My love of this California ghost town goes back to when I was about 12 or 13. Anyone who knows me well knows of my love of the California Gold Rush era, the 1800’s, and the lawless old west. Calico, although the biggest silver producer at that time falls into the old west, and that forgotten time that I love.
Calico has a big history. It became a town is around 1881, named for the hills around it which are a calico color. The town thrived for about 20 years, until the cost to produce silver began to outweigh it’s worth. Here’s where the story gets cool. Around 1951, Walter Knott – yup that guy – purchased the town, and began restoring it to it’s original glory – mostly from old photographs.
In the meantime, his thriving berry stand in Buena Park was so popular, and the waits for a table in his wife’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant so long, he he began thinking about a way to entertain guests while they waited….The simple solution….
Bring Calico to Buena Park. Which he did. Truckload by truckload. Believe it or Knott (get it?), most of the buildings we all have grown up around in Ghost Town at Knott’s Berry Farm are actual buildings from Calico. And Calico, mostly rebuilt on site in the San Bernardino hills. Walter was a pretty shrewd guy, and Calico, the Ghost Town became quite the tourist attraction. In 1966, Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County, and Calico became a County Regional Park.
Although Knott’s is long gone, it’s influence can be seen all over, even down to the twisted “Haunted Shack” attraction that still remains, although being taken from Knott’s when it was purchased by Cedar Fair.
My wife and I spent the day touring the actual silver mine, the Maggie Mine, which is just a small part of the huge mining aspect of the surrounding hills, the train ride and attractions, and wandering in and out of the museums and shops that now pepper the site.
Here’s a few of the pictures we took throughout the day. Click on the pics to see full size.