::Logan visits the Botto granary/saloon/dance hall
Looking for landmarks in the rain last week, and heading down the Old Sutter Creek Road, the writer almost missed the stone Botto saloon. Finally found it. The former stage road there descends sharply into Sutter Creek.
The saloon, fronting the road, is right by the stop at the brow of the hill. Just beyond is the site or actual boarding house of owners, including Botto, Ramazotti and Stanton. I remember writing about the Stantons’ ownership in the late Fun Times.
As the 150-year old building had many uses, calling it a saloon may not be fair. It began as a granary, and, upstairs, maybe a living space. It was also a liquor store, and even a dance house, in the 20th century, long after Constantino died of consumption in October, 1881.
Anyway, I photographed it, despite the rain. At home, researching, I was surprised I hadn’t really looked into Botto’s since Amador antiquarianism bit me in 1966. Oh, I recalled who Constantino and Theresa Botto were, but not that they emigrated in 1858 from coastal northwestern Italy — probably from Caregli — with some of their eventual “famiglia” of ten children. Not much else.
Not sure how soon after disembarking did they arrive in Amador. By 1860, however, the 30-year-olds had settled in Sutter Hill, or The Summit, at the junction of stage roads to Amador City and Jackson, and Ione and Volcano, on New York Ridge. We simply say Ridge Road today.
That same year Botto bought a 40-acre parcel from Amador pioneers named Martin and Letitia Tibbits Tucker, who show up early in Pine Grove annals and, where they have a hill named them, Sutter Creek.
Tucker’s T-Garden Ranch, by the by, was the site of the organization of Amador County, in July, 1854. Look for the plaque marking the site, not far uphill from the stone relic.
Botto either bought part of Tucker’s land claim or an adjacent piece. He also acquired land from mining Midas, Alvinza Hayward, or the Tibbits family, who pioneered the nearby Summit mine — today’s city-owned Central Eureka. By 1860, Hayward had made himself rich and Sutter Creek prosperous after finding a golden chute in his Eureka-Badger mine, below the Summit.
Soon after buying the property, Botto and “Italiano” stonemasons fashioned the typical, multi-hued, cut-stone building that’s still with us today. Did the family live in it? Maybe — for a while. But then, or later, they built and operated a boarding house. The stone building was a granary for whatever the ranch/farm produced. The 1870 census describes Botto as farmer-gardener. He brought, or imported, from Genoa, an Italian chestnut and olive trees and had soft-shelled walnut trees on the farm.
But, virtually atop the Mother Lode vein(s), Botto mined, too, for maybe five years. Perhaps for the Summit Mine, perhaps his own placer claims. He also partnered with John Tanner in a ditch system, which they eventually sold to Blue Lakes Water Co.
Tanner one day would sell Blue Lakes a reservoir site. It’s still Tanner reservoir today.
Not sure when Botto built the wooden story on his granary but the late Charley Gorman remembered there was plenty of dirt between floors to impede fire. Gorman, in the 1980s, for Amador Dispatch writer Evelyn Prouty, recalled, c1915, someone hoisted a piano upstairs for a dance. Thus, maybe, saloon and liquor store downstairs, at least until prohibition. An old-timer would know how long locals two-stepped upstairs.
Note in the photo that Botto’s second floor is gone. It came down in 1982, after high winds blew it awry. A marvelous oil painting by Larry Schuman (on today’s page 14) shows a roof, brushed, certainly, before most of the roof sailed away.
Although I didn’t look, the old bocci-ball court behind the Botto is probably gone, and the old saloon safe was donated to the Sutter’s Fort Museum by Botto siblings “many years ago.”
There’s a small sesquicentennial plaque on the Botto, put there by a descendant, Janet Friedberg, of Washington state, in 2004. Mrs. Friedberg has been a stalwart supporter of the writer and patron of Amador history over the years. Though far away, her roots are here. Next time, driving the old Sutter Creek Road near the stop sign, find a parking spot and enjoy the old Botto granary. That’s how Italian masons fashioned stone to last more than 150 years ago.
Editor’s note: Larry Cenotto has been writing about Amador County history for many years. His prose, under his pen name, Logan, has long graced the pages of local newspapers, as well as numerous volumes of books titled, “Logan’s Alley.”