Posted by: ramblinmanjimj | February 10, 2009

Murphys, CA

Well, here I am in Murphys, CA. Identified by Sunset Magazine and The New York Times as one of the top ten destination places in the United States and the home of my life partner Mary who has lived here for 30 years.

Here are some Murphys, CA photos taken by Jim Hildreth and found on Flicker:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimhildreth/sets/72157603533343220

Mary sent this information to me.

> This article was in the Wall Street Journal in case you didn’t see it:

> It is a typical Friday night in Murphys, Calif. At one end of Main Street, hundreds of older residents are tucking into a hearty supper of corned beef and cabbage at the Native Sons of the Golden West hall, while a few steps away, 30-somethings are sipping chardonnay and eating seared ahi tuna at an outdoor bistro.
>
> Murphys, a historic Gold Rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 2 1/2 hours east of San Francisco, is full of such contradictions — which is why it has become a draw for many retirees.
>
> “Murphys may have a lot of retirees, but it doesn’t feel ‘old,'” says 73-year-old Roy Creager, who moved to Murphys from the San Francisco Bay area after he retired in 1997. “We can go to the theater and enjoy a nice dinner, but you still get that small-town feel where you know your neighbors.”
>
> Murphys is certainly old by California standards. In 1848, the town got its start as a rough-and-tumble mining camp at the epicenter of the Gold Rush. Thousands of people staked claims to square patches of dirt in hopes of striking it rich. Many did; some estimate as much as $20 million in gold was carted off from the Murphys camp in just a couple of years. By 1850, the town, named after area’s most successful miner, John Murphy, had already started to decline.
>
> But unlike some other Gold Rush towns, Murphys didn’t disappear. Residents and businesses have preserved its historic architecture — timbered, flat-front buildings from the 19th century and wooden-plank walkways line the main thoroughfare — and have fought hard to keep big-box stores and commercial chains at bay. Murphys has welcomed gourmet eateries, a day spa, independent bookstores, espresso bars, art galleries and antique shops.
>
> The newest “prospectors” are seeking their fortunes in grapes: There are 13 wineries in Murphys alone, and 10 more scattered in surrounding Calaveras County. They produce many of the vintages available in the town’s restaurants and wine bars.
>
> Despite a veneer of big-city hipness, Murphys remains a small and close-knit town. Most members of the community are active in at least one club — in addition to the Native Sons, there are the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Rotary Club and Saddle Club, to name a few — and are quick to greet each other on the street. Families with young children mingle with the town’s older population, and the 240 members of the Murphys Community Club keep the local park, complete with a working water mill and new playground, in tiptop shape.
>
> Every first Friday of the month, residents gather in the park for an evening of music and picnicking. People have also banded together to open a local theater, staff a volunteer fire department and keep a small library running. (Murphys isn’t an incorporated town, so it doesn’t have its own police department, city hall or mayor. The county provides the bulk of services.)
>
> “We still have a market and hardware store, so it’s not just a tourist town,” says 49-year-old Michelle Plotnik, president of the volunteer Murphys Business Association and owner of a small architecture firm. Despite its small size, Murphy is home to some 350 businesses. “It’s a living, breathing community,” she says.
>
> This widespread sense of cooperation has prompted many retired residents to become active participants in local life.
>
> “I never thought this would happen, but I’ve gotten very involved in the community,” says 73-year-old Bob Reagan, who retired to Murphys with his wife, JoAnna, five years ago. Mr. Reagan, who served as director of public relations for the Los Angeles Public Library, was used to a high-stress lifestyle in Los Angeles where he rarely spoke to his neighbors. But in Murphys, he has joined the Community Foundation Board, which promotes and helps fund local festivals. Among them: the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, when some 10,000 visitors descend on the town.
>
>
> “I first fell in love with Murphys because it’s beautiful, quiet and quaint,” Mr. Reagan says. “But I stay because of the people.”
>
> Other retirees in Murphys also live a busy life, many running the town’s shops and service businesses. Villa Mia Antiques, a cheery Main Street shop stocked with French country antiques, is owned by 59-year-old Patty Schulz. After taking early retirement from her job as a Murphys middle-school teacher, Ms. Schulz went into business with a friend to open the store.
>
> “I discovered a new passion for antiques, and I realized there was life after a career you thought you’d be in forever,” Ms. Schulz says. She and her husband, also a retired teacher, moved to Murphys in 1971 from Santa Clara, Calif. The couple’s three grown daughters have moved away, but Ms. Schulz and her husband wanted to stay in the town during their retirement years.
>
> “I was worried about retiring, because I felt too young,” she recalls. “But now, with my new business, I don’t just have to sit around and get old.” Ms. Schulz works in the shop — just two blocks from her home — and travels regularly to Europe to hunt for antiques.
>
> The town’s proximity to ski slopes (45 minutes) and Big Trees State Park (15 minutes) is a lure for those who like nature. There are five golf courses in the area, as well as a few fishing reservoirs. At an elevation of about 2,100 feet, Murphys gets a dusting of snow in the winter, but not enough to require the serious shovel-and-plow obligations of more mountainous neighboring towns.
>
> Of course, there are downsides to living in Murphys. The town is no longer “undiscovered.” Most weekends, it floods with day-trippers in search of wine, tasty food and local history. And charming architecture comes at a price. Housing costs, while still much lower than in the Bay area, have climbed steeply in recent years.
>
> A historic two-bedroom cottage on Main Street recently sold for $700,000, says Cynthia Trade, a Realtor at Murphys Realty. While newer houses a mile or two outside of town sell for between $400,000 and $500,000, that’s still a far cry from the “steals” people got just five years ago, says Ms. Trade, who moved to Murphys in 1976, “when it was just a gas station, a butcher shop and a saw shop.”
>
> In the 2000 census, the town counted 2,061 residents; by most local estimates, the population has since grown to more than 2,600. Five years ago, the town added a row of shops, designed to blend in with the historic buildings, at one end of Main Street. And just outside of Murphys, a condominium development is in the works.
>
> With growth comes gentrification. The local grocery store now stocks imported cheese and organic produce alongside charcoal briquettes and bags of ice. Most residents seem to accept that Murphys is becoming more cosmopolitan, but the pace of change can be unsettling.
>
> Linda Strangio is one of the more recent transplants, and though she is now a town fixture involved in all sorts of community activities, she was worried about fitting in when she first arrived. The 65-year-old moved to Murphys in 2000, after retiring from an engineering career at Apple Inc. She opened a gift shop called the Treehouse in a run-down Main Street building and moved into the apartment upstairs.
>
> “I made some big changes to the building, and at first people were worried I would change the character of downtown,” Ms. Strangio says. “I had to overcome that I was the new person in town.”
>
> She says the key to fitting in was to jump into volunteering. She now works with the local humane society to rescue feral cats, and puts together the Calaveras Follies, a day of skits put on by the locals. She also helps organize the summer Shakespeare festival and concerts at a local winery.
>
> “I lived in the Bay area for 30 years, and I don’t think I ever had a potluck,” says Ms. Strangio. “Now, I get together with people all the time just to hang out, drink wine and chat. Up here, I don’t feel old.”

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Responses

  1. Welcome to Murphys Jim!

    • Thanks for your welcome! It’s a really nice area.


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