonic Temple was constructed in 1929 of pressed block and red brick. At three stories, it is one of Alturas's tallest buildings.

Marker 15.  The 4th Street School was a Spanish Colonial Revival Building, built in the 1930’s has had  some ornate ornamental facing around the central entrance removed to comply with California earthquake standards. It was originally called the Alturas Grammar School and now houses the administration offices for Modoc Joint Unified Schools District, Modoc County senior Center and Warner High School .

Marker 16.  NCO "Whistle Stop" Depot was built was built further west in 1906 and then moved to its present location in 1916 to serve as the passenger depot for the Nevada California Oregon Railroad.

Marker 17.  Sacred Heart Catholic Church was constructed initially in 1883 but remained unfinished until 1910. It is a beautiful locally cut stone Irish-Gothic style building with delicate stained glass windows. This Church is one of the oldest buildings in Alturas and is on the National Register of Historical Buildings.

Marker 18.  The Nevada–California-Oregon (NCO) Railroad administration office building was constructed in 1926 out of local quarried stone in a Spanish Colonial Revival style. During World War II, it was used as a flight training school for Navy and Air Corps pilots.  It is on the National Register of Historic buildings and houses the BPOE Elks today.

Marker 19.  Modoc High School was built in the early 1930’s in the Art Modern style and has been in continuous use since.

Marker 20.  Big Red Barn/warehouse was constructed in 1890 and used as a livery stable, an ice arena and merchandise warehouse.  It now houses Frank's Carpet.

Marker 21.  Pioneer Cemetery overlooking the Pit River was the first cemetery to be used by the residences of Alturas from 1872 to 1890 more than 100 pioneer graves were maintained at this site of which 67 were eventually transferred to the new location on 8th St. There is a bronze plaque, flag pole, fence and remaining headstones mark the historic spot today.

Much more can be learned about Alturas history and Modoc County through the many articles and exhibits featured at the Modoc County Historical Museum located at 600 South Main Street.

Time Period Represented

1872 - 1938

Hours Open

Buildings and homes can seen from the outside at any time. Inside can only be during current business hours.

Visitor Fees

A $2.00 donation is asked for at the Modoc County Historical Museum only.

Seasons Open

All seasons

ADA Accessibility Notes

Limited in most areas.


This is a great tour of the historical buildings in Alturas.

Yvonne-Cher Skye, 12/21/2011

My grandparents Everett & Jane Hotchkiss owned the Hotchkiss store in Alturas, CA. The building was origionally 2 stories with a dance hall upstairs. The top story was eventually removed but the building remains. Everett was a baker, they had 4 children including my mother Dorothy E Hotchkiss. She graduated from Modoc High around 1937 or 38. She played basketball.

Merri Wilson, 6/8/2013

It is my understanding that a hotel was built in the early 1900’s by A viola M Roseberry and her husband. Is the hotel still operational? I would like to know as my late husband was the grandson of Viola M. Roseberry.

Frances Knipper, knipknip@att.net, 12/10/2015

Leave a Comment