Picture provided courtesy of Shasta Historical Society
“Hey!! What Happened to 299?” Dipping back into the “Second California Gold Rush” days of Shasta County, one can visualize the bustling center of commerce which was Shasta, “The Queen City” of the north state. With a loaded buckboard heading east (to the left), and the westbound stage heading out of town (to the right), and the early days of current, State Route 299 to Weaverville exhibit the same sense of vitality which has endured for over 150 years. Before its eventual decline when local mines became played out, and the Central Pacific Railroad chose to route its line through Redding, Shasta was the county seat and commercial hub of this region. In 1888, the county seat was moved to Redding and Shasta experienced further blight and economic decline.
By Pat Carr and Jennifer Pooley
Your News Contributors
As reported earlier this year in the Record Searchlight (Feb. 25th), Shasta State Historic Park was one of 70 (out of 278 statewide) parks across California that was targeted for closure in state budget cuts. In recent months a concerted campaign, headed by Shasta Historical Society has been launched to transition the park to part-time operations, thus avoiding total closure and possible relocation of some 23,000 artifacts and the widely-acknowledged Mae Helen Bacon Boggs collection of original artwork to “temporary storage” outside the county. Putting the park on a modified, 2-to-3-day-a-week operating schedule would ensure that the park stays open, that the vast collection art and other artifacts stays put within the county, and that Shasta County citizens and visitors have access to this portal to our past, local history. To achieve sufficient funding for modified schedule operations, Shasta Historical Society is launching a fund-raising effort called “Save Old Shasta”, or “SOS,” to subsidize part of the budget gap for park operations. Various fund-raising events and activities are being planned, in concert with state park officials. To share more information about park closures and local efforts to avoid closing “Old Shasta,” the Saturday, April 21st general meeting and lecture presentation of Shasta Historical Society has been set aside to bring our local citizens up to date. This presentation will be given at the downtown, Shasta College Health Sciences Center (upstairs classroom) at 1:30 p.m. Ms. Lori Martin, State Park Peace Officer Supervisor (Northern Buttes District, Cascade Sector) will be the presenter, along with Gary Lewis, the society’s “SOS Committee” chairperson and David Scott, society president.
So, why should Shasta County citizens be concerned about closure of the park and support the alternative modified schedule to keep it open part-time?
- Because “It’s our stuff” that could be mothballed and stored outside our county in a state warehouse, temporarily (possibly indefinitely) preventing local access to viewing, appreciating, and learning from this treasure of historic artifacts. The 23,000 artifacts and over 300 art pieces (from the Boggs collection) in the museum’s collection were received from over 200 donors, many of them local — with the likely expectation that the artifacts would remain in the county for the education and enjoyment by Shasta County residents and visitors, and together those items would piece together a window into the county’s early history. The books, photos, and 3-dimensional artifacts of the park and Courthouse Museum also serve to documents the roots of many pioneer families, some of whom reside in the county to this day.
- Because Educational Experience for Youths and Adults is also a key role of the park. The Junior Docent Program which the Park has implemented in concert with Stellar Charter School and Shasta Elementary School, has become a valued, hands-on educational experience. Adult docents also assist with school tours at the courthouse and the Litsch General Store. Throughout the year, various special events are designed to educate the public, including Heritage Day in the Spring, Full Moon Cemetery Walks in October, and Holiday in the Parks (Shasta and Whiskeytown) in December.
- Because maintaining the integrity of the museum collection is much easier if it remains in its current, climate-controlled, custom-designed storage and display environment. Packing and storing the collection in an out-of-county location runs the risks of potential disintegration and damage in transit, as well as unspecified costs of later re-integration.
- Because economic impact to surrounding commercial activities is another potential downside to closing the park – as yet undetermined. Local businesses in the community of Shasta would likely suffer adversely if the park shuts down.
Outrage Relating to Treatment of Old Shasta, its Park and Museum and their Historicity is Not a New Thing. It hearkens back to the very establishment of the park itself, and its most prominent benefactor – Mae Helene Bacon Boggs.
Photo Source: My Playhouse was a Concord Coach, by Mae Helene Bacon Boggs
Mrs. Boggs was raised in Shasta in the 1870s and 1880s. As an adult she lived primarily in San Francisco, and in the 1920s was visiting a childhood friend in Redding when they decided to take a drive to their old hometown of Shasta. When she saw the ruinous state of Shasta she determined to preserve what was left of this once important place. She immediately began purchasing property in Shasta that same day. During the 1920’s and 1930’s she rallied support from Shasta Historical Society, Native Sons of the Golden West and other local support groups. Together they purchased land and restored buildings for the purpose of eventually converting it to a park. This passion to preserve Shasta became a life-long commitment to Ms. Boggs, and in 1950 the Courthouse Museum opened and Shasta became a historic monument.
Photo Source: Page x, My Playhouse was a Concord Coach, by Mae Helene Bacon Boggs
Photo of the Court House, Stage Driver’s Monument, Masonic Temple, and Armory Hall (c. 1931)
The legacy of Mae Helene Bacon Boggs and her early partners in collecting, preserving, promoting and communicating the history of Shasta continues to thrive in the new millennium. The museum boasts exhibits in Native American culture of the region, in the Gold Rush and its influence on growth and change in the north state, in the courtroom and jail housed there, and in the selection of 98 masterwork paintings (from Mrs. Boggs’ donated collection of over 300 artworks). Some visitors have also marveled appreciatively at the firearms exhibitry in the museum.
But the park includes more than the Courthouse Museum. The Litsch General Store down the road from the museum has also received accolades as a very authentic representation of the “one stop shop” nature of early mercantile enterprises of that era.
Lori Martin’s April 21st presentation will provide a more in-depth profile of the treasure-in-our-midst that is Shasta, as well as the financial and operational challenges confronting Shasta and its serviceability to local citizens and visitors from outside the region. This event is open to the public.