Art Deco Landmark Then. Auburn Shopping Plaza Now: Media Life

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at

or 530-852-0232.

You may know it as the Auburn Town Center, a bustling business hub often brimming with parked cars just outside the orbit of the city’s Downtown.

Just more than 40 years ago, the picture of a busy shopping center was just starting to evolve for the location off Elm Avenue and near the Interstate 80 offramp.

The year was 1977 and the art deco medical facility, constructed circa 1940, was considered outdated and looking for a white knight.

And while that white knight never emerged to save the building, Santa Anita Development stepped up to buy the hospital property from Placer County and put into action an ambitious plan that would result in new construction of a shopping plaza.

The Placer Hospital on the site actually started as a poor farm and then transitioned into a medical facility, according to past Journal articles chronicling the facility’s eventual demise.

The first big nail in the hospital coffin came in 1964 when 10 doctors formed a partnership to build what would become Auburn Faith Hospital in North Auburn. They pooled $1.5 million to open a 50-bed hospital in 1966 and sold it to the community eight years later. The hospital affiliated with Sutter Health in 1989.

By the mid-1970s, the Placer General Hospital was operating in the red and it was decided to close the facility in late 1975. The county would contract after that with private medical facilities.

With plans for the new Auburn Town Center moving ahead, the art deco lines of the old hospital building fell victim to demolition in 1979.

Daughtrey’s, a department store that would last at the same location through the 1990s, would open before Christmas 1979, followed soon after by openings of a Lucky supermarket where Save Mart is today and a Long’s drug store where CVS is now located.

By 1980, the Auburn Town Center was boasting 25 stores and had become an important hub in the community.

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or 530-852-0232.