Although it was against the rules, occasionally when I was older, we would talk the bus driver into letting us off the bus at the store. We would purchase some candy and then walk home, up to Pleasant Valley to Cedar Ravine to Woodland Drive, then up Woodland Drive and across the high hill to the west and down to my friends rented farm house. It was a long walk, but the bus ride was even longer, so we could make it home before the bus would have dropped us off, and my mom would be none-the-wiser.
What we now know as Gutenbergers Corners was once a 430 acre ranch known as the Bartram Sandfoss place. This house was built in approximately 1858 by Wheeler Bartram, who also owned the Pacific House Ranch, and operated the Pacific Sawmill. The lumber for the house and for the barns which used to stand nearby was cut and milled from timber on the ranch. Later it was owned by Charles Sandfoss, who sold it to Jack Bell in 1885. The Carson Emigrant trail, which ran next to the house, was heavily traveled in those days, and as many as seventy-five teams a night would be put up at the house. Although the house served a a stage coach house, it was constructed for gracious family living rather than for overnight convenience, with lots of closets and even servants quarters.
Squaw Creek and Willow Creek, which run through the property, were the scene of early mining activities, which included Spaniards and the Chinese. A Native American settlement once flourished on the ranch. A prison break from Folsom prison was once foiled when the escapees were captured on the Bell Ranch. It is possible that President Grant was a guest at the home back in the days it was owned by W. Bartram.
This is a copy of an old photograph that accompanied an article which was in the Mountain Democrat in Placerville in the 1940s. It was a column by Ann Comfort called "the Early California Homes" series. The caption read "The Bell Place, at the junction of Pleasant Valley and Buck's Bar Roads".
This is a small pencil sketch of the Gutenberger place by Marguerite Flint, who was a good friend of my mother's. She signed the back of the frame in 1992 and wrote "Gutenberger's Place (corner of Pleasant Valley Rd and Bucks Bar) Original sketch M. Flint". I was lucky enough to find this little gem on ebay, but the Gold Country Girls also have a few of her watercolors. In this sketch you can see how the porch has been enclosed. For many years, after Mr. and Mrs. Gutenberger had passed away, the house sat sadly vacant, needing paint, losing its porch rails, seeming to sink a little closer to the ground every year. Luckily the heirs finally spruced it up, painting it white and replacing the porch rails. Although still vacant, it now appears to sit tall with pride in its place in history.
This watercolor was painted by one of my favorite local artists, Jac Turner, in June 1990, and was printed in his 1991 calendar. Mr. Turner, who we lost at the age of 88 years in 2004, was very interested in El Dorado County history and painted many of our old structures. This is what he had to say about the Gutenburger house:
"Gutenberger Corners - 1856. A familiar site to thousands...this great ol' stucture...now crumbling slowly into the earth...was built 132 yrs. ago by W. Bartram who had a sawmill... across the road on Mill Creek. Over the years...it's had many owners...The last, Henry Gutenberger, purchased it in 1912 for the sum of $5000...! It's still owned by his heirs..."
This view of the Gutenberger home was painted by Jac Turner in October, 1988, and printed on a note card which I found and bought at the El Dorado County museum just this month. The information on the card reads "The Gutenberger House. Neglect and time is taking its toll on this 135 yr. old mansion!... Off limits to all for many yrs... it was once the social center of the area..It's been a roadhouse, post office, boarding house, drug store...an'..a haven for ghosts! Alas, it's leaving the scene!"
Sometime in the early 60s Mr. Gutenberger built a new pharmacy across the street and moved the store out of his home into this structure. It is now operated as a convenience store. Pleasant Valley Road is a heavily traveled road, people on their way to work and school during the week, and tourists and wine aficionados on the weekends, so it must see a lot of business.
This is the gas station and the shop directly across the street from the home. When I was growing up, I believe this was a Richfield station. They used to give out dishes with purchases, they were white with blue daisies. I collected them in my cedar chest and used the set for a long time after I got married.
I occasionally visit the Gutenberger house in my dreams. Usually in those dreams the gas station is located on the North side of the house, away from the road, not across the street on the South. I don't have any idea why my subconscious places it there, or why I find it in my dreams so often.
This is one of my favorite shots, and I actually took this picture while I was driving (slowly!) by, through the front windshield. Vinca covers the yard surrounding the home, there are a few daffodils here and there, perhaps some naked ladies bloom here in the fall? Once long ago, in the early 20th century, a large weeping willow stood near the road.
As we drive away, East down Pleasant Valley Road toward our old elementary school, one last look through the trees at a piece of history and a place which holds fond memories. The Gutenberger Place has been owned by the same family now for over a hundred years, and I hope it continues to stand here for at least a hundred more!
Come out for a spring drive and check it out.