I spent 4th of July week in Sonora, CA with my sister and her husband. Sonora is in the "gold country" area of California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Along with towns like Angels Camp, Sutter Creek, Jackson, Jamestown and the Columbia (now a State Historic Park) and others, it is rich in history dating back to before the California gold rush. I say "before" because of course the American Indians were here way before the prospectors.
This first photo was taken very early on the 4th of July. It was the only time the entire week when there was no traffic downtown.
I didn't get a chance to really delve into Sonora history, so I can't give you the background of some of the photos here. Suffice to say, there are plenty of Victorian homes dating back well over 100 years, some earlier than that, and the neighborhoods behind the main street, Washington Street, are crammed with Victorian and farmhouse style homes, very tightly packed, along very narrow streets that can be so steep as to be heart-stopping.
It was VERY hot - over 100 degrees most of the week. But it does cool off at night, and people tell me it's not 100 degrees every single day in the summer like other places.
One thing I loved about the place - not ONE firecracker was heard all week. It was so nice to see a community that respects its surroundings and doesn't try to set it on fire. And it was bliss not having to tranquilize my dog.
This is a photo of Washington Street on a normal day.
As a person who grew up in a neighboring town and who has lived in other touristy areas, I know how frequently historic towns can turn into ill-planned tourist traps that don't provide anything of value and also don't really consider the local residents when planning. I think Sonora did it right. Yes, Washington Street is always packed with traffic, but that is a good thing for the local shop owners who need the business. Residents, on the other hand, aren't forced to partake in these traffic jams because there are several backstreets and overpasses. Supermarkets, hardware stores, and shops and services that full-time residents need are on the outskirts. Many days residents can completely avoid Washington Street when going about their daily business.
One store I visited immediately became a favorite. When you first walk into Legends, (at 131 S. Washington Street),you see that there is an attractive soda fountain on the left. There are also several places to sit and relax while enjoying your root beer float. Used books, antiques and a smattering of stationery and other interesting trinkets are for sale. All of it I found very interesting.
But then I spoke to Kat behind the soda fountain, who gave me a little bit of history. Apparently the building that Legends occupies is the second oldest building in downtown Sonora. When the gold rush hit, the Bank of Italy occupied this building. Underneath the main floor, tunnels were built so gold could be transported across the street without being noticed by ne'er do wells and then subsequently robbed. There was also an underground creek that runs along the same corridor. Go downstairs and check it out, Kat said.
And this is what I found downstairs.
In one of the rooms is a vault. Notice the door in the photo with window panes - beyond that door is the tunnel. tunnels.
My grandfather would have LOVED this.