In January 1848, the same year Mexico ceded control of this area to the United States, gold was discovered in California. The story of what comes next is an iconic movement in American history. On December 5, 1848, President Polk’s official announcement of the precious metal’s discovery to a national audience catalyzed not just Americans, but gold-seekers from all over the world, to pack up and start the journey to California’s goldfields.
The years of sleepy mission towns dotting the landscape had come to an end with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of speculators. The mass immigration was so fast, and produced so much wealth, that just two years after Polk’s announcement, California became the Union’s 31st state.
As word of the land’s wealth began to spread in 1848, more than 300,000 people from the States and abroad moved to California hoping to strike it rich. The sudden mass immigration had significant effect on the region’s indigenous societies, whose communities experienced displacement and attacks by gold-seekers. Meanwhile, San Francisco grew from a town of 200 to a city of 36,000 from 1846-1952. Ships, carrying goods to the new population, often lost crewmen who deserted to the goldfields. Later, the ships themselves were repurposed as warehouses,stores, and even a jail. The history that led to this IOOF Hall being built is frenetic in its space and complexity. You can read a primer from PBS’ American Experience here.
The Gold Rush left behind not only wealth, but also cultural institutions like the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), which is where this building comes into play. According to our partner, “The Greek-revival style Coloma IOOF Hall was constructed in 1854 and is among the oldest IOOF halls in El Dorado County, and stands as one of the oldest fraternal halls in the State. It was used by the IOOF and other community groups for nearly 150 years.” Today, it is at risk of becoming a liability, but HistoriCorps volunteers contributed to preserving this building so it can instead continue to serve the public as a historic and cultural resource.
HistoriCorps is committed to educating and training volunteers in preservation skills, with an overarching mission of inspiring a preservation ethic in all those involved. Learning and working alongside expert HistoriCorps field staff, volunteers learned the traditional skills necessary to preserve the IOOF Hall at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. This accessible project was excellent for those new to HistoriCorps, those looking to level up their skills with siding replacement, and those interested in architecture and Gold Rush history.
- Repair and replace clapboard-style siding and trim: 80%
- Prime and paint exterior: 20%