gold rushAlways a hotel, this week’s gold-rush era historical shelter in California also has its place in history as the location for an office and stage stop for an express company that ran mail across the country.

The site of the current Hotel Sutter, located in Sutter Creek, California, was first home to the American House Hotel, built in 1851. It served as a stop for Adams & Co., later Adams Express Company, which pre-dated Wells Fargo.

Sutters Mill

Sutter Creek is named after a local creek, which in turn got its name from a local prospector, John Sutter, who discovered gold nearby in 1848, triggering the California Gold Rush.  Sutter owned a sawmill where the mother lode was found, and after fortune hunters began trampling his land, he decided to prospect, too, moving to Sutter Creek to begin his own mining operation, using his servants to mine, something that drew the disapproval of the miners also working to find gold. Eventually, he returned to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento and never mined again.

By 1852, Sutter Creek had a post office. Two years later, it was a town. In 1913, it incorporated.

Over time, the town became a boomtown, moving from gold mining to quartz mining until 1942, when most of the gold mines were closed during the war.

In 1865, disaster struck the town of Sutter Creek when fire ravaged the business district, burning the American House Hotel to the ground. It was rebuilt, and went through several name changes — the American Exchange Hotel, the Belotti Inn, and now the Hotel Sutter.

And while gold mining doesn’t happen in Sutters Creek anymore, there are plenty of nearby wineries and breweries, restaurants, and shopping. And the area that was once known for gold is now known for having land perfect for growing grapes, making Amador County a go-to place for a more dressed-down wine country. (more…)

AmericanThere is just something about a Colonial and Early American era home that makes you want to pull out the David McCullough books and transport yourself back to the incredible point in time where a new nation was born.

And we’ve made no secret of our love of a well-preserved home from that era — we’ve written about the Green Hill House in Salem, Virginia; the Philadelphia home of Joseph Hopkinson; the Daniel Bliss Homestead in Rehoboth, Massachusetts; and the Samuel Jones house in Concord, Massachusetts.

This week’s historical shelter was built in 1672, and was home to Joseph Hosmer, who was a lieutenant at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. In fact, he acted as adjutant in the Battle of Concord, which happened the same day as the Battle of Lexington — April 19, 1775.

The Battle Of Concord, 1775

It was a date that is now pointed to as the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

“I really don’t have time to spare from our household chores to write in this Journal–and yet, I must, to calm my nerves and enable me to think clearly about these perilous times,” wrote Hosmer’s wife, Lucy the night before. “This I must surely do to help my husband, Joseph Hosmer, our four children, and our dear village of Concord. No shots have yet been fired but already we are a wartime community…Last night Joseph and I drove by ox team two wagon loads of ammunition from Acton to hide on Deacon Jonathan Hosmer’s farm there. His twenty-year-old son, Abner, is Joseph’s third cousin and an Acton Minuteman.” (more…)

Lost

This abandoned building was once the deputy sheriff’s office in Langtry, Texas, and is one of several photos photographer Bronson Dorsey captured in his quest to create the book Lost, Texas (photos courtesy Bronson Dorsey).

We make no secret about our love history here on SecondShelters.com, although the bulk of our attention tends to skew toward the adored, restored, and lovingly preserved.

But earlier this year, Texas photographer Bronson Dorsey’s book, Lost, Texas: Photographs of Forgotten Buildings, brought to light another dimension of Texas history — the forgotten parts that were left to the march of time and elements.

“In many cases for the buildings and the towns in the book, the towns began to fail when younger people moved out for jobs in the city,” Dorsey told us during a phone chat. “And there was an economic base to support the businesses and towns in the beginning, thanks to the railroad often, but eventually, they got passed by the interstate.”

Dorsey’s book had its genesis in a drive from Big Bend to Austin in 2009, when he stopped in Langtry, Texas. (more…)

monte vistaWhen we found this week’s historical shelter, an English Domestic Revival home in the Monte Vista neighborhood of San Antonio, we immediately wanted to know more about one of the largest historic districts in the United States.

And we became even more intrigued when we found out that the district, which encompasses 100 city blocks in midtown San Antonio, had rather humble beginnings as a goat pasture.

According to historians, the Monte Vista neighborhood began as a development when, in 1889, real estate developers began eyeballing the land — which was being used for grazing land for goats, five miles north of downtown San Antonio.

Street by street, developers built homes, with different developers owning blocks at a time. The entire enclave was finished in the 1930s. At the time, Monte Vista would be considered one of San Antonio’s tonier Gilded Age suburbs, showcasing several styles of homes, including Classical Revival, Tudor, Spanish Eclectic, and Craftsman, built by names like Alfred Giles, Harvey Young, James Riely Gordon, and Atlee B. Ayres. (more…)

Miami ShoresWhen we look for historical shelters every week, we always find some beautiful homes with interesting stories — and that’s true this week as well, with the Simmons Estate in Miami Shores, Florida.

It’s always fun to go back and look at 1920s architecture — the era embraced luxury in a way that was potentially over the top, but so well crafted that to this day newer construction often attempts to emulate the grandeur.

And that’s true with 257 NE 91 St., a gorgeous Mediterranean built in 1925 and designed by the nationally-acclaimed architects Kiehnel and Elliot, whose work includes the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Carlyle Hotel in Miami Beach, and the downtown Miami Post Office. (more…)

schoolIn our quest to find the most interesting historical shelters, we fully admit to being suckers for a good school house conversion, and this example in the historic mining village of Hillsboro, New Mexico, does not disappoint.

The school was built in the 1800s, listing agent Crystal Lay with Steinborn & Associates Real Estate said, and it taught generations of elementary school students in the mining town.

More recently, it’s been beautifully renovated, and the sellers took pains to incorporate wonderful details into that renovation.

“The amazing original details including the interior tin roof tiles, the chalkboards, and the windows have been preserved and keep the authenticity of the school that is incorporated into the ample living space,” Lay said. (more…)

PhiladelphiaWhen Philadelphia lawyer Joseph Hopkinson and his wife Emily settled into their home on Spruce Street in 1794, the country was still in its infancy. Construction on the home itself had been completed just three years prior, by cabinet maker Jesse Williams.

Hopkinson saw the country grow from a collection of colonies that banded together for independence from England to a country, watching his father, Francis, sign the Declaration of Independence. Francis Hopkinson was also credited with designing the first Stars and Stripes during the Revolutionary War and later served as governor of Pennsylvania.

But the junior Hopkinson would forge his own place in U.S. history, penning the lyrics to “Hail, Columbia,” the first national anthem — a song that would remain so until the 1890s — at his home in 1798, using a melody written by Philip Phile 10 years prior.

They would raise their 14 children in the home, which also has its place in the Library of Congress, where one can read about the composition and use of “Hail, Columbia,” and also see photos of the home from decades ago.

Nowadays, the song is still in use as the official anthem for the Vice President, but before that, it was the anthem for the President, before it was replaced by “Hail to the Chief” officially during the Truman administration.

And now, 227 years later, the home is for sale, ready for its next family of history lovers to come in and continue to maintain and love the home.

The 4,100-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bath home has been so well maintained (and its history honored), that you can fairly envision Hopkinson putting quill to paper.Three stories high, plus a dormer fourth floor, the home immediately signals its history with a historical marker just to the left of the blue front door.

A 30-foot long hallway leads to two sitting rooms with wood-burning fireplaces surrounded by floor-to-ceiling moldings. That hallway ends with what Williams called “the piazza,” back in 1791.

(more…)

VirginiaWhen you begin looking for houses of historical significance, especially on the week of Thanksgiving, you often turn to the places where the country was born. For this week’s historical shelter, we found a Virginia home owned by a Revolutionary War soldier turned inn owner, with ties to a founding father and future president.

The Green Hill House, located in Salem, Virginia, was built in 1776. But the land it sits on was granted to William Walton in 1774, by none other than the Governor of Virginia — Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson granted 1,200 acres along the Roanoke River in what would eventually be Salem to Walton, who built the brick home we’re featuring this week. About 10 years later, Walton obtained a license to open an inn, and became a popular stopover for people heading to what would become the Louisiana Territories.

It is rumored that Jefferson frequented Green Hill House a few times, too.

By 1845, Walton sold the home to his son-in-law, Robert Craig — who was a U.S. congressman from 1829 to 1841. Craig is credited with giving the property its current name.

Nowadays, the property sits adjacent to Green Hill Park, which was once part of the original 1,200 acres in the land grant.

The home has been well-maintained and has kept in mind its historical provenance with the updates you see. The main floor boasts a grand ballroom with fireplaces and three chandeliers, a full bathroom, a formal dining room, a family room, and cathedral ceilings in the now-gourmet kitchen and hearth room — perfect spaces for a family Thanksgiving for any future owner.

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