Greenville Walking Tour

A Brief History

Greenville, CA

Mountain Maidu Indians had been living in Indian Valley for centuries when Anglo settlers arrived in the 1850's. The first house built in Greenville in 1861 was soon followed by construction of a boarding house operated by Mr. and Mrs. Green. The town was named for Green who was killed in the collapse of the first Round Valley Dam. When Henry C. Bidwell arrived in 1862 and opened a trading post, several business owners moved down the hill from Round Valley to the new community. Gold mines scattered around the mountains combined with a good supply of water to attract settlers and merchants to Greenville. By 1871 the town had a church and school, three general stores, two hotels and several other businesses including saloons and bawdy houses. A catastrophic fire in 1881 destroyed most of the buildings on the north side of Main Street and damaged many of those on the south side. It was the most destructive of several fires that scorched Greenville. The town was quickly rebuilt and by 1882 it had a population of 500. Growth slowed down in the 1880's as mining gradually became less important, and lumbering assumed a more prominent role. Only a few buildings in downtown Greenville today are less than a half-century old. Several date from just after the major fires and a number were built during the 1930's. Four structures dating from the 1860's and 1870's are still standing: the Bransford and Mclntyre Warehouse (1), the McBeth and Compton Warehouse (2), the McBeth and Compton Store (16) and the Perine Bank (17).

The "49ers" and the gold mining of California brought change to this Sierra Nevada mountain valley. In Greenville, you will find up-to-date businesses, restaurants, and restrooms, all with a nostalgic look and many historic artifacts inside. Step back in time to view both the ghosts and still remaining buildings of those resilient pioneers who stayed to frame the community of Greenville. At site #1 you may look north up Main Street at a view little changed.

The Tour


This frame building was built between 1877 and 1881 as a warehouse. Bransford and Mclntyre purchased the building in 1881 as a warehouse for their store (5). Later it served the stores of J. R. Murray and then Frank Miller (16). This is the site of the Greenville Museum, donated to the community by the family of Cy Hall, Greenville Volunteer Fire Department chief for over 50 years.

Current Photo


Erected by McBeth and Compton in 1878, this brick building was a warehouse for their store (16). It survived the great fire of 1881 undamaged. The structure had several different owners in later years and, as a warehouse, it served a number of town businesses. By 1890 the upper floor was the Odd Fellows Hall. About 1913 the Sincerity Lodge 132 bought the building for $3,300. It has been used by various organizations and civic groups ever since.

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(3) STANDART GARAGE circa 1925

In the 1920's this was the Standart Garage. Originally, there were two buildings joined together with auto supplies, gas and oil on one side, and auto repair on the other.

941 Eastman's Originals photo B-1365 | Current Photo


In 1877 this was the site of Duncan Mclntyre's Confectionary Store. Duncan was A.D. Mclntyre's brother. The store was rebuilt after burning in 1881. Mclntyre continued in business here for many years. In 1912 it was a pool hall and it burned again. The present structure was erected in 1931.

Current Photo


Mclntyre and Co's general store was on this site in the mid-1870's. After Joseph S. Hall bought it, he added a soda bottling works in the back of the frame building. The building burned in 1881 but was immediately replaced with the brick building that is standing today. By 1883 the new general store, run by Bransford and A. D. Mclntyre, included the telegraph and Wells Fargo Express (note the mural on the side of the building). J. R. Murray became the next owner in 1890. In the following decade the building was used as a warehouse, furniture store, temporary bank, pool and card room, restaurant and tavern. The building is built like a fortress complete with steel-shuttered doors and windows.

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In 1874 the two-story building on this site housed a saloon. The Palace Saloon was destroyed in 1881 along with most of the structures on the north side of Main St. By the end of the year the saloon was rebuilt and back in business. In 1909, fire again destroyed the saloon but another two-story building, the Northern Saloon, was erected in its place in 1911 and still stands today. The Northern Saloon continued until Prohibition in 1919 when Harry Wardlow converted it to a confectionary and soda fountain until the end of Prohibition. By 1938 it was a bar again.

Old Photo | Current Photo

(7) AYOOB BUILDING 1915. The Kiyus Saloon

The Kiyus Saloon occupied a two-story building on this lot in 1880. The second floor had just been fitted-out as a court room when the 1881 fire destroyed everything. The saloon was replaced immediately and the new building survived until the fire of 1909, The present building was erected in 1915 along with the Hamblin Garage. This was the site of Ayoob's Department Store until 1931. Thereafter, it was occupied by a succession of other merchants.

Old Photo | Current Photo


A blacksmith or garage has occupied this site since the early 1870's. William Stevens owned the blacksmith and harness shop when the 1881 fire destroyed the building. E. A. Ranker ran the Fanners and Mechanics Blacksmith in the 1890's and it was Boyden's Blacksmith when it burned in 1909. The last structure was built in 1915 as an automobile garage. It became a Ford dealership in 1926. The upper floor of the building was used for various town functions and even served as the high school basketball court. A heavy snow collapsed the roof in 1993.

Old Photo | Current Photo


Lawrence's meat market was on this site until the 1881 fire. A new building was occupied for the next 25 years by Kenneth McLeod, a carriage maker. The 1909 fire destroyed that shop along with several adjoining buildings. Within the year a new two-story building was under construction. It became the Pastime Club in the early 1930's.

Current Photo


The fire of 1881 destroyed four businesses on this site: a shoe shop, telegraph office, saddle and harness shop, and paint store. The structures were not replaced immediately. In the 1920's the site housed a fire equipment building. The present Deco-style structure was erected in 1939 for Morris' Quality Grocery and Outland's Drug Store.

1946 Eastman's Originals photo B-1363 | Old Photo | Current Photo

(11) W. W. HALL STORE circa 1905

The Greenville Bulletin newspaper was here in 1880. Although the 1881 fire destroyed it, Edward A. Weed saved the press and published a thorough account of the disastrous fire before the embers were hardly cold. The building on this site today began as a small telegraph office in 1881. By 1905 it had been enlarged and occupied by W.W. Hall's store. In 1935 Dr. Wilbur Batson remodeled and expanded the building into a hospital. It remained the town's hospital until 1955.

Old Photo | Current Photo


This corner lot on Main and Pine Streets is the site of two early buildings: Harry .Williams Drug (1879) on the corner, and Theodore Fortiner's Harness Shop (1881) next door. The drug store eventually became a shoe shop before it was torn down in 1908. The harness shop remained in business until about 1920. The present building was a drug store and post office for several decades beginning in the 1920's.

Current Photo


The original building on this site was Charles Lawrence's livery stable built soon after the town began. It survived until the Greenville Hotel fire of 1922. Over this 60-year span, Lawrence sold it several times but it kept coming back to him by mortgage default. He also ran a livery stable in Quincy renting horses or buggies at one livery to be dropped at the other. The livery stable continued in business until well into the early 1900's. Two small buildings built in the 1930's occupy the site today.

Old Photo | Current Photo


The present building is at least the fourth hotel on this site - the previous ones were destroyed by fires. The first hotel, a boarding house, dates from the town's beginnings in 1862. It burned in 1869 just as the "inmates" were sitting down for dinner. Before the year was over, Charles H. Lawrence began a new hotel. But in 1872, a few days after a Grand Ball in the hotel, it burned again. Undaunted, Lawrence promptly built again, this time a large and elegant building. It contained a dining room, billiard saloon, parlor and a dance hall plus 80 beds and accommodations for 100 diners. The hotel was the stage depot, social center and the town's pride and joy. Although it survived the 1881 fire, it was heavily damaged. In 1922 the Greenville Hotel burned again. Mike Ayoob built the present structure in 1931 for about $40,000. It is slightly smaller than the old hotel and includes the Pioneer Bar and Restaurant.

Old Photo | 1937 Eastman's Originals photo B-126 | Current Photo


Isaac Summerland operated a-general store on this lot between 1867 and 1877. In the 1880's, it was occupied by a carpenter who also was the undertaker. The undertaking parlor burned in 1895. The present building was erected in 1913 for the Indian Valley Bank with Murray as president and H. C. Chamberlain, cashier. The bank remained at this location until 1955. The building's unusual architecture was complemented with a copper roof. The small white building in back was the local "jail" used until the 1960's.

Current Photo


This is the oldest building still standing in downtown Greenville. It began as a small store probably in the 1860's. By 1870, Major J. H. Whitlock ran a general store here. In 1878, owners McBeth and Compton completed an addition to the store for a post office, telegraph office and Wells Fargo Express. This is basically the same building standing today. The building housed a succession of general merchandise stores and in later years, was known as the Miller Store. At various times over these years it also included a drug store and doctor's office. Until 1922, the post office was in the rear of the building. At the same time as the addition, they built a water tower in back for fire protection. The tower is long since gone.

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(17) PERINE BANK 1877

Although this small brick building appears to be part of a larger building, it is separate and one of the oldest structures in town. It was constructed in 1877 as the Perine Bank. For a short time J. M. Perine was the Wells Fargo Express Agent. Banks in those days were important places to trade gold dust for money but this one lasted only into the 1880's. It eventually became part of the meat market next door (18).

Current Photo


This was the site of a meat market for at least 67 years. Over the decades it changed hands many times. The market was a wood-frame building and also included a "butcher barn" where animals were slaughtered. Eventually the old bank (17) next door was converted to a cold storage room.

Old Photo | Current Photo

(19) OWL CAFE - SALOON circa 1904

Sam Torelli's Federal Saloon was erected here in 1880. It burned in 1895 along with several nearby buildings. A new building became the Owl Saloon and .was soon enlarged for the Owl Cafe. Cooksey's Owl Saloon was burglarized in 1905. Money and a gun were taken. The burglar got drunk and tried to climb down a tree next to the building. He shot himself in the finger, passed out, and was soon collected by the law. The Owl Club and Cafe were still going in the 1940's.

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(20) HARNESS SHOP circa 1915

This building was built about 1915. It was occupied in the 1930's by John Legate's Shoe and Harness Shop. He was one of the last harness makers in California. The automobile signaled the demise of both blacksmiths and harness makers.

Old Photo

(21) IRON FOUNDRY SITE circa 1870

In 1871, the Lawrence and Lathrop Iron Foundry was on this site. A foundry was an essential industry in the early isolated mining towns. Following a fire in 1877 the wooden foundry was replaced by a brick structure, powered by both steam and water. With improved transportation and decreased mining activity, the foundry gradually lost its importance. The last remnants of the building were removed in the 1980's.

1941 Eastman's Originals photo B-1750 | Current Photo

Chinese Settlement

Many of the early California mining towns had a substantial Chinese population. There was a fairly large group of Chinese miners at Round Valley with settlement on the southwest side of town across the Wolf Creek bridge. Wong Hank, at 13 years of age, walked into Greenville with his father in 1866. Known to all as "China Hank", residents recall taking their garden cabbage to Hank to turn it into his famous sauerkraut. Others remember that Hank was the man to see for firecrackers and Chinese candy. He was a greatly esteemed member of the Greenville community. It is rumored that he walked all the way to Greenville from San Fransico with his dad when he was 10 years of age. His cabin, the last of the Chinese Settlement houses, was dismantled. Born in China, Hank lived from 1853 to 1937.

You may visit Wong Hank's grave at Round Valley, overlooking the lake. Current Photo

Lori Boersig - Artist, Museum Board
Connie Clark - "Signs by Connie"
Sharon Foote - Artist
Ginger Gramm - Museum Board
Alicia Higbee - Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce
Jane Braxton Little - Writer
Patrick O'Halloran - Historian, Writer
Betsy Schramel - Museum Board Project Coordinator
Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greenville, Phone: (530) 284-6633
Robert Meacher - Plumas County Supervisor
Plumas County Museum
Plumas County Visitors Bureau,, Phone: 800-326-2247
Feather Publishing Company, Inc., Quincy CA 95971
Herman Borwn - Photographer
Lou Lang - Photographer

A special thanks to the community for all the facts, fiction, fables, and folklore.