Auburn anniversaries abound in 2010

History of community weaves a host of special dates throughout the year
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s first hospital, Placer’s Olympic moment and a presidential seal of approval on the Auburn dam are some of the milestones coming up in 2010. One anniversary that has particular resonance comes in June and will mark 155 years since Auburn’s rebirth from another horrendous fire. That 1855 fire ripped through a much smaller community situated in and around Old Town Auburn, consuming 80 houses and several businesses. “Auburn in ashes” proclaimed the Placer Herald headline of the day. And as the homes from 2009’s 49 Fire of last Aug. 30 begin to rise from the ashes, Auburnites can turn to Old Town Auburn’s resurrection a century and a half ago for inspiration. Some of the community’s earliest pioneers rebuilt – this time with brick – and buildings that house Mary Belle’s Restaurant, the Auburn Ale House and the long vacant Lawyers Row still stand today. They were constructed in the months following the blaze. The 1855 fire is just one of several anniversaries in Auburn. Some have been more or less forgotten – like the flood of January 1850 that left 49ers homeless and without food after the American River rose 60 feet and swept away their possessions. Others – like the opening of the Oddfellows Hall in Auburn on Jan. 5, 1895, or the move of the Claude Chana gold miner statue to Old Town in October 1975 – leave tangible monuments as reminders. Here are some more anniversaries: It’s the 155th anniversary in 2010 of the first hospital in Placer County. It was established for indigents on Sept. 22, 1855. It took up quarters soon after in an Old Town building that is now occupied by the Gold County Medical History Museum. 2010 is the 140th anniversary of the decision to hire J.A. Filcher as Auburn’s first public school principal. He was later owner-editor of the Placer Herald. At one time, Auburn’s most quoted boast wasn’t that the town was “below the snow and above the fog.” It was that the city was “above the fog and the malaria of the valley.” This year marks the 135th anniversary of what is believed to be its first published mention – in the Placer Weekly Argus. Clark Ashton Smith, a pioneering fantasy author who lived most of his life in Auburn, published his first work as a poet at 17 in 1910. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the decision to choose olive and orange as the Placer High school colors. The Auburn Grammar School was opened in 1915 and the building marks its 95th birthday in 2010. It re-opened in 1990 as Auburn’s city hall after students moved into the new Skyridge Elementary School. 1960 was a major year in Placer County sports history when Squaw Valley played host to the Winter Olympics. Leading up to the games, 10 students from Placer High made the torch run and Auburn ski-jumping Olympian Roy Mikkelsen accepted the torch at a special ceremony and torch party in Auburn. Forty-five years ago this coming April, Auburn City Council swore in its first woman mayor. Selma Gordon would be followed by Berenice Pate, who became the city’s second female mayor in 1970. 2010 also marks the 45th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s authorization of a $427 million Auburn dam project. The start of the 1970s saw the demise of one of the city’s most cherished landmarks. The Freeman Hotel, which occupied property now taken up by Pistol Pete’s Brew and Cue and other establishments, was demolished. Built in the 1860s, it was the oldest structure in what oldtimers referred to as Uptown Auburn. Placer County became embroiled in 1975 in the fall of South Vietnam when the vacant Weimar Sanitarium was used temporarily as a relocation center for Vietnamese refugees. Hope Village would close by the end of the year. Thirty-five years later, the Weimar Institute health and education facility now occupies the old sanitarium grounds. On the 25th anniversary front, the Auburn Farmers Market was established in May 1985 and continues to thrive. It was first located on Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn. Placer High School marks the 20th anniversary of its girls basketball state championship in 2010. The Hillgals won the Division III tiara in March 1990. The Festival of Lights Parade next December will be burning a little brighter this coming year. It was established in 1990 and will be marking two decades of parades.