Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Smith Flat or Three Mile House, Placerville, El Dorado County, California

Good morning. Gold County Girl Tina checking in. I am going to take you on a visit to a building which is very dear to my heart. I know it as the Smith Flat House, but it once was known as Three Mile House. It is in Smith Flat, California which is about three miles east of Placerville. Smith Flat was possibly named for Jeb Smith who was a farmer/rancher.

I have no recent photos, only vintage photos. But it is the vintage pictures that show the Smith Flat House I know best.
After being built in 1853, the building was used as a stage stop, and housed a general store, post office, bedrooms, dining room, and a dance floor. In the photo above, where there is a large gathering of people anxious to have their portraits taken, the front of the building has a nice roof that extends out over the porch. I don't think that exists any longer. I would love to take a ride in the horse and buggy! You can see people on the stairs which lead up to the dance hall and rooms above. At one time in the 1970s there was a hairdresser who had her shop upstairs. I remember one time someone showing a movie upstairs for a fundraiser, and community meetings were held there also. I believe at one time there was also a small apartment on the second floor. This is a scan of one of the two "real photo" postcards that I have of the Smith Flat House. They are hard to come by. The road in front is Smith Flat Road. It runs east from Broadway in Placerville up along the creek and the little community of Smith Flat, and then dead ends on the north side along Highway 50. I once lived in a little cabin along that dead end part of the road. My little sister Heidi lived with me there for a while. I might live there still but the roof leaked badly. The railroad ran about 20 feet up the hill right in back of my kitchen window. That railway is now part of the El Dorado Trail which extends up to the town of Camino.
This gentleman parked his buggy right in the shade. The Three Mile House was built directly over an entrance to the Deep Blue Lead gold mine. In the 1980s t0 90s there was a bar in the basement of the building and you could look into the mine. It was nice and cool down in that old bar. The only time I ever "enjoyed myself" enough to sing karaoke in public was in that bar.
In the early 1970's I worked about a half mile from the Smith Flat House in the old Smith Flat School which was then the Smith Flat Children's Center. I would walk up to the Three Mile House, which was also the Smith Flat Post Office at that time, and wait for the school children to get off the bus, and walk back with them. The postmaster, Elmer Fossati, would also wait outside with me to keep me company. His family owned the Three Mile House for many years. The Smith Flat Post Office closed in 1982, after moving into a modern building across the street. For a while the middle part of the bottom floor to the left of the Post Office housed an antique store.
This is another closeup of one of the old photos. At the southwest corner of the building there are stairs that lead down to the bar area. In about 1982 a restaurant was opened in the building, and they placed old tables and chairs in several of the little rooms, decorating the walls with vintage items such as old plates and framed prints. They had a very popular brunch on Sundays, which featured champagne and the best shrimp eggs benedict I have ever had. It was one of my favorite places to bring my young son for a little mother/son bonding. Our family enjoyed a wonderful anniversary dinner in one of the rooms with my husband's aunt and uncle and many of their friends who came from Southern California for the event. I have great memories of the Smith Flat House restaurant.
Later, a restaurant/bar known as "The Carriage Room", which was very popular with the local attorneys and judges, relocated to the Three Mile House. The restaurant had been in a shopping center close to a hotel on Broadway in Placerville, and was a bustling crowded mecca every weekday afternoon, with its tall wooden booths and piano bar. Soon the Smith Flat House Carriage Room, wooden booths and all, became the new popular place for lunch and dinner and drinks. I was quite fond of their Chinese Chicken Salad. It was a great place to meet a friend for a special meal.
This is my other real photo postcard. To the right of the building was a picket fence around a darling old home which is still there, but has seen better days.
This is the same shot as my postcard. This image was given to me by a close friend and scanned from a post card her brother owned. His was black and white and mine sepia, but otherwise I believe they are the same image.
To the north on Smith Flat School Road past the school was the Placerville Lumber Mill which operated for many years. It has closed and all the land has been cleared off. Someday someone will build something else where the logs were stacked, but for now it sits vacant, except for the walking trail which meanders through the area.
The Three Mile House has been completely remodeled, while saving its vintage character, and is now the Smith Flat House Center for Health. You can get a massage or acupuncture there, I have heard, and I am going to try those both out sometime. I wonder what the old miners, or even Elmer would think of that!
This final image is a drawing by George Mathis, one of my favorite Gold Country artists.
Besides this and several other old buildings, the school, and some great old homes, there is also a small cemetery which is worth a visit. I hope you enjoyed our little outing to the village of Smith Flat.


Lorlore said...

We had Dinner there in about 1993, it was Amber's first big dance night, and since she was only 14, the parents had to drive, so we went to dinner also. It was great and I remember the downstairs bar area was very neat!!

Jennifer D said...

Thanks for the tour! That is such a great building I am glad it is still being used. That Bar sounds incredible. I bet it was a welcome spot on a hot day.

yosemite faith said...

nice post - learned a lot about a place i had never known about. loved all your stories and since i am retired post office - the postal aspect was of interest. would have loved to have seen that bar!

Heidi Ann said...

I did enjoy our little outing to Smith Flat, and I have such fond memories of the place as well. Eating at the restaurant was always a pleasure. A friend from high school, Kathy Parrish, was a waitress there back then, and we enjoyed a nice dinner on Christmas Eve in 1984.
That WAS a great bar, one of the nicest places to "hang out". There aren't many places like that left.

Anonymous said...

Came across this site with an interesting question, Beside the Smith Flat House and the cemetery, there is up the street an abandoned saloon bar and there it looks like an abandoned motelish resident both up the street. Do they have any historic value to the town. What was theire purpose?

kc lute said...

Do you know what year the mill closed? I have a fire hydrant from the mill i am trying to date. Thanks.