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Gold Country: Amador City, Calif.

Sweet, small, and singular, the town is history come to life.

Red cattle barn near Amador City California, image
Photo caption
A red barn rests on the rolling hills near Amador City, Calif.

Tiny Amador City, population 208, has a big personality, considering that it’s the smallest incorporated city in the state. Its Keystone Mine, with a spooky shaft that still stands at the south end of town, produced $24 million worth of gold by the time it was shut down in 1942, making it one of the richest and longest-running mines in the region. The result: a sense that time stopped in this rugged, Wild West place, which looks just as it must have when rowdy miners hit the bars to spend their Friday paychecks. Area code is 209.

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Once known as the Fleehart Building (for William Fleehart, who ran an early general merchandise store within it), the Amador Whitney Museum, donated to the town by longtime residents Jerrold Whitney and Clayton Pinkerton, now houses a collection of antiques and memorabilia depicting Gold Rush−era daily life, with an emphasis on the experiences of pioneer women. 14170 Hwy. 49, The suitably melancholic Amador City Cemetery rests directly behind the Imperial Hotel (14202 Hwy. 49, 267-9172, and includes graves dating back to the town’s founding around 1850. Use the signs provided for a self-guided tour.

Matt and Kimberly Andrae put so much heart into Andrae’s Bakery that locals line up for scones, bread, and baked goods when the doors open and visitors detour off the Highway 49 bypass to eat lunch or pick up picnic supplies. They also offer handmade chocolates, and every season there are specialty items such as pumpkin chai, truffles, and Italian panettone. The bakery has no indoor seating, but powerful heat lamps keep the tables on the front porch cozy. Tables in the garden are perfect for summer picnics. Don’t leave without trying the famous Basque cake, and take home a loaf of blue cheese walnut bread. 14141 Hwy. 49, 267-1352,

The Kitchen Store is a draw for cooks and foodies who come for handmade patchwork placemats, intricately painted Polish pottery, and just about every other tool and implement imaginable. The shop also hosts tastings for small local wineries. 14167 Hwy. 49, 267-9310.

Photography by Chuck Haney

Check out the rest of our California Gold Country package:
Angels Camp: More than Mark Twain
Jackson: Main Street meets mining town
Murphys: Tasting rooms and gold lore
Plymouth: Top-notch eats and wines
Sutter Creek: A handsome Gold Country base camp

This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.