Historic Hangtown, now known as Placerville, came by the name of Hangtown when three men were convicted for robbery, murder and attempted murder, then subsequently hanged in 1849. The massive oak tree from which they were hung was located on the spot known as Elstner’s Hay or Feed Yard. The yard is now known as 305 Main Street.
In 1853, over much public objection, Mr. Herrick, with the help of John Studebaker, cut down the Oak Tree used in the hangings in order to accommodate a new two story brick building on 301 Main Street.
The two story brick building is one of the few buildings in Placerville to have survived the July 1856 Fire. After the fire, owners Bruce Herrick and Charles Bonestel raised the ceiling of the Brick building four feet to accommodate a temporary theatre as the Empire Theatre had burned down. Around 1895 the wooden framed building at 305 Main was listed as a two story building and it is assumed to be the time when the two buildings were joined with one common roof.
Both structures are listed on the City’s Historic Resource Inventory. The 305 Main Street site is also listed as State Historical Landmark No. 0141.
The building that sat over the stump of the hanging tree housed a saloon in 1895 and continued as such until the building was slated for repairs in 2008.
Over the years the buildings fell into disrepair and many efforts were taken by different owners to rectify the problems. Around 2009 the City of Placerville ordered the demolition of the two buildings.
The community and historic societies stepped in to offer solutions other than demolition.
The owners not wanting to see the buildings torn down, but overwhelmed with the concept of restoration, decided to put the buildings in safe hands by selling the buildings to Tim and Sue Taylor.
Tim majored in archeology and has construction experience. Sue is a building designer and very talented in facilitating projects. They both feel very strongly about the importance of restoring these building for the sake of Placerville’s Main Street. The building/site at 305 was made a California historical point of interest on June 6th, 1934, marking it one of the earliest local historically significant places in the State.
The Taylors said “We are doing our best to repurpose the materials back into the buildings. Much of this is labor and time intensive. We appreciate the wonderful craftspeople and friends that are assisting us with the project.
We received donations from the Heritage Association of El Dorado County and George Peabody which helped to fund the shutters and door to the stairway. We are very grateful for all of the support given to us from the community!”
Below are some links with more history about Hangtown and the Hangman’s Tree
Hangtown Fry – On The Road With Jim And Mary
History of Placerville and Downtown Main Street – Placerville Downtown Association
Old Hangtown – Gold Rush Chronicles
City History – City of Placerville
Placerville – Ghost Towns (Music may start playing when you visit this site)
California Historical Landmark 141 – NoeHill
Hangman’s Tree Placerville California – Beach California
Hangman’s Tree Ghost – Beach California
Sacramento’s Haunted Hot Spots – News 10
Placerville, California c. 1900 – El Dorado County Visitors Authority
Day Trip #5 – El Dorado County Visitors Authority
Placerville’s hangman hangs no more – Unexplained Mysteries
El Dorado County Historical Landmarks – El Dorado County GenWeb
Hangmans Tree Marker – Historical Marker Database