A century. That’s a long time to be around especially in the Sierra Nevada. Winter storms with heavy snowfall and hurricane–like winds. A barrage of summer fires. A continuous development of roads, freeways, and other buildings. And yet remains the oldest buildings in California High Sierra… a true testament of grit.

Osgood’s Toll House (1859)

Osgood Toll House oldest buildings in California High Sierra
From the Archives of the Lake Tahoe Historical Society

When the Comstock Lode was found near Virginia City in 1858, it caused traffic jams & considerable damage to the roads. To help fix this important artery between Hang Town and Virginia City, toll houses were setup along the route. One of these was the Osgood Toll House originally standing at the bottom of Meyers Grade. Now the oldest standing structure in Lake Tahoe, it sits behind the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum in Tahoe South.

Gray’s Station (1863)

oldest buildings in California High Sierra Gray's Station in Truckee California
Image appears courtesy: Visit Truckee-Tahoe

In the same vein as Mr. Osgood, Joseph Gray saw an opportunity to setup a tavern and way station in the location of what has become the Historic Town of Truckee. It was the only solitary building in the area and sat at the corner of Jibboom and Bridge Streets. A place where the twenty to thirty horse-drawn freight wagons as well as the California Stage Company could rest, get the comforts of a roadside inn, and even purchase supplies. Despite all the years of wear & tear, you can see this sturdy building at its permanent home of 10030 Church Street.

Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site (1880s)

Laws Railroad Museum just outside of Bishop California
Photo by: Emily Taylor – Appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Centrer

Over the crest on the eastern side lies a treasure trove for history buffs called the Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site. The Bishop Museum and historical society has recreated a village around the original 1883 depot and Agent’s House. It’s also home to the last steam train to operate on the old Narrow-Gauge line that it sits on. When this depot was active, it was on the longest narrow-gauge railroad in the entire west. The Laws Museum is just outside of the town of Bishop.

City Hotel (1852)

City Hotel in Sonora Oldest buildings in California High Sierra
Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

You’d be surprised to learn that in the High Sierra exists a town that’s one of the oldest in the state of California. Sonora was incorporated on May 1, 1851 making it older than every other city except for ten. And its oldest building is the City Hotel right in the center of town, built in 1852 by Sonora’s mayor and James Lane. This is where crowds have gathered for more than a century to take in events like the 4th of July parades, races, and other goings on.

Bridgeport County Courthouse (1880-81)

Bridgeport county courthouse
Image appears courtesy: Mono County Economic Development, Tourism and Film Commission

Although this isn’t the oldest building in the valley, as the George Byron Day House (1863) is, it’s the most prominent in the historic center of Bridgeport. It’s also the second oldest courthouse in the state. The three-story wooden building features Italian architecture and a gorgeous square cupola. To learn more about the area’s history, head west to the Mono County Museum, housed in an old schoolhouse.

These building aren’t just the oldest but a chance for a glimpse into the first individuals that migrated here and decided to call the High Sierra home. Like many after them, they came for opportunities and stayed for the beauty.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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