Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Historic Cary House Hotel

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
Built in 1857, the Cary House Hotel still stands in Placerville, California, and is still a functioning hotel. This jewel, built when the gold rush town was prospering, still treats its guests to an interesting night’s sleep. During the five years I worked in the Chablis Art Gallery across the street from the hotel, I was able to make friends with the manager who graciously let me take photos inside and out, and meet one of the two most active ghosts. I found it interesting to discover the hotel featured such luxuries as hot and cold running water (a novelty in its time), an elegant grand staircase, and a lobby handcrafted in mahogany and cherry woods.
Echoes from a colorful history still linger in the halls of the elegant place of lodging. Early days provided a regular stop for stage lines that brought travelers to the gold country. In some instances, the stage returned to the San Francisco mint with millions of dollars in bullion. Its trimmed wrought-iron balcony not only added to its grace but, also lent a great space for Horace Greely to give a speech. The world-renowned “Hangtown Fry” (consisting of oysters and scrambled eggs) was created at the Cary House by the request of a miner who'd struck it rich in the nearby gold fields.
As I mentioned before, two ghosts inhabit the Cary House Hotel. Stan is the ghost I tangled with the day I toured the hotel and took photos. He lives mostly in the lobby of the hotel. In the gold rush heyday, he worked as the clerk at the check-in counter. He loved the place, so has stuck around all these years since his death. At the beginning of his employment, he checked patrons in and out of the Cary House. He had a great love of liquor, especially brandy and whiskey. When he wasn’t working, he would head down to Rivendell’s Book Store where he could socialize. Back then, the store was a great place to visit with fellow patrons, and to get a drink, especially on the cold, damp days of winter. Stan would sneak out during his workday when no one was around, grab a drink, and hurry back to the hotel.
Stan loved women but was ignored by them. He was a short, stocky man with reddish brown hair, balding on the top and not what most people would consider a 'ladies man'. Truth be known, he also liked men somewhat. He was not really in demand by either. So, he did his job, was polite until the alcohol took effect, loved gossip and checking people out, and was known to be a bit 'mouthy' and insulting. He made a pass at a man, and the fellow stabbed him twice. Stan fell down the stairs to his death.
My encounter with Stan happened the day I wanted to ride the elevator upstairs. It's kept inside a room about the size of a closet. The wrought-iron door wouldn’t open. I tried but to no avail. So did the manager. It was no big deal as the staircase was grand and fun to walk up to the second and third floors. I was disappointed because it looked like a fun ride. On the way down to the lobby, the door opened, and I got my elevator ride. Maybe old Stan was so happy to see me leave his hotel that he gladly let me take the ride. Rumors from some of the patrons have said they've seen their doorknobs turn when they retire for the night. Some believe Stan checks the door to each room with a lady guest to make sure they are locked safely inside their rooms.
A television show that traveled around the country doing spots on the most haunted buildings filmed a twenty-minute show on the ghosts in residence at Cary House.
Information from “The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts”


  1. I'm shocked that hot and cold water was available in 1857. Cary House is an interesting place and I enjoyed this post, Paisley. I don't want to tangle with the ghost but I'd love to see the hotel in person.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my post, Caroline. One way they heated the water was through the pipes that warmed the rooms. It was a new concept. I loved going inside. My boss wouldn't enter the hotel because of the ghosts.

  2. Well, you had me at ghosts. I don't actually believe in ghosts, but I love to hear about haunted places. I loved the pictures you included in your post, Paisley. On the outside, it looks like a welcoming place, but the inside is kind of eerie.

    I so enjoyed reading your article. All good things to your corner of the universe, Paisley.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. It was elegant inside and I love going over there. My Night Angel was set in that hotel, so I did a lot of research there.


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