Shasta State Historic Park
15312 Highway 299 West
Shasta, CA 96087
Thursday-Sunday: 10AM – 5PM
Sitting in the Klamath foothills, 6-miles west of Redding, California. is a row of half-ruined buildings flanking highway 299. These are the remains of the gold rush boomtown of Shasta, the “Queen City of the Northern Mines.” While its rise to relevance and fall into obsolescence is swift, it is a striking and well preserved reminder of gold rush that put the state of California on the map.
A History of Shasta
In 1848, gold is discovered in Clear Creek by Major Pierson B. Reading. The region is flooded with the timely ’49s who sweep through northern California’s gold fields. The rough settlement of lentos and other improvised house is initially named Reading Springs in 1849. Yet, as the mining town’s convenient location along a popular wagon route makes it a convenient base of business, it is renamed Shasta in 1850. Permanent homes, stores, boarding houses, saloons, and barbershops populated the new business hub of Northern California. By 1852, $2.5 million worth of gold have passed through Shasta.
After two devastating fires destroy Shasta in 1852 and 1853, cautious shop owners invest in fireproof brick and iron shuttered buildings as they rebuilt, once more. It is the longest stretch of brick buildings north of San Francisco at that time. Much of what remains of Shasta is from this third round of building.
By 1860s, however, the town is in decline. Local gold claims have plaid out. Arguably more devastating: trade routes shift out of Shasta. Confirming the fall of Shasta, the Central Pacific Railroad places its terminal in Redding rather than Shasta. Merchants follow suit, moving their businesses to Redding. By 1888, the shift is finalized as the county seat moved from Shasta to Redding.
Shasta falls into disrepair. Yet, preservationists begin taking an interest in the old boom town in the 1920s. In 1937, Shasta comes under the oversight of the California State Parks Commission. The Courthouse Museum opens in 1950, featuring the art collection of Mae Helene Bacon Boggs, a major actor in preserving the town.
Today, the public is welcome to wander the streets of Shasta as the Shasta State Historic Park. While the shop fronts and interpretive displays are visible at any time, weekend visits come with the extra benefit of a volunteer manned blacksmiths shop, general store, and courthouse museum. The Litsch General Store is one of the Shasta’s original buildings. Mining and farming equipment are housed in the Pioneer Barn. Many artifacts of Old Shasta now sit on display in the Courthouse Museum, a structure that was built in 1855 and restored to its 1861 grandeur.
Litsch General Store
The Litsch General Store is one of the few original structures in Shasta. It recreates an interior similar to what shoppers would have encountered in the 1880s. Canned food, clothes, mining equipment and more are all on display behind counters. Shoppers would request items from clerks who would man the counter.
The Courthouse Museum doubles both as the preserved Courthouse with jail cells in the basement and a museum. The collection includes artifacts from historic Shasta, mining equipment, and a noteworthy collection of 98 paintings donated by Mae Helene Bacon.