Angels have the impetus to be a 'happening place'

March 18, 2008 11:00 pm

More than frogs are jumping over the recent announcements that the city of Angels Camp will assume ownership of the old Altaville Grammar School this summer and the former downtown Bazinette Hotel is being sold to a local architect who intends to "restore the building to some higher use than it is now."

Built in 1858, the Old Altaville School, also known as the Red Brick Grammar School, is on both the National Register of Historic Places and the California Historic Register. It is one of the oldest school buildings in the state, and was in use until 1950.

"It's in a beautiful little park," said Jeff Tuttle, president of the Calaveras County Historical Society. It makes more sense for the city to oversee the historic school, he added.

"The Old Altaville School is probably one of the most unique of the schools in the county because of the brick construction," said Bob Bach of Angels Camp, who served as Calaveras County superintendent of schools between 1990 and 1998.

"The bricks came from local kilns," he said. "The school has always been an integral part of Altaville."

The school was so popular that enrollment rose to about 90 students and a second structure, made out of wood, was constructed. Children in the upper grades attended the wooden school and children in the lower grades attended the brick school, Bach said. The wooden school is long gone.

No one is unhappy about the pending sale of the art deco former Bazinette Hotel, said Anne Forrest, president of the Angels Camp Business Association. "We're absolutely thrilled. We are probably the only city along all of Highway 49 that does not have an historical hotel. We're hoping it (the sale) goes through."

Business owners know it's going to take awhile for the changes to happen in downtown Angels Camp, but according to Forrest, "it's a very positive sign. There is a renewed enthusiasm downtown."

During a seminar late last year, "A look at Angels Camp through the eyes of our visitors," business owners, city officials and residents heard Seattle-based tourism consultant Roger Brooks say Angels Camp, especially the downtown area, needs help. He was hired to advise Angels Camp on how to build its brand.

In response to residents who believe frogs are the lure of Angels Camp, Brooks responded that frogs do not attract tourists year round.

Brooks is developing a plan to help Angels Camp leaders and residents identify what they do best and use that as a tourist lure.

At the seminar Brooks outlined a "10+10+10 rule," to develop an attractive downtown. The rule includes places to eat, shop and visit.

Revitalizing the downtown area to a destination shopping and dining district with an historic hotel and one of the oldest, most attractive, brick schools in the state puts Angels Camp in line to achieve what Anne Forrest believes in three-to-five years will be a much more vibrant place. Stay the course.

Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Ron Horton; editor Teresa Chebuhar; managing editor, news Craig Cassidy; senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.