Each step down Washington Street in Historic Sonora is a step rich in history. The street was an Indian trail until the Gold Rush transformed it into a mining camp, with canvas tents and colorful flags flying from the brush houses built by the Mexicans. Imagine it with throngs of miners walking down the street, gambling tables made of rough-hewn wooden planks set up in front of each establishment.
These temporary structures were eventually replaced by wooden buildings, most of which burned in the Great Sonora Fire of 1854. The town was then quickly rebuilt, largely with brick.
Many historic buildings from those times remain. The Gunn House, now a hotel, was once the office of the Sonora Heraldnewspaper, established in 1854. A few blocks west of Washington Street on Bradford sits what was once the county jail, now a museum, with a few jail cells still intact. A tiny park near the museum has early gold mining equipment—an arastra, a stamping machine, and a Pelton water wheel.
In its Gold Rush heydey Sonora was the most ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan, and tolerant town in the Sierra. It was the only town with a significant number of women.