JULIAN, Calif. — The Golden Chariot Mine is part of the rich history of Julian. It's still standing, though no longer operating. The veins of precious metal played out decades ago. There are just traces of gold left in the soil at the site on a remote hillside in the Laguna Mountains.
Ron LaBorde is a retired biomedical engineer and inventor; as well as part-owner of the Golden Chariot Mine. He took CBS 8 on a 4-wheel drive, e-ticket ride over extremely rough roads and past locked gates to provide a tour of what is now his hobby, the mine and geo-science.
"This is the powder house where we would store dynamite and stuff like that," LaBorde said.
Other buildings house massive machines that are idle now and rusting have become virtual antiques.
LaBorde pointed at a couple of them, "How do you get this in here without a road? They brought it down the side of the mountain."
He walked through the mining process, "They brought the ore down, they crushed it and then they milled it."
A short distance away, the shaft was precisely staged and excavated next to colored, mineralized quartz. There was pride in LaBorde's voice as he directed our vision toward the shaft.
"Right at the top edge of that; that is reddish quartz and that's what they were exploring, that's what they were looking for, right there and it is called the Golden Chariot vein. There's gold... there is gold in the Golden Chariot ore."
The vein had to be profitable to succeed; miners hauled out ton after ton of ore to find their treasure. There were 15 to 30 men working the Golden Chariot Mine until 1875; the reported yield was 40,000 ounces of gold. The current value would be over $70 million.
This vein, though, was depleted and abandoned.
The Gold Rush started in 1870 but the area had been homesteaded several years before. Among the prospectors were five confederate soldiers, veterans of the Civil War. The town of Julian was named after one of them.
It was the Wild West then. It is a destination now. Julian is thriving; with a constant parade of visitors and new homebuyers.
Kamisha Green is the owner of FHL Realty.
"They're coming here to get out of the city; to create a backyard lifestyle," she said.
It's affordable for many, especially on the outskirts of town.
"You can get a home in those neighborhoods from about $300,000 up to about $600,000," Green said.
Denise Kilgore said the atmosphere of the community is one reason she purchased a home in Julian.
"It hasn't changed a lot; don't allow much change and I appreciate that," she said. "It's why I moved here from San Diego."
A tourist from New York liked the warmth she found. Barbara Kitay volunteered, "It's a great, quaint little place; it brings you back in time."
Robin Boland works for the Julian Chamber of Commerce.
"Downtown Julian does not change that much; still family-owned businesses; no corporations," she said.
And of course, there is the apple pie.
Noah Davidson-Mendiola and some friends drove up from the South Bay. "We came from National City to get pie from Julian," he said. When asked if it was good, he answered, "It's delicious."
Jim Famulare was on vacation from Massachusetts. "The charm is the town itself, in my opinion, and if you've ever had their apple pie, it's fantastic," he said. "And the people, the history."
Boland considers that a plus.
"You can look at the town and it looks the same; it feels the same; there's just some new places to go and new things to find," she said.
Wynola resident Bud Segni isn't so thrilled about that.
"Everything is more commercial now than what it used to be," he said.
His time here dates back to 1941.
Now there's craft beer, wineries, and tasting rooms.
"Not just apple pie - there's a lot to go along with it," Green said.
So take a stroll down the Julian sidewalks; enjoy the ambiance. And definitely try the pie.
Looking ahead at Julian's future, Boland showed us where the Heritage Foundation has a vision for a prime corner downtown; a welcoming little park.
"Some trees and benches and a small seating area for musical entertainment."
They hope to finish the Julian Town Square Park in the next few years.
CELEBRATE SAN DIEGO SERIES
Celebrate San Diego was a 1986/1987 series about neighborhoods of San Diego County. CBS 8 anchor-reporter Connie Healy and a team of photographers roamed the county and delivered in-depth profiles of several towns and communities in the area. They were history lessons focusing on changes and progress.
Many long-term residents she spoke with reflected on what it was like to grow up in their town and what they thought of all the changes they had seen. One really gets a sense of what the character and personality of the community were like in each profile - and how diverse the county really is.
Thirty-five years later, we're sending out a team of reporters to see how things have changed or stayed the same in each of the nearly 20 neighborhoods we covered in the mid-1980s.
Connie shares her memories below of working on this fantastic series:
"I love talking to people. People make the news, not newscasters. They simply report how we live our lives. But sometimes it enriches that picture to add a little perspective by not just looking at where we are today, but how far we've come. In the 1980s, Celebrate San Diego did just that. It painted a picture of daily life that was much different from the one we live today, and a city that many of us wouldn't even recognize.
Talking to people, listening to their stories is what reporters do every day. But these stories of life in San Diego 50 to 100 years ago were amazing. This city has come a long way in the last 30 years but some of the people in these stories saw change at the speed of light. I would encourage you to take some time to take a look into our past, revel in the present and celebrate the wonderful city that we all call home."