3700 Fort Jim Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667
Proprietors: Jim Davies and Linda Hopkins Davies
It was called “Newtown”. You can vividly imagine the noisy rousting about of the miners in and about the saloons and boardwalks crowded with all manner of local folks trying to go about their business amid barking dogs, horses, carriages and stagecoaches coming and going. The Wells Fargo Concord Stage Coach was the grandest of all, carrying the gold to Sacramento banks.
Newtown is where the party of Mormons, on their way to Salt Lake after moving through Placerville (Old Hangtown), built a corral for their stock to fatten up for the long trip. Besides, they found enough gold in a ravine near Weber Creek to make their stop worthwhile. They named the area Pleasant Valley. Another town grew nearby called Dog Town. In 1849, five of those men returned and by 1852 the miners secured construction of ditches from the north and south forks of Weber Creek and from the North Fork of the Cosumnes River.
It was too great a secret to be kept. Population of miners exploded. A sawmill was built in Pleasant Valley, and Newtown was born, first with a store, then a hotel, butcher shop, post office, brewery, billiard saloons, drinking establishments and miners’ cabins. Newtown was filled and kept growing. The population was 99% male. It is said that one diversion for those gold panners tired of the saloon or the streambed would be to watch Dr. Snow’s wife hang her laundry.
The Davies Family Inn is at Shadowridge Ranch, the original homestead of the Raffetto family who owned a couple of stores in Newtown or Sunny Italy, as the Italians liked to call it. There they sold produce and goods that they raised and made on the ranch, to the gold miners.* In January 1872 came the worst storm on record, followed by a severe earthquake. In May the village of Hanks Exchange, just a few miles to the west, burned and then, a few months later, Newtown was struck. On Oct. 12, 1872 a fire started in the Newtown brewery and rapidly spread to the remainder of the town. The inhabitants bravely fought the fire that would leave many of them penniless, but were unable to stop its spread. Soon nearly every building in this prosperous town became nothing but a pile of ashes. Small portions of the town were rebuilt, but many of the residents moved elsewhere. After only 20 years, Newtown, a town that once had more citizens than Placerville, became only a shadow of its once prosperous youth.
In 1919, Charles and Matilda (Tilly) Carpenter purchased the ShadowRidge Ranch for a staggering $2,000, which took them years to pay off! Some of the buildings were destroyed by fire, so Charles began rebuilding them. Using timber from the ranch, each log was felled by hand, skidded with a team of horses, hewn by hand, winched into position and chinked with local clay. Charles then traveled by horse and wagon to San Francisco where he salvaged doors, windows and flooring from the 1915 Panama Exposition World’s Fair. Most are still intact and can be seen today in the cabins.
Since there was little money for decorating, Tilly set about planting her famous flower gardens. By the mid 1920’s her garden had become so large and colorful, people from all over the county would travel the old dusty road just to glimpse the magnificent waves of colors, shapes, and fragrances. Today the gardens have been carefully restored, many of the flowering plants returning year after year from the original gardens.
Today, ShadowRidge Ranch sports friendly hospitality to B&B visitors, wedding parties, corporate events, and celebrations of all kinds. Jim Davies is the Chef in residence and his wife Linda is more than an adept event planner and hostess. The grounds, gardens, and every aspect of the lodge and accommodations are so thoughtfully and meticulously cared for you would think a maintenance crew is operating full time.
Proprietor: Reneé Hargrove
Adjacent to ShadowRidge Ranch/Davies Family Inn, the Backroads Barn shares the property’s rustic setting. It is a charming destination for visitors looking for vintage, antique, repurposed and quality handcrafted goods. It has become a popular destination to be considered along the way to El Dorado wineries, farms, ranches, shops and restaurants.
Reneé explains that Dave Thomson and some key ‘pickers’ have built a unique and specialized vintage inventory for the Backroads Barn. Dave is known for his water features, which add a calm and cooling essence to the already appealing scenery. Many local artisans’ wares are featured in the shop’s center, as well as in the adjacent storage barn. Reneé makes an effort to showcase artisans’ work along with “keeping it local” and American-made. Backroads Barn also sells architectural salvage, like reclaimed wood, hardware, and old doors so their customers can create lifestyle pieces for themselves or for resale.
The painted wooden barn quilt was one of the first installed in 2015 after El Dorado County Farm Trails Association’s ‘Quilt Trail Project’ began. Each barn quilt has special meaning to each host location so The Davies Family Inn wanted to honor the lore of the homestead and onsite cabins.
Visit Backroads Barn Friday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. unless there is a Wednesday Special Event Sale.