JULIAN, Calif. — Though it was founded by confederate soldiers who moved west to start over and seek their fortune in the wake of the Civil War, prominent tombstones, dating well back into the 1800’s bear the names of several African Americans who are instrumental in telling the storied history of Julian, California.
The origins of the city dates back to the mid 1800’s. A family of former confederate soldiers, went west to California, among them was Mike and Webb Julian.
In 1869, former slave Fred Coleman found gold in a river creek nearby and sparked a rush. Pioneers and miners, flocked to the town and settled there.
"Julian was the center of the back country," said Professor and founder of the African Diaspora Museum and Research Center, Chuck Ambers. "Some of those African American businesses didn't last that well. But one shiny star was the pioneer hotel called the Hotel Robinson."
With their talent for southern cooking and hospitality, husband and wife Albert and Margret Robinson built a restaurant feeding Julian and visitors that came to town on a stagecoach.
They founded Hotel Robinson around the turn of the century, becoming some of the first African-American business owners in the state of California.
No matter what racist attitudes might have existed during this era, Julian Historian David Lewis thinks the hotel was a hub for social activity in the city.
"Right across the street was the town hall. So they would have dances that would last all night," said Lewis.
"I would imagine that you had some tension between ex-confederate soldiers and African Americans living up there," said Ambers. "With the sophistication that the Robinsons developed with this excellent hotel, and everything. And that's why they were received."
Though Albert died in 1915, Margaret kept running Hotel Robinson until she sold in 1921.
Today, the hotel lives on as the Julian Gold Rush Hotel, which is still running its décor and architecture virtually unchanged since its founding.
The Bed and Breakfast prides itself as one of the oldest operating hotels in Southern California. The bronze plaque outside recognizing the Robinsons as trailblazers of their time.
When racism was commonplace and opportunities for African-Americans were limited, Albert and Margret Robinson and their hotel on the hill, broke the norm and made a name for themselves in Julian, California.
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