WHY “ZINC HOUSE?”
Our ZINC HOUSE FARM is named for a little prefab building shipped in 1850, from New York to the Port of Stockton, thence by 6-horse wagon team to a site on French Camp Road, near Highway 120. There, it was assembled “to the awe & wonder of locals,” perhaps becoming the first prefab building in California. The delivered cost, paid by Ebenezer Holt Allan, Canadian-born Stockton area farmer: $1,850; in 2020, about $65,000. The travel time: about 6 months.
Gold had been discovered in the Sierra Foothills near Sacramento in March of 1848. Though not yet a state, California’s population and prosperity were expanding exponentially.
By 1850, the Gold Rush was in full swing and the Sierra Nevada foothills up and down California were full of pick-swinging miners. Wagner saw the immediate need for a stopping place for miner and suppliers between the Port of Stockton and the Mother Lode.
So, in pursuit of his vision, in October of 1852, Allan and Ernest Wagner, a local German-born wheat farmer, agreed Wagner would pay $800 (2020, about $27,000) for 5 months’ rent of Zinc House. The 12’x16’x7’ building was moved from the French Camp Road site and reassembled about 2 miles away on Wagner’s 640 homesteaded acres, present intersection of Wagner Road, Yosemite Road; today’s Highway 120, and French Camp Road. By March 1853, Wagner purchased the building from Allan.
Soon, a wooden barn was built on the property to serve the horse teams and drivers carrying supplies to and from the Mother Lode. Records show that in 1853, 70 wagons, pulled by 6-horse teams laden with 5-8 tons of supplies passed, daily, between the Port of Stockton and Gold Country with a stop at ZINC HOUSE STATION. Time to change teams: 2 minutes! Heavy traffic along this corridor is nothing new!
Now, this little zinc house would become that stopping place. There, over the years, it became a home, a hotel: Zinc Hotel, a school: Zinc School, a stage stop: Zinc Station.
In 1865, 12 years later, two large brick structures, a stable and a granary, replaced the wooden barn. The bricks were made on-site. One of the barns remains and can be seen to the south from Highway 120 and Wagner Road, 2 miles west of today’s ZINC HOUSE FARM. Found buried, a Chinese steam-cooker reveals Chinese workers cooked entire meals on one burner for travelers.
The little zinc house has long turned to rust. The handsome brick barn is all that is left to mark the Zinc House site of 1850.