Tuolumne County residents and professionals took a stroll through local history on Friday as organizers of a preservation conference led a walking tour of historic buildings in downtown Sonora.
During the fifth annual Keeping Time seminar, dozens of participants got to see and hear about the preservation and restoration efforts of three downtown buildings — the Hardin home, City Hall and the Yosemite House.
Each of the buildings represents an important era for Tuolumne County. The Hardin home was built during the second gold rush, City Hall was built in the Depression era and the Yosemite House was built during the first Gold Rush. And in each case, the buildings are used for modern functions while maintaining their historic character.
During the tour, Murphys architectural historian Judith Marvin and Sonora historian Pat Perry discussed the origins of the structures, the efforts to preserve them and ways for people to record other historic places.
“Every one of these places are places that matter, and are places that were important to people,” said Marvin. “They need to be recorded before they disappear.”
The only residential building on the tour, the Hardin home on Washington Street saw a complete restoration this last year, Marvin said. The house is located across from the iconic red church, and the family that first lived in the home still owns the property today.
Though built in 1910, the home changed its appearance after a remodel in the 1920s. Marvin said it’s a perfect example of a craftsman house, and she said the recent restoration work was done to the greatest detail to include the proper windows, dormers and lights.
“It’s just a wonderful, wonderful home,” she said, later adding that the remodel took about two years. “It’s just wonderful when somebody does it right.”
During the tour, Perry gave a short history of the Sonora City Hall building, tracing it from its construction with money from the Works Progress Administration for a fire station in 1939 to its final overhaul for office space only decades ago. After the talk, participants gathered in front of the city hall, where the old door for fire engines is still visible.
“We’ve kind of evolved to where we are today,” she said.
Participants wrapped up with the Yosemite House, built around 1860 and owned early on by a German furniture maker. Marvin pointed out that the second story and porch on today’s Washington Street building were added later, as the first building was a single story. Though the original masonry walls, with the dark slate stone visible, remain.
“All these buildings change over time,” she said. “It’s very unusual for them to be totally original.”
The tour was part of an all-day conference dedicated to preserving local historic sites and places sponsored by multiple local agencies and organizations, including the Tuolumne County Community Resources Agency and Historic Preservation Review Commission.
The conference included seminars on national and state preservation efforts, American Indian places and submitting new records to archives and databases of local historic buildings.