Located in a stone building with original iron doors and window shutters that date back to 1852, the Downieville Museum has a collection of local artifacts that depicts the life of this community from its Gold Rush origins to the present day. The collection includes a variety of pictures of Downieville from early days, pioneer portraits, a collection of paper goods and documents, as well as items that reflect 160 years of life in Downieville and the surrounding area.
Downieville today survives a much smaller community than its Gold Rush roots. Founded in the summer of 1848 by a small group of miners following the discovery of gold in California, the community first known as "The Forks" for its location at the confluence of two rivers, the Yuba and Downie rivers, was soon renamed for early miner William Downie. Its population swelled to an estimated 5,000 and it was one of 16 communities vying for state capitol designation in a special election in 1850. It has been the county seat of Sierra County since the county's creation in 1852.
One of the more interesting displays in the museum is a scale model of the turn-of-the-century Downieville business district. Meticulously designed and built by local historian Len Kinzler, the model gives a 3-D view of historic Downieville. Also on display is a replica of the 1,000 oz. Sierra County gold collection. While the real gold is on display in the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum for secuity reasons, this replica is an exact duplicate of the actual gold that was mined from the nearby Ruby Mine located at Goodyear's Bar just up the road on scenic historic Highway 49.
Books on local history are also available for sale.The museum dates from 1932 when the building it is housed in was donated to the community by the heirs of JMB Meroux, an early pioneer. The original museum collection was initiated by former sheriff George Bynon. Since its opening, the museum has been continuously operated by Naomi Parlor 36 of the Native Daughters of the Golden West and Downieville Parlor 62, Native Sons of the Golden West. The museum is located on Main Street in the middle of Downieville, population 325.