Historic Auburn hospital brought back to life

Placer County’s medical history on display at new museum in Old Town
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The visitors streamed into the new Gold Country Medical History Museum after its dedication Saturday, offering praise for a successful effort to save and preserve one of the community’s threatened treasures. Five years ago, the building the museum is located in was on the block after its owner – the county of Placer – declared it surplus. With the possibility of an 1850s building that had served as the county’s first hospital falling into private hands, a non-profit Old Town Auburn Preservation Society was quickly founded. And the stately Victorian perched over Interstate 80 in the shadow of the Placer County Courthouse was soon transferred to a group with a dream. The Preservation Society’s dream was realized Saturday with the official opening of a medical history museum that’s meant to bemuse as well as educate as it takes a well-researched stroll into the past that’s as much about shamanism as it is about doctoring. The museum, which is open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, contains medical artifacts that run the gamut from the historical (bottles, equipment and displays on operating and pharmaceuticals) to the quaintly bizarre (quack cures and odd machines that were better at extricating patients from the contents of their billfolds than making medical cures). Located at 219 Maple St., the museum was hailed Saturday as a valued storehouse of history that honors Placer County’s past. “I think it’s a remarkable achievement,” said Auburn historian Lorelie Hodkins. “I’m happy to see it’s done because so many thing are lost,” said Charlie Allen, a leader of a non-profit group that restored the nearby Auburn Joss House Museum. Preservation Society President Ross Carpenter said people should enjoy and learn from the current displays but be aware that the museum is still in its infancy. “It’s still a work in progress and we still have several things to do yet,” Carpenter said, speaking before a crowd of about 60 people at the dedication. The Native Sons of the Golden West dedicated a plaque at the opening ceremony and also placed another at a carriage house the Auburn parlor has constructed on the museum grounds. The parlor was one of several groups and individuals credited with bringing the museum project to fruition. Others included the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Placer County Historical Foundation, Placer Community Foundation, Wayne White and Marie Veerkamp, Placer County and the city of Auburn. “I can’t believe how many groups came together to make this possible,” county Supervisor Jim Holmes said. “The museum helps restore the rich historical character of Auburn and Placer County.” The two-story Victorian dates back to 1855 as a county hospital but Carpenter said records indicate that the building itself was constructed three years earlier. “If that’s the case, it’s one of the oldest buildings in Auburn,” he said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at