San Andreas offers more than meets the eye |

San Andreas offers more than meets the eye


It’s easy to overlook San Andreas. Perhaps because most of the town isn’t located on a major road — Highway 49 runs perpendicular to its main street — many motorists don’t even notice that it exists.

But San Andreas is worth a side trip. Its narrow streets are lined with well-preserved brick and stone buildings that are tangible evidence of the town’s rich history.

San Andreas was originally settled in 1848 by Mexican miners. The spot proved to be so productive that within two years, more than 1,000 people lived in tents and wooden shacks in the town.

Unfortunately, shortly after the discovery, but not after the town had acquired its Spanish name (from the name of a small mission that had been erected), the Mexicans were run off by white miners who heard about the rich gold deposits.

A more permanent town evolved during the next decade, with the first stone buildings erected in 1855. Fires in 1856 and 1858 destroyed portions of the town, which responded by building most later structures from brick and stone.

Despite a mining slump in the early 1860s, San Andreas was successful in taking the Calaveras County seat from nearby Mokelumne Hill in 1866. Another mining boom reenergized the town during the 1890s and early part of the 20th century.

In the late 1920s, the town experienced its last mining boom which, interestingly wasn’t as a result of gold deposits but because of development of a massive cement plant.

Nowadays, San Andreas is a quiet, picturesque community filled with dozens of historic commercial buildings and quaint Queen Anne-style homes.

For example, Main Street is lined with several interesting structures dating to the town’s earliest days.

Starting at the corner of North Main Street and the highway (6 No. Main), you can find the former Thomas McGlim Saloon, a Classical Revival brick building constructed in 1858. It continues to serve as a local bar.

Nearby is the former B. Crowley’s Empire Bakery and Restaurant (14 No. Main). This stucco-faced building (underneath is brick) was also built in 1858 and has served as a bakery, drug store, post office and general store.

Next door is the impressive two-level Odd Fellows and Masons Hall, one of the oldest buildings in town. Built in 1856, the structure survived various fires and later served as county offices.

The next building at 30 N. Main is the former Calaveras County Courthouse, which now serves as home of the excellent Calaveras County Museum. Built in 1893, this two-story brick and marble structure was constructed in a classical Romanesque Revival style.

The museum is quite informative, containing a number of exhibits describing the area’s history including the Mi-Wuk Indians, the original Mexican settlers and later miners and settler.

Highlights include a bark Mi-Wuk wikiup, a typical miner’s tent camp, baskets, historic legal papers, the original jail and a neat acorn-grinding display that allows you to try your hand at making meal. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other interesting structures include the Courthouse Saloon (originally the William Livers Ten Pin Saloon), which once had a bowling alley, then later a bocci ball court in the rear).

Beyond the main street, the town contains several magnificent homes. Among the best is the C.M. Whitlock Mansion (116 Court Street), an elaborate shingled and steepled Queen Anne, completed in 1896, is considered one of the most beautiful in the area.

The John Snyder House (247 West Saint Charles) is another marvelous Queen Anne built in 1895. In recent years, it has served as the Robin’s Nest bed and breakfast.

San Andreas is famous for one other thing — it was the site of the trial of notorious California outlaw Black Bart (AKA Charles Bolton). The gunman supposedly robbed some 28 stagecoaches in the region between 1877 and 1883.

Captured in San Francisco after committing a final robbery in Copperopolis (near San Andreas), Black Bart was returned to San Andreas, where he sat in jail for several weeks.

After a short trial, he was convicted and sent to San Quentin, where he served four years before obtaining his release for good behavior. He was never heard from again.

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Rich Moreno covers the places Nevadans want to visit.