Old Dry Diggins- Old Hangtown- Placerville (No. 475 California Historical Landmark)

The history of Placerville, formerly Hangtown and Old Dry Diggins, has its roots in mining and was once known for its notorious reputation for vigilante justice carried out by hangings.

Old Dry Diggins was a gold mining camp on Hangtown Creek established in 1848. Millions in gold was taken from nearby ravines and hills- by 1910, $25 million in placer gold alone (quartz mining operations also occurred here) had been mined from claims in Placerville. Placerville was officially incorporated as a town in May 1854, and at that time it was the third largest town in California. In 1860, Placerville was a stopping point along the Pony Express Trail. It is now the seat of El Dorado County.

Placerville served not only as a mining hub, but also an important mining supply center and the end point for the Comstock Lode from Nevada. John M. Studebaker, Mark Hopkins, Leland Standford, Levi Strauss, Philip Armour, and Edwin Markham are among well-known men who contributed to Placerville's history. Modern notable persons from Placerville include painter Thomas Kinkade, Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde, baseball player Toby Hall, US Representative Jerome R. Waldie, and ski racer Spider Sabich.

The history of Placerville represents several important points in California history, from gold mining, to the Pony Express, to railroad history. Today Placerville features many historical buildings and markers, including the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works (now the Fountain & Tallman Museum), the John Pearson Soda Works, the Combellack-Blair House, Confidence Hall, Hangman's Tree, the Church of Our Savior, the Placerville Bell, and the Hangtown Gold Bug Park & Mine.

As of the 2010 Census, Placerville's population was 10,389 people. Main Street and Downtown are popular tourist destinations, and nearby Apple Hill, known for its wineries and orchards, is east of here.

Placerville is located on Highway 50, approximately 44 miles east of Sacramento. The historical marker is in downtown Placerville on the northeast corner of Bedford and Main Streets. 

El Dorado County

Stretching from oak-studded foothills and the shores of Folsom Lake to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County is probably best known for the 1848 gold discovery at Coloma. “Old Hangtown” sprang up during the Gold Rush and was later renamed Placerville. The county name comes from the mythical land rich in gold sought by Spanish explorers. The first inhabitants of El Dorado County were the Maidu and Miwok Indians, followed by miners attracted to the area by the Gold Rush.

El Dorado County was one of the original counties in California. The Pony Express Trail ran through the county approximately where Highway 50 is today, from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861. The first county seat was Coloma, and it was superseded by Placerville for this position in 1857. El Dorado means “the gilded one” in Spanish; a fitting name considering the mines in El Dorado County produced millions of dollars of gold.

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Latitude: 38.729625 Longitude: -120.798546 Elevation: 1845 ft

About this Establishment

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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Time Period Represented



Placerville is a town with charm and character! There are so many great little gems along Main Street and a growing farm to fork movement throughout El Dorado County. Definitely worth a stop on your way to Tahoe.

Jill Sanford, 5/26/2016

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