The Dickens Street Faire last Saturday was wonderful, and the weather helped a lot to make it such an amazing day. Hundreds of people spent the day in Old Town Elk Grove, and they all had a great time. I enjoyed visiting with friends and talking to people with many connections to longago Elk Grove as well as new residents and visitors. And I truly enjoyed chatting with readers of this column!
Today, we have a special treat from Sarah Spearman, a journalism student at UC Davis. She recently wrote about Old Town Elk Grove for a class assignment, and I was able to assist her with information. Sarah and her family have lived in Elk Grove since 2014. She decided to write about Old Town because she was fascinated by how quaint and different it was compared to the newer parts of Elk Grove. Here is her story:
“A Day in Old Town –
“Groups of rowdy school kids happily walking home from school and the rush hour congestion on its two lane road make Old Town Elk Grove look like any other thoroughfare during this time of day. But it’s not like any other. Looming in the background of people’s everyday activities, Old Town’s survival through decades of developments calls attention to its colorful history and many stories to share.
“Although the clothing boutiques and vintage stores have closed their doors until the next morning, and some passersby are eager to get home, the day is not finished in Old Town. The salons and barbershop have most of their chairs occupied with customers. Parents accompany their children to the School of Rock for music lessons. The dinner rush at the Brickhouse restaurant and bar, and Lola’s Lounge is starting. All is located within short walking distances to each other on historic Main Street.
“This is the Old Town of today. Many businesses have come and gone with changing times, but the almost-century-old buildings remain standing. Elk Grove, now the second largest city in Sacramento County, is officially a young city, having entered cityhood in 2000. However, Elk Grove’s origin goes much further back, starting with a role in the Gold Rush.
“In 1847, gold was discovered south of the Cosumnes River area. News traveled, and gold mining in the Cosumnes area led to an influx of businesses and people. Many small towns were established for travelers, and farming grew profitable because the miners needed food.
“In 1850, James Hall opened the Elk Grove House, a hotel and stage stop where travelers could sleep, eat and pick up their mail, and soon the town became known as Elk Grove. This prime location contributed to it being the town’s namesake. Elk Grove was on the direct line between two big cities, Sacramento and Stockton.
“The Elk Grove House was torn down in 1957 during the construction of Highway 99. However, visitors can tour the two-story brick building, about two miles from Old Town, due to its 1980s reconstruction by the Elk Grove Historical Society members who work to preserve Elk Grove history.
“In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad line from Sacramento to Stockton was established, and it traveled through Elk Grove. At first, it was built about a mile away from the center of town, but about eight years later, the town and its businesses moved close to the railroad.
“There is a dramatic shift of new to old when entering Old Town. Less than two miles away in either direction are gas stations, coffee shops and big grocery stores. Soon, however, the street narrows into two lanes, with quaint wooden or brick buildings on either side, making it a very distinct part of the developing, modern suburbs of Elk Grove.
“Right across the street, blending in more with today, is The School of Rock. After the 1892 fire burned down the original building, a two-story brick building was constructed for the IOOF - Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The prominently printed letters, IOOF, remain on the front of the building. The first floor used to include a variety of businesses, such as a general store. The second floor was the IOOF lodge, where meetings were held. Today, The School of Rock invites children and adults to take interactive music lessons on the historic street and is bound to inspire students and teachers alike.
“These features of Old Town are just a few of many well-kept treasures in Elk Grove. It remains accessible to anyone, Elk Grove citizens and visitors alike, for a walk through the town and its neighborhood, allowing people a glimpse to the past. Amid the bustle of the growing city of Elk Grove and the state capital just 15 miles north, Old Town and its surrounding area provide a quiet and friendly environment to enjoy the day with fresh air and some historic fun facts.”
We send our many thanks for Sarah Spearman, and we appreciate her interest in the historic part of our city of Elk Grove. We hope that her work inspires others to explore the history that is here in all of our backyards!
BOOKS BY ELIZABETH PINKERTON
1. History Happened Here, Book 1 – River, Oaks, Gold
2. History Happened Here, Book 2 – Fields, Farms, Schools
3. We the People, a Story of Internment in America
All book proceeds go for student scholarships, and I thank the many purchasers who have made possible the 71 scholarships, each $1,000. Make your check for books payable to Laguna Publishers and send to me at 9227 Lamprey Drive, Elk Grove CA 95624. Books are $20 apiece and California sales tax is included. Add $3 for shipping of one or two books; $5 for 3-6 books. Call me at (916) 685-0606 or email me at email@example.com. Special Holiday price - $50 for three books!!