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About Columbia, California

Columbia is a former California Gold Rush boom town that lives on as a state-preserved historic park and a National Historic Landmark that preserves the original, gold-rush-town flavor of the town, once dubbed the "Gem of the Southern Mines." Founded in 1850 by Mexican gold miners, it is in Tuolumne County, California, United States. Although only about 2,000 people now live in this region near Sonora, California, at its height it was California's second-largest city. It was even considered briefly as a site for the state capitol of California. In 1854 the bulk of the town burned down and was re-built with brick and iron structures that survive to this day. Columbia's main street, part of the Columbia State Historic Park, is closed to automobile traffic but open to horses and carriages, as well as pedestrians.

The town, now technically a census-designated place (CDP), is located along California State Route 49 just north of Sonora. The US Postal Service ZIP code for the community is 95310. Wired telephones in Columbia work out of the Sonora central office.

Major points of interest in the area include Columbia Community College, a two-year, community college. Columbia Airport (FAA designator: O22) includes one 4,670 foot runway and is busy with firefighting aircraft during summer. The annual Columbia Fire Muster here is often the earliest of California's summer musters.

Within weeks of the discovery of gold in the vicinity of Columbia, thousands of miners arrived and the population climbed to 5,000. By 1852, there were 8 hotels, 4 banks, 17 general stores, 2 firehouses, 2 bookstores, 1 newspaper, 3 churches, and numerous gambling and drinking establishments. In 1854, Columbia's first fire destroyed 6 city blocks. The town was rebuilt using brick and iron materials. In 1857 another fire burned down nearly everything else, except the brick buildings.

The Columbia school house was built in 1860, renovated in 1872, and finally closed in 1937. In 1947, it was purchased by the state of California for $1 and incorporated into the state-historic park.

In 1860, the gold mined in Columbia was diminishing rapidly. The only land left to mine was in the city itself. Miners dug under buildings and tore down houses to get at the gold beneath the city. The nearby town of Copperopolis had discovered copper and was experiencing a boom. The bricks from the destroyed buildings of Columbia were sold to Copperopolis for construction purposes.

Between 1850 and the early 1900s, $150 million in gold was removed from the surrounding hills.

Columbia never became a ghost town. In 1945, California created Columbia State Historic Park from the remains of the historical buildings of the city.

Rev. John Steele wrote his accounts of the Indians of Columbia in his memoirs In Camp and Cabin during his time in the gold rush era. The Indians of the village of Columbia were Paiutes.

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03. Blacksmith Shop

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06. Miners pick and hammer

07. Stagecoach

08. Old Saddles and trees

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11. General Store

12. General Store

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17. Old Fire Pumper

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20. Wells Fargo Office

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