Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
I’m sharing a couple of my photos and stories from the life in Placerville, California, during the gold rush era that began around 1849 and, in some circumstances, is still alive now. The Soda Works and Chinese Bordello have quite an interesting history as one gave immediate gratification in the form of a drink and the second in the form of lust fulfilled.
The Soda Works building was constructed in 1852 and is one of the oldest buildings in Placerville. Soda water was bottled using a carbonation machine — which is still on display — and sold to miners because ordinary water was polluted due to the placer mining in the area. The building is still open today and over the years it has seen many different types of businesses inside its doors. I had the opportunity to enter the tunnel that still remains open at the back of the building. It is narrow and has cold rock along the edges. The ceiling is so low that I had to stoop to keep from banging my head. There's a cool draft as you proceed deeper into the dark. I imagine it might have been an unnerving experience for the men who walked through it to get to the Chinese bordello. Up until a couple of years ago when there was a rockslide at the bordello end, the tunnel was still fully functional. The tunnel started at one end of town and went nearly the entire length of Placerville’s Main Street, inside a mountain of rock. If you didn’t know about the tunnel carved inside the mountain, you'd never suspect it was there.
I stepped inside the building that was formerly the bordello several years ago to have a video copied. It was the current business operating in the building.
The owner showed me their historical holes. I wish I had taken photos, but at the time didn’t think to do it. Along a hallway there were niches about five foot long and maybe 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep cut into a rock wall. It is rumored that when the men finished with their drinks at the Soda Works, they would walk the length of the tunnel to visit the bordello. I'm not sure how long that walk was, but I’d guess at least a quarter of a mile. When the gentleman reached the end of his walk, he was expected to shower before spending time with the girl in that small cubbyhole. What can I say except that they had to be tough and they had to be a bit desperate. The saving grace of visiting the girls in that manner was that nobody knew who was visiting, if that was something a person wanted to keep to himself.

14 comments:

  1. Paisley, you've certainly had some interesting experiences. I had no idea water was bottled that long ago. I've wondered if the miners became ill by drinking the water in the streams below mines. Thanks for once again educating me. :)

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  2. I was surprised, too, Caroline. The building is really quite interesting and the size of the tunnel amazed me. I am 5ft 8in and had to stoop over to walk inside it. I can't imagine tall men making it all the way from the Soda Works building to the bordello.

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    1. Paisley--you always have the most unusual and intriguing posts! I bet you miss living in that part of the country.
      I'm a bit amazed by the bottled carbonated water for sale. I never knew that.
      Me? You couldn't have dragged me through that tunnel!
      Thanks for the wonderful photos, too.

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    2. Thanks Celia. I loved living in gold country, but I love it here more. Now with my new series being about the Northwoods I have found a lot more historical information. The tunnel is quite narrow and low, but I agree I wouldn't want to walk far into it.

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  3. Your blog tops the weird things in the west for me. I'm trying to think how carbonating water can purify it. Of course, I know anything about carbonating except CO2 is pressured into the drink. Do they heat it first?
    It's kind of creepy thinking about a tunnel that runs the length of the town. I sure wouldn't want to walk through it alone for certain. What a sad thing that those women had to use themselves in such a way to survive. I'm thinking at least it was nice the men had to clean up first.
    This was a very interesting blog, Paisley.

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    1. What shocked me even more than the tunnel were the holes in the walls where they carried on in their "fun" without getting hurt. They weren't very deep or long. Amazing what people will do. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I've driven through this town many times--represented rural carriers up that way at one time--but I can see it is time for me to stop and do some serious sight-seeing. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I hope you do stop sometime, Robyn. There are so many building still standing from the gold rush era. Cary House Hotel is beautiful inside, too, and is still a function hotel. I worked in an art gallery across the street from it and had access thru knowing the manager. Thanks for stopping to read my post today.

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  6. Fascinating post, Paisley. The tunnel does sound creepy. it must have taken a lot of hard work cutting it through the rock, but I supposed the miners had plenty of experience at that. I, too, pity the Chinese women who lived such a miserable life.

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    1. Hi Lyn, That tunnel is creepy to be inside, but when my daughter an I went into a gold mine tunnel it didn't seem to be dark and dank. Maybe it's because the gold mine tunnel was larger and ceiling higher. Either way, I feel sorry for the men who spent time in both kinds. Thanks or coming to visit. :)

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  7. I'very always wanted to visit Placerville since my first book, Trail To Destiny's ends there. Thanks, Paisley for some fascinating history, makes me want to go there even more!

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    1. Placerville is a quaint town with lots of places that still look the same as they did during the gold rush. I hope you do have the chance to visit.

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  8. Thank you for putting an effort to published this article. You've done a great job! Good bless!

    www.gofastek.com

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    1. Thank you, Cindy. I'm glad you visited the site today. :)

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