Historic Highlights in Sonora

July 18, 2011 11:40 AM

By Michelle Ventress

A beautiful two-hour drive from Sacramento and you’ll find Sonora, the eleventh oldest city in California. Incorporated in 1851, just two years after gold was discovered in nearby hills, Sonora still embraces its rich history through restored buildings, parks, and museums. Check out our favorite places in Sonora, California to get your local history fix.

sonora operahall Historic Highlights in Sonora

(Photo Credit: sonoraca.com)

The Sonora Opera Hall
250 S. Washington St.
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 532-7725
Hours: Open by appointment and for special events

The building that began in 1879 as the town’s flour mill is now open only for special events and is a cornerstone of Sonora’s historic downtown. The mill burned in a suspicious fire in 1885 and was rebuilt as the Opera Hall. For the next ten years, the hall was home to political meetings, rallies, plays, concerts, parties and balls, and was then converted to a carpentry shop and finally a garage. In the mid 1980’s the city of Sonora purchased the property and restored it to the current ballroom condition.

sonora theredchurch Historic Highlights in Sonora

(Photo Credit: Sierra Nevada Geotourism)

The Red Church
42 Snell St.
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 532-0104
Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit website

Known by locals at The Red Church, St. James Anglican Church was built in 1859. Originally an Episcopalian church, the congregation joined the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone in 2007. It is the oldest Episcopal Church frame building in the state and is open and free to the public Monday through Friday during regular business hours.

dragoongulchtrail Historic Highlights in Sonora

(Photo Credit: Shylah Erskin)

Dragoon Gulch Trail
641 Woods Creek Park
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 532-7725
Hours: Open daily from sunup to sundown.

If you need to appease your inner gold scavenger or just really enjoy a stroll through the backwoods, you’ll love Dragoon Gulch Trail. A pattern of trails that wind through a 2.5 mile loop through an area that was mined for gold in the 1850’s, Dragoon Gulch Trail offers perfect trails for both beginners and experienced hikers and beautiful views of the city. Restrooms and parking are available at Woods Creek Park and the trail is open from dawn till dusk and is free to the public.

sonora tuolomne Historic Highlights in Sonora

(Photo Credit: Bobak Ha’Eri)

Tuolumne County Courthouse
41 W. Yaney Ave.
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 533-6984
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Tuolumne County Courthouse is a beautifully restored building that has earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places. The original courthouse was built in 1854 but was destroyed by fire and the current courthouse replaced it in 1898 with a total cost of $105,000 including furniture. Courthouse Square, located next door, offers visitors a calm, cool place to relax and enjoy the scenery or people-watching and bask in the outdoors after their visit to the courthouse.

Veterans Memorial Hall and Military Museum
9 N. Washington St.
Sonora, CA 95370
(209) 533-0923
Hours: Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday-varies, please call for information

Located in a classic red brick building along the main drag in historic downtown Sonora, the Veterans Memorial Hall and Military Museum is “the biggest little museum on war for the purpose of promoting peace”. The small building is packed full of military memorabilia and equipment, photos, plaques historical records and much more. Run by volunteers who are eager to share their experiences, the museum is free, though donations are always appreciated.