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California Hotel, Jackson, Amador County

The California hotel once stood in Jackson on north Main where a creekside used car lot is now. After some superficial snooping, Logan found little about the former miners' boarding house, but did turn up some interesting pre-hotel facts about the site.

Because the hotel existed for a quarter century during the lives of many with us today, Logan hopes they will come forth and tell us more about it. Our thanks to Steve and Mary Tofanelli of Jackson for supplying the photograph of the "California Hotel and Restaurant" and some information. They managed the hotel in the 1920s, and still live close by at 315 N. Main.

By insurance maps, Logan judges the hotel was built between 1899 and 1903 on the irregular-sized lot (block 9 lot 2) bounded by north Main (or the Jackson Gate road) on the east, and the north fork of Jackson creek on the west. In fact, at its wider end, the hotel stuck out over the foundation and retaining wall above the creek.

The two-story frame hotel was about 90 feet long, 40 feet at its widest north, and 30 feet wide south. A one­story extension north included the kitchen and laundry. That extension connected with a "L" toward the street, two stories, which included a stable downstairs and quarters upstairs.

In the main building downstairs were the dining room, saloon, and probably some rooms. Upstairs, more rooms. The Tofanellis remember the hotel had "20 rooms with two men per room." Each paid $35 a month for room and board.

From 1921 to 1927, the Tofanellis managed the hotel for the "Dal Portos of San Francisco." That last year the hotel burned and was condemned to be demolished. Local newspaper files would tell us, of course, about that fire.... The hotel was still standing April 8, 1927. That day the widow Dal Porto mortgaged the hotel for $2,500 to Victor Molfino.

Then, on May 29, she sold the lot for $10 to AlbertA Molfino of San Mateo who assumed the mortgage and other liens. Whereas the hotel's history is recent, the lot's annals, of course, go back to jackson's earliest days. Previous owners included the French-born Retrous and first generation Plasses.

In July, 1852, the name of Parisian Louis Stanislas Retrou appears on a deed in Calaveras county and Jackson. He and friend Bernard Rebeil bought the bakery about where garibaldi's is now. Almost a decade later, Clotilde Retrou, Louis' wife, came to Jackson, with daughter Louise via the Panama route. By then, father Retrou was prosperous, owning a half section ranch out Middle bar road. He deeded half to his wife in 1862.

That same year daughter Louise and French emigrant Raymond Plasse of Lyon married at Butte City. One of their five children, Alice, never married. Plasse, the family patriarch in Amador, had a trading post on the old Kit Carson emigrant road in 1852 or earlier, and a ranch (and later homestead) at Silver lake, and another southwest of Jackson.

In 1893 grandmother Retrou deeded to Alice "for her better maintenance, support, protection and livelihood" the lot and dwelling on north Main. Apparently, the Retrous lived there for years. During the 1878 flood, the Dispatch reported that the north fork washed away madam Retrou's stone wall, and damaged her garden and trees. Alice Plasse, in turn, sold the lot and dwelling for $400 to Guiseppe and Teresa Dal Porto, who razed the old Retrou home, and constructed the hotel.

Probably when Guiseppe died, the widow Dal Porto moved to San Francisco and became an absentee owner. She rented the hotel to the Tofanelli's for $140 a month in the 1920s. That's the little that Logan could discover about a lot and a hotel which stood upon it for a quarter century or so. That the pioneer Plasse and Retrou families were once associated with it was an unexpected find.

Return to our Jackson Tour or click on our Miner to end your tour