• LOCATION 42 | Historic Folsom: A Walking Tour around the Old Town

    Horatio Gates Livermore

    Continue straight, up ahead you will cross Gold Lake Drive. Stay on the walking path, it will veer right then left. Just keep following the path. Our next stop is the concrete bridge over the Folsom Powerhouse forebay. While you walk I will tell you about the Powerhouse.

    This story starts with Horatio Gates Livermore who came to California in 1850 seeking what everyone else was seeking at the time, gold! By 1861, he realized that he could make his fortune more easily by securing water rights on the American River. His plan was to harness the water of the American River and transform Folsom into a manufacturing center similar to his native New England where water wheels had long been used to operate factories.

    To realize this plan, in 1864 Horatio, along with his sons purchased 9,000 acres of land along the river and controlling interest in the Natoma Water and Mining Company. By the mid 1860s construction began on the dam and canal central to their plan, and then labor costs thwarted their effort.
    In need of cheap labor, Horatio approached the state of California. He offered to donate 350 acres of his land for the construction of a new prison which would relieve the overcrowding at San Quentin, California’s only federal prison. A deal was struck, in exchange he received 30,000 hours of prison labor.

    Well, more delays continued to uphold the construction project, Horatio passed away in 1879, and his sons took control of the business. The dam and canal were finally completed in 1893. But logging proved to be unprofitable for the younger Livermore’s who then turned their attention to a new vision. Instead of water to power manufacturing, they would generate hydroelectric power, to create electricity. In 1892, they created the Sacramento Electric Power and Light Company for that purpose.

    There is more to this story but you are getting close to the concrete bridge that crosses the forebay. Also if you look to your right you should see the parking lot where we began this walking tour.

    Now up ahead this path crosses a concrete bridge. Stop about midspan on this bridge.

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Historic Folsom: A Walking Tour around the Old Town