Bird’s Eye View Placerville,
Cal. Published by the Weekly Observer, 1888.
This bird’s-eye-view of Placerville was drawn in 1888 by L. Roethe for the “Weekly Observer”. It shows labeled roads, business district, waterways, and railroad route. In the distance are the foothills of the Sierras, noting Coloma, Greenwood, and Georgetown. It is bordered by illustrations of local businesses, churches, public buildings, residences, and the Southern Pacific railroad bridge. At the bottom center is a portrayal of the original settlement from an earlier sketch, probably from when it was known as Hangtown. The 1888 text states:
“EL DORADO COUNTY. The county has a length of about seventy miles from east to west, and a breadth of about thirty-five miles from north to south. Within this area are embraced most of the varied beauties and advantages which are to be found in the most favored portions of this state. “No county in the state, and possibly no section of equal size in the Union, has a history so full of thrilling interest as that of El Dorado. It was here that gold was first discovered, the news of which spread with rapidity throughout the civilized world. In less than one year after Marshall’s discovery, over forty thousand gold seekers were within the boundaries of El Dorado County, and for several years it was the banner gold producing county of the state. Her deep gravel deposits and rich quartz lodes continue to yield golden treasures, and from the present appearances promise to do so for ages to come.”
Along her western borders stretches a belt of prairie land, but slightly elevated above the level of the sea. This prairie belt, and the contiguous lower foothill region, are peculiarly adapted to the growth of citrus fruits, the olive, the fig, and the apricot. Thence by gradual ascent, is reached a stretch of undulating country, rolling hills and narrow valleys, covered, in their native state, with white oak timber, or with groves of manzanita, chapparal and buckeye. Here we find the gravelly red soil of the foothill region proper, where the choicest fruit of the vine reaches unrivaled perfection, where wine acquires a flavor which no amount of cultivation or treatment will give to that made from grapes grown at lower altitudes, and on alluvial soils. Here, too, the peach, the plum and apricot, attain to a size, a color, a texture, and a lusciousness, which gives them incontestable rank as the finest fruits of their several kinds to be found in the world. Thence, still by gradual ascent, is reached the upper foothill region; with an altitude of from fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred feet.
The fruit interest of the county is now in the lead, and has proven to be the most profitable, and makes the largest returns for the least outlay. Peaches, prunes, apricots, plums, pears, apples, berries of all kinds, grapes, and even the orange and persimmon mature to perfection and have a flavor that is not equaled anywhere, save in the neighborhood of Newcastle, Placer County which has the same character of soil and climate.
East of the agricultural belt, extending the entire length of the county north and south, and to its eastern boundary, are some of the finest timber lands upon the coast. These forests, many miles in extent, stand in their original primeval pride, having never heard the sound of the woodman’s axe. Here are found majestic pines three hundred feet high and twelve feet in diameter, standing thick upon the ground. The entire county is well timbered.
The water supply of El Dorado County is ample for her whole territory. Fruit trees and vines need no irrigation, the depth and character of the soil, and the flush rainfall render irrigation entirely superfluous. Such a thing as a drought was never known. Four rivers traverse the county from east to west. There are also some twenty or thirty small lakes which, together with the streams, abound in trout. For agricultural and other purposes, the rainfall is usually ample, but from one or another of the artificial channels (the old mining ditches) every acre of arable land in the county may be conveniently and economically irrigated.
There are in this county, according to the latest tabulations, about three-hundred and seventy five thousand acres of unsold and unclaimed government land. Much of this, doubtless, is as favorably located and of as good quality as any that is claimed and cultivated. Much of it is ready for cultivation at but slight cost for preparation. In a word, there is no part of California, or of the American continent, where so much of actual and honest value, with such safe assurance of great and rapid enhancement and bountiful return can be obtained for the same outlay, as in El Dorado County.
PLACERVILLE is situated in latitude 38̊ 43´ west. It occupies a long, narrow ravine, through which flows Hangtown Creek, between two ranges of hills that rise on either side of the city several hundred feet. A view of the town with its long winding Main Street, from any adjacent hilltops, is picturesque in the extreme. The main portion of the town, which is divided into what is called Upper and Lower Placerville, is upwards of two miles in length. The business portion contains many handsome fire-proof brick blocks, and the residence portion many magnificent residences, surrounded with beautiful lawns, grown to fruit, flowers and shade trees, that here thrive in luxuriance. Its church edifices, four in number, are fine structures that will compare favorably in size, stability and architectural beauty with any city in the state outside of San Francisco.
Her schools, both public and private, are the pride of her citizens, and her academy has a state reputation.
Placerville boasts of three newspapers, the Mountain Democrat, Eldorado County Republican and Weekly Observer. The publishers of these papers understand the requirements of their sections, and to their efforts is largely due the present prosperity of the county. The town has a population of nearly three thousand.
All who have visited Placerville pronounce its climate the most healthy and beautiful in the world. Garden vegetables are grown in winter and summer by a succession of planting.”