Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Once Upon A Time in Placerville #2: Benham Street and China Town

Good morning. This morning I am going to show you some photos of a part of Placerville which was known as "Chinatown" and also an area close to that which is now Benham Street, but once was known as Oregon Ravine.
This is an old Real Photo Post Card (RPPC) the Old Chinese Joss House which once stood in Placerville somewhere near Pacific and Sacramento Streets. I am not sure of the location. I believe it burned down. Most of the buildings in Chinatown were wood, so they are no longer there. The Chinese were hard workers and worked hard at mining in the Gold Country.
You can see how this part of town could have easily gone up in flames. Notice the big old house up on the hill. It would be fun to take a drive and find this spot and see if the old house is still there, maybe on De Bernardi Court or Meridian Street.
I'm not sure what they have here, but it probably isn't full of gold. This photo could have been taken along Quartz Alley.
Benham Street, which was once known as Oregon Ravine, was a very busy mining area when Dry Diggins first was settled. Later homes were built along the street. When I was small, across Benham from the City Park were several old ramshackle cabins and homes that have now been torn down and guess what is there? A parking lot!
This may have been one of those old homes that was still there into the 1960s. I have always been fascinated by empty old homes, they seem so sad. Notice the pear or cherry blossoms.
This old home, if it had gotten some updating in the 1930's, might have survived. But it didn't. I love the gingerbread along the roof line and the picket fence.

I think all the Gold Country Girls learned to swim at the Placerville City Pool on Benham Street at the City Park. I remember being small enough to just go to the wading pool which was just South of the big pool. Then I graduated to Pollywogs, and on from there.
Behind the pool up along the hillside were pyracantha bushes. They bloomed with tiny white sprays of flowers every summer, and the scent covered the area. I still can't smell that perfume without feeling like I also smell chlorine and feel the cool water slapping against my body as I swim. That scent is as much a part of my memories of Placerville as old photos are.
I have a lot of memories of the pool, but the one engraved in my mind was a child being hit and killed in the crosswalk on Benham just as I was about to dive off the diving board. I believe it was the first traffic fatality in Placerville in years. That was in the 1960s.
This is an old postcard of the original City pool in the 1930s. You can see the old homes across the street from the pool. Also note the "Big Cut" at the top middle left. I have never found a postcard of the pool in later days. Now our old pool has been replaced by a larger new aquatic center. I hope the pyracantha bushes are still there!

Just another short tour of some of our town which is no longer there. I hope you enjoyed it. Now get out there and smell the flowers and take a nice cooling dip in your nearest aquatic center.

5 comments:

Heidi Ann said...

I am always fascinated by your posts regarding Placerville and it's history. Yes - we do have some good memories from our swimming lessons and days spent at the city pool, don't we?
I love all of the great old photos!

yosemite faith said...

love the old photos and your stories. my house that i grew up in was taken for urban renewal so long ago and i loved that big old house. thanks for sharing those great memories!

1950's_atomic_ranch_house said...

Hmmm, I should see if there are any post cards of the club pool I learned to swim in. Great idea. =)

moonshinejunkyard said...

oh my goodness what a wonderful post! to include not only the distant past but also up to your childhood memories of the 1960s is such a brilliant idea. because now even THOSE things have changed. i wish i could have seen those little ramshackle houses across from the pool. the parking lot you mention must be the catholic church's lot? or US Bank? anyway i used to live in a little cottage on Quartz Alley which i adored. it is so cool to think that just behind me was the old chinatown of placerville and maybe that explains the very haunting feeling i had while living there. i still live close to downtown but over by the hospital. i think this town is full of miners' ghosts.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures, just stumbled across your post while doing some research, thanks for posting. The picture of the Chinese procession is a funeral party on pacific, they are carrying the deceased...