“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.” ~Author UnknownIf these old trees could talk they’d have many a tale to whisper about. They’d tell stories of life in the mid 1800s, and mining in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Grass Valley during the gold rush and the years following.
Empire Mine is one of the oldest, largest and most prosperous gold mines in North American history. Mining started here in 1850 and continued until 1956. On the grounds are the various mines, machine shop, refinery room, warehouses, offices and blacksmith shop. A distance away from all the mining structures sits the stately English manor cottage that the Bourne family lived in during the summer months (their main residence was a mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights) and the formal gardens. A clubhouse for entertaining and for housing visiting guests is also nearby, as is the gardener’s house and greenhouse. All of this sits on 856 acres of beautifully forested foothills. Woodland hiking trails wind through much of the property.Last Friday, on a beautiful autumn day we visited the park for their Christmas event. We enjoyed the old fashioned decorations, live music, and festive atmosphere as we toured the cottage and wandered the lovely grounds and trails. Costumed docents greeted us and shared park history, and Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand for the little ones.Special arrangements were made to have the cottage (which is currently closed while roof repairs are being made) open for tours on this weekend. Yes indeed, they call this a cottage!Inside the cottage is quite dark, but have a look at the lovely old fashioned holiday decorations and the gorgeous windows in each room! Just charming!It was in 1975 that the state of California purchased the property and it became the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Check the website for tours, hours, and a wealth of information about the history of this impressive park.