Fire destroys Yreka ‘Old West Village’ before its display during Gold Rush Days festival
A fire in the early hours of Monday all but destroyed the Old West Village, a historic display depicting frontier life in downtown Yreka.
“Three years of hard work, and blood, sweat and tears; and it was 99%, done ready to open for Gold Rush Days for people to see what buildings were like in 1850s now destroyed by arson,” said Gary Nelson, the owner Old West Village. Nelson, active in the city’s preservation community, also owns the Franco-American Hotel on Miner Street.
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The Yreka Fire Department didn't immediately respond to a question about the fire's official cause.
Old West Village occupies nearly a city block at the corner of Broadway and North streets. It would have been featured during the town's festival celebrating its gold rush and frontier past. It kicks off in the downtown on Friday night and continues through the weekend.
Community response to the fire has been sympathetic and regretful, with many commenters on the Siskiyou County Grapevine group on Facebook recalling the Nelson’s service to historic preservation.
“Gary and Roselie (Nelson) are a treasure to the town of Yreka,” wrote Sandy Honeyball-berry. “While fast food restaurants pop up all over town they are trying to preserve as much of our history as they can so we and future generations will know what our pioneer forefathers went through to settle this beautiful area we get to call home!! So very sorry for your loss Gary and Roselie!!”
Record Searchlight reporter Mike Chapman contributed to this report.
Skip Descant is a freelance journalist. He’s written for newspapers in California, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He lives in downtown Yreka.