Century-old home houses Rocklin's history, memories

Visit Rocklin History Museum during Heritage Trail
By: Gloria Beverage, Placer Herald Editor
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Rocklin’s History Museum will be open for touring during this weekend’s Heritage Trail event, which features 18 museums from Roseville to North Lake Tahoe. The museum is headquartered in a house built around 1905 at the corner of Rocklin Road and San Francisco Street. For many years, it was the residence and office of Dr. Henry D. Fletcher, the Southern Pacific Railroad’s district surgeon. A portion of the museum display areas are housed in what used to be the doctor’s waiting room and examination areas. Rocklin business owner C.A. Moon purchased the house in 1936. While he and his family lived in the house, Moon used the basement as a storage area for his grocery business, which was located in the granite building (Rocklin’s city hall) on Rocklin Road. Members of the Rocklin Historical Society began planning for a museum in 1988, finally realizing their dream of a location to showcase the city’s history in late 2000. Through the efforts of the Historical Society’s membership and several Scout troops, the 1,000-square-foot residence (along with the 500-square-foot basement) and the gardens were renovated and opened to the public in 2002. Longtime volunteer Jean Day reports the museum collection includes more than 30,000 items that offer a glimpse of the early days in Rocklin’s history. A good portion of the displays focus on Rocklin’s granite quarries. In fact, the first two stories of the California Capitol building and several locations in San Francisco feature granite mined from Rocklin’s quarries. A slab of Rocklin granite has been used for the countertop in the kitchen, added Day. In addition to a sizeable collection of historic photos in the archives, the museum’s collection includes a 1900-era stove, a coffee grinder, a butter maker and an old telephone as well as tools and equipment used at the quarries. According to Roy Ruhkala, one of the founders of the Historical Society, the oldest item in the museum is a drilling machine dating back to the 1870s. Another exhibit tracks the history and culture of the Native Americans, including the Nisenan, who lived throughout this area. One of the newer displays pays tribute to the San Francisco 49ers, who set up their summer training camp at Sierra College from 1981 through 1997. “They won 73 percent of their games during those years, including 16 National Football League playoff games and five Super Bowls,” writes Quarry Quarterly newsletter editor Gary Day. “Their Rocklin years brought them from obscurity to greatness and they have returned to obscurity since leaving.” During this weekend’s Heritage Trail event, docents will be on hand to share stories about Rocklin’s history. Ruhkala is scheduled to demonstrate granite cutting at 10 a.m. on Sunday. A video of Ruhkala working with granite will be shown throughout the weekend. In addition to operating the museum, Historical Society members open the Old St. Mary’s Chapel for viewing during the Front Street Friday Festivals through October. Thanks to their efforts, the chapel was saved from demolition in 2005, moved to its present location and restored to pristine condition. It is now available for weddings, memorials and other public events. Plans are underway to restore Rocklin’s Front Street corridor and the Big Gun Quarry, the largest quarry owned and operated by the Ruhkala family’s Union Granite Company. The society is hoping to save some of the granite processing artifacts on the rim of the 90-foot deep quarry pit. ________ Heritage Trail Day At Rocklin History Museum When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday Where: At corner of San Francisco and Rocklin Road Featuring Roy Ruhkala demonstration of granite cutting at 10 a.m. on Sunday Admission: free