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Dutch Flat shines as jewel on history tour

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Until Sunday, Robert Zwick hadn’t been to Dutch Flat since he was a child. But Sunday’s Heritage Trail event spurred him to make the drive with his wife, Carmen from their Sacramento home. In its second year, the trail trek provided a free tour of 18 museums in communities throughout Placer County. Dutch Flat followed visits Saturday by the Zwicks to the Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville and Joss House and Gold County museums in Auburn. “We’re history people and collectors and we never knew there were all these museums out there,” Zwick said. They weren’t disappointed with the event — which was organized by the Placer County museum division. The Heritage Trail from Tahoe to Roseville drew hundreds to local museums. “I thought it was very well organized — everyone has been very friendly and knowledgeable,” Zwick said. Dutch Flat — probably one of the least disturbed of the area’s gold towns and likely one of its best-kept secrets — is tucked away on a side road off Interstate 80, about 35 miles east of Auburn. The entire town has been designated a historical district and it is an eclectic mix of steel-roofed architecture that dates to the Gold Rush. Some of its most distinctive landmarks include a unique adobe-like Chinese store built in the 1870s, the Dutch Flat Hotel, dating from the early 1850s, the old school building built in 1898 and the Methodist Episcopal Church, constructed in 1861. Jim Ricker, a member of the Golden Drift Historical Society, was happy to share the story of the community during a walking tour of Dutch Flat. It was originally named Dutch Charlie’s Flat after the first settlers there in 1851. While fire took out some of the earliest buildings, a major blaze has never swept through all of Dutch Flat — a rarity for a Gold Rush community. That has meant a wealth of 19th buildings have survived, with many built in the 1860s. “This is the gem of Placer County,” Ricker said, stopping to describe the past of buildings like the Oddfellows Hall, which dates from the late 1850s, and the adjoining Masonic building (dating from the same time frame and for sale for $200,000). Doug Ferrier, president of the Golden Drift historical group, said numbers were up from last year’s inaugural Heritage Trail event, with 125 people visiting on Saturday. Even factoring in about 25 visitors in town for a retirement party for a local resident, attendance was a little better than last year’s event, he said. The museum, located in what is probably an old boarding house constructed around 1900, provides a detailed look at the Dutch Flat area’s history. Over the last year, the museum drew 829 people so the Heritage Trail event provided it with one of the biggest weekends of 2009. Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.