Truckee is filled with fascinating historic places
Few towns in northeastern California are as picturesque or historic as the community of Truckee, located 35 miles west of Reno.
Originally known as Gray’s Station or Coburn’s Station, a stagecoach stop, the site was renamed Truckee in 1868 when a formal town was laid out by the Central Pacific Railroad, which was building its part of the transcontinental railroad through the area.
The name honored Captain Truckee, a Nevada Paiute leader who had guided explorer John C. Fremont on his 1843-44 travels through the region.
In its early years, Truckee became noted as not only a railroad stop but also for its lumber and ice harvesting (before the invention of the electric refrigerator most people had ice boxes that used real ice to keep food cold) industries.
In the late nineteenth century, tourists discovered the scenic village in the mountains and started coming by train to partake in the-then new sport of downhill snow skiing.
Today’s visitors will find a number of historic sites and structures from Truckee’s early years can still be found in the town.
For instance, one local landmark is an unusual fourteen-sided, metal tower that sits on a hill overlooking the town. The tower, erected in 1893, was once part of a magnificent home (which burned down in 1931) built by Charles Fayette McGlashan, who was editor of the local newspaper and author of “The History of the Donner Party.”
The tower encloses Truckee’s famous “Rocking Stone.” According to Indian legend, the 17-ton rocking stone—which is balanced on top of another larger stone base—was placed there by the gods to scare off birds who tried to steal meat that was drying on top of the larger rock. Any movement, even the wind, would make it rock and frighten the birds.
Today, the rocking stone, one of only 25 such stones in the world, no longer moves much, but you can still view it and read about the legend.
There are also a number historic homes and other buildings found in the town. A free historic walking map of the downtown can be found on the Truckee Chamber of Commerce web site (http://www.truckee.com/explore/downtown/history/).
Among the historic places still found in Truckee is an old log cabin, known as Uncle Joe’s Cabin, that is the town’s oldest structure. Built in 1863, it was part of the original Gray’s Station and was originally located on the southwest corner of Jibboom and Bridge streets. In 1907, it was moved to its present site at 10030 Church Street and has been renovated several times over the years.
About a block south of Joe’s Cabin is the historic Truckee Hotel, an impressive three-story wooden structure built in 1868. First known as the American Hotel, it has been renovated many times over the years, including a major restoration in 1977. It continues to serve as a hotel and restaurant.
Truckee’s main street, called Commercial Row, is lined with other historic, frontier facades. Most, such as the Odd Fellows Hall and the Capitol Building, date to the 1870s and 1880s. Across from the business district is the railroad depot, restored in 1986 and home of the Downtown Visitors Center.
Other noteworthy historic structures include the Richardson House at 10154 High Street, which was built in 1871 by a lumber company owner. The beautiful Victorian was restored a few years ago and as been a bed and breakfast since 1981.
Another old-timer is the Star Hotel on West River Street, south of the railroad tracks, which was built in 1867 as a boarding house for employees of the Schaffer Lumber Company, which owned the first sawmill in the area.
Just west of the Star Hotel is the Swedish House, originally used as a boarding house for ice cutters, which was erected in 1885. Actor Charlie Chaplin stayed in the building, while making his classic film, “The Gold Rush,” in the area.
North of Commercial Row is the Truckee Jail Museum, constructed in 1875, with a second story added in 1901. it was used as a jail until 1964 and later restored as a museum that is open during the summer.
In addition to its beautiful mountain setting, Truckee is also worth a visit because of its collection of fine local retail stores, which include many types of arts and crafts. Additionally, few towns its size can boast as many quality restaurants.
For more information about Truckee, go to http://www.truckee.com/.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that Nevadans want to see.