Truckee Walking Tour | Historic roots on High Street

Truckee Veterans Memorial. | Mark Mclaughlin

Truckee has an amazing history and with the right set of facts and intriguing stories, this railroad-logging town can come alive. As in most tours, with a little bit of effort you can leave the crowds behind. The best way to do this in Truckee is to walk up to the quiet residential neighborhood perched above town. Between the main block of Commercial Row and Brickelltown district to the west is Spring Street, heading north. It’s about a 5-minute walk to the historic delights above on High Street, but the hill getting there is steep. (Read the first part of Mark’s walking tour of downtown Truckee at TheTahoeWeekly.com.)

When the buggy’s wheel struck a post on Front Street, the judge and his rig flew 20 feet, fatally wounding the prominent pioneer.

Near the top of Spring Street are cross streets High and Keiser, parallel to each other. Turn left. If you’re driving, park on Keiser Street on the north side of the Veterans Hall building. The road is named for John Keiser, town judge, saloon and hotel owner and publisher of the Truckee Republican newspaper. On June 27, 1887, Keiser was killed while racing his one-horse buggy against some local men in a wagon. His spirited steed became uncontrollable and the elderly jurist “dashed into town at terrific speed.” When the buggy’s wheel struck a post on Front Street, the judge and his rig flew 20 feet, fatally wounding the prominent pioneer.

Read Mark’s Walking Tour of downtown Truckee
Download the Walking Tour map of Truckee

The Crystal Palace
Once parked, you’ll find a triple feature of Truckee’s history within close walking distance. You’ll immediately notice both Veterans Hall and the town’s legendary Rocking Stone. The Veterans Hall, dedicated to World War I soldiers from Truckee, opened in 1939 and was officially dedicated in 1941. It’s built on the foundation of the former mansion of Charles F. McGlashan, one of Truckee’s most accomplished and influential early residents. McGlashan called his home the Crystal Palace because it sparkled over downtown Truckee when lit at night. An open-air, elevated walkway led from the main house to a cylindrical museum tower McGlashan constructed on top of a large boulder that holds the Rocking Stone.

McGlashan’s museum displayed his glass-panel butterfly collection — he was a world-famous entomologist — as well as Donner Party memorabilia; he researched and wrote the first detailed book about the subject. McGlashan died in 1931 and the mansion burned in 1935. Afterwards, his family donated the land to Truckee. The granite block retaining walls that the McGlashan house stood on remain today, as do the metal poles that supported the two-story tower around the Rocking Stone.

Art & Soul Art Walk
Sept. 14 1-5 p.m. | Downtown Truckee

Donner Party Hikes
Sept. 14-15 | Truckee area venues

The Rocking Stone. | Mark McLaughlin
Truckee’s Rocking Stone. | Courtesy Truckee Donner Historical Society

The Rocking Stone
A delicately balanced rock that sways with the touch of a finger or breeze are rare — there are only 25 known in the world. The granite stone weighs an impressive 15 to 16 tons, but doesn’t rock anymore since it was secured for safety reasons. Today, a metal staircase leads to the unusual geological feature resting on the flat-topped base rock, its smooth surface polished by glacier or chipped by Native Americans. The local Washoe Tribe dried fish and game meat on top of the large base. Animals and rodents couldn’t climb the steep sides of the supporting rock and the stone’s rocking movement frightened birds.

The Rocking Stone offers a birds-eye view of downtown Truckee. In the distance, the extinct volcano Mount Rose — elevation 10,785 feet — and the Carson Range rise prominently. On many evenings around sunset, the Carson Range is painted pink, purple and red in alpenglow light.

The Richardson House. | Mark McLaughlin.

Richardson House
The final leg on this trifecta tour is the historic Richardson House, east on High Street about 50 yards away. This Victorian-style home has been painstakingly restored inside and out and is available to rent for vacation or family reunions.

Built in 1887 by Warren Richardson, an early timber baron in the region, the house is a fine example of how well-heeled Truckee businessmen and their families lived. High above Commercial Row the Richardson family enjoyed beautiful sunsets, but avoided the noise and frequent street violence associated with the saloons and gambling dens below on Jibboom Street.

In the early 1850s, Warren and his brother George tried their luck in California’s Gold Rush before heading for Nevada to work as mill wrights on the Comstock. Born in Maine and experienced in the lumber trade, the siblings moved to Truckee in 1867 to hitch their fortunes to the progress of the Central Pacific Railroad. They built and leased sawmills to provide lumber for the railroad and in 1874 opened a logging mill in Martis Valley. Their operation was a steam-driven affair capable of producing 50,000 feet of lumber every 24 hours. Further innovations in logging flumes and mechanized transport brought the Richardson brothers prosperity.