A walk down Main Street in Historic Jamestown is a step back in time. You'll see a mixture of buildings from different eras. Wooden buildings dating from the winding down of the Gold Rush. Stone buildings with iron shutters from about the same time designed to withstand the fires that were common at that time. Wooden buildings in the Victorian style from the turn into the 20th century.
You can dine at the Willow Steak House (established 1864), where the builders of the Sierra Railway once hung out in the bar. You can have lunch or ice cream at Here's the Scoop, with its old-style decor including a bar that came from a historic San Francisco saloon.
There are gift shops and antique and collectible stores, with many items made locally.
In the small Victorian-era park there is the Jamestown Branch Jail, built in 1898 and very recently moved back to Jamestown and restored (See photo in middle column).
Several historic hotels can be found along the street, including the Royal Carriage Inn, the National Hotel, and the Jamestown Hotel.
A variety of restaurants can be found downtown, including traditional food, Mexican, Greek, Chinese, pizza, steak, seafood, sandwiches, burgers, ice cream, and expresso.
What's New. The Jamestown Hotel has opened, including a restaurant with California cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A few blocks east of the historic downtown area is the state park Railtown 1897. This park has preserved much of the Sierra Railway, built in 1897 to link the then very isolated area to Oakdale and the rest of the rail network. The line carried lumber from sawmills in Tuolumne City and Standard to the outside world. It also carried quartz ore to processing plants in the Bay Area that extracted the gold.
You can explore the grounds. We particularly recommend the tour of the roundhouse.
On weekends April-Oct you can ride the steam train on a 40-minute ride that will take you west to the Rock Quarry.
In the early summer of 1848—a few months after the famous discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento that started the Gold Rush—an Oregon man named Benjamin Wood discovered the first gold in the area in what is now known as Woods Creek. The discovery site is about 1 mile west of what is today downtown Jamestown.
It seemed that everyone then in California who could came to the Sierra foothills seeking gold. Woods Creek became crowded with miners seeking nuggets and flakes. Many were successful in that first year.
It took nearly a year for word of gold discoveries to reach the East Coast and, most importantly, be believed. Once it was, a mass migration of miners began from the East Coast and other nations to California, by wagon train or by ship via Cape Horn or the shortcut through the malaria-infested jungle of Panama. Pickings became tougher for those arriving in later years, and most miners went back home richer only in terms of the tales of their experiences.
Jamestown was named for a man who came here from San Francisco named Col. George F. James, who set up a tent near Woods Creek selling food and supplies for the miners. He was the town's first alcade, a sort of Godfather-like official unique to the legal system at that time, when California was still part of Mexico. He eventually disappeared under a cloud, leaving many unhappy investors in his schemes.
Jamestown went through many boom and bust periods, and became more prominent at the turn into the twentieth century as a result of nearby underground quartz gold mines and the Sierra Railway, which transported quartz ore (with its embedded gold) to the plants in the Bay Area that extracted gold from it. The railway also shipped out lumber from the high country.
For more on the history of the town see our History of Jamestown page.
This historic hotel—established 1859— is in the heart of the gold country, located near Yosemite and numerous outdoor activities. The 1800's authentic decor will take you back to a more simple and romantic time, while the warm and congenial staff will tend to all your needs. Our acclaimed restaurant and original saloon offer a delight of menu options and an extensive Gold Country wine list. For more information visit us at www.national-hotel.com