By Judy J. Pinegar
Arriving in Auburn on a hot Sunday in July, John and I decided to tour a couple of museums. First was the historic Bernhard Museum just off Auburn Folsom Boulevard near the fairgrounds. The house is over 150 years old, built in 1851 by George Bishop and John Long as the Traveler’s Rest Hotel, one of Auburn’s oldest surviving buildings.
In the Gold Rush, this hotel held teamsters traveling the old Auburn Folsom Road, and miners working in nearby Rich Flat. In 1858 the building was converted to a home for one of the builders, George Bishop. The house and 30 acres were sold in 1864 to Eliza Caruthers, and again in 1868 to the Bernhard family. This family and their descendants lived here for over 100 years. They started planting vineyards, making wine and then built a two story natural rock winery into a hillside in 1874.
Now with only 2+ acres left, the house has become a beautifully restored museum of the Victorian Era (mid 1830’s to 1900). No pictures are allowed inside the museum, but it is truly a sight to see. Also on the grounds is an old wine processing building, displaying wine making and barrel making artifacts, as well as a barn with a hearse, a sleigh, buggies and wagons of days gone by.
The top of the stone winery is now an art gallery, while the bottom still houses and operating winery, Bonitata (more on this later).
Next we visited the Gold Country Museum, housed in a historic Works Progress Administration (WPA) building, on the Auburn fairgrounds itself. We began by touring a replicated hard rock mine (thanking our lucky stars that we didn’t have to do that job!) Many other mining displays are also on display, as well as a model stamp mill, and an assayer’s office, a miner’s cabin and an old saloon.
After this tour we went back to the Barnhart Museum Parking lot, but walked down to the winery to do a little wine tasting in the Bonitata Boutique Winery (see last picture in the slides).
Judy J. Pinegar is a writer and winemaker, and her articles appear in many publications.
John J. O’Dell Realtor® GRI