Monday Oct 06 2008
For more on the house before the teardown and the work tearing it down Monday, click on Media Life: Etc. blogs in Staff Blogs.
Auburn’s Hawver House demolished for parking
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Late 19th century dentist, archaeologist lived in house, left rich legacy
The building that served as home to one of Auburn’s iconic figures from the past was torn down Monday – two days after the building pioneer archaeologist Dr. J.C. Hawver once had his office in was being opened as a medical museum. The Gold Country Medical History Museum has its opening ceremony Saturday at the Maple Street building in Old Town Auburn. It housed Placer County’s first public hospital and later was occupied by the Hawver dental office. The Hawver House is off Highway 49, less than a half-mile away. Auburn historian Lorelei Hodkins said this weekend that Hawver likely moved into the house when he came to the city in 1880 and established a dental practice. He lived there until his death in 1914. The property is located on Highway 49, adjacent to Auburn’s In-N-Out Burgers. An Auburn dentist, Hawver dedicated much of his later years to exploring a limestone cave on the lip of the middle fork of the American River canyon – a cave that would reveal the fozzilized remains of several extinct mammal and bird species. Hawver sent most of his finds to the University of California at Berkeley, where the fossils are kept in the collection of the Anthropology Department’s Hearst Museum. The Placer County Museum has a permanent exhibit on Hawver and his discoveries. Last week, a tree service crew moved into an overgrown patch of land adjacent to the In-N-Out Burgers parking lot to clear brush and trees. Revealed as the clearing continued were the brittle remains of a house Hawver lived in before dying of a heart attack in 1914 at age 60. The house itself had been boarded up and outbuildings, including a chicken coup, barn and water tower were demolished on Monday. Auburn resident Jeff Fulweiler, whose family traces its roots to 19the century Auburn, watched the demolition work and took photos he will save for a friend, Jeff Best, who lived with his family in the home for many years. “It’s probably – or I should say, was probably – one of Auburn’s oldest houses,” Fulweiler said. “It’s a shame to see it torn down and who knows what else is there.” The Hawver House is to make way for a parking lot extension for the adjacent In-N-Out Burgers. The privately held business will be erecting a plaque on a boulder to commemorate the site, said Gene Lorance, who has worked with the State Parks Department to study the Hawver Cave in the Auburn State Recreation Area. Hawver’s local legacy is the discovery of a rich cache of fossilized bird and mammal bones that date back at least 10,000 years. Self-taught in science and nature studies, Hawver was sought out in 1906 by three local boys who had managed to climb 80 feet down to the cave floor. One of the boys had slipped and grabbed onto a fossil bone. Shining a candle on the wall, he had discovered bone fragments and a large vertebra in the rock. Hawver would work between 1906 and 1913 in the face of repeated vandalism to remove fossils from the cave, collaborating with nationally renowned experts but receiving little in the way of compensation. One of the first members of the Native Sons of the Golden West and an early Auburn school board trustee, Hawver would suffer his share of tragedy. He blew off most of his left thumb and index finger using the wrong chemicals while taking photos of a cave near Placerville in 1907. Four years later, his wife would die after her dress caught fire while their granddaughter was playing with Christmas candles. Hawver would marry again and lived in Auburn until his death. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.