Sonora Inn (Days Inn)
160 S. Washington St, Sonora 95370.,  209 532-4542,  800 580-4667.

The hotel here--now the Days Inn--was once arguably the finest hotel in the Sierras, in an era when the Sierra foothills were quite wealthy. After a fire it was renovated in 1931 into the structure you see today.

What was then known as the Victoria Hotel was built in 1896 by Captain William Alexander Nevills. Nevills--whose title of "Captain" is questionable--was a flamboyant, difficult, and slightly lunatic man whose diverse business activities had an enormous effect on the Sonora area at the turn of the century.

One story is that Nevills went to Sonora one day and tried to get a room at a hotel and was turned away. Nevills--the most prominent man in Jamestown and the wealthy owner of the Rawhide Mine--expected to be noticed and treated well. He traveled with a driver and a team of beautiful horses. He told the hotel clerk, "I'll go across the street and build a hotel and run you guys out of business."

The Victoria Hotel was built from slate from local hills, with very thick walls. The building had balconies on the outsides of the rooms, popular for parades and for summer evenings, since there was no air conditioning at that time. The basement had a wine cellar and there was a courtyard with flowers and tropical plants, the fragrance filling the hotel. There were lavish furnishings, with the interior paneled with redwood and mahogany. A wide variety of art hung in the hotel.

Nevills later, together with the head of the Sierra Railway, built an even fancier hotel, known as the Hotel Nevills, near the Jamestown railway depot.

As part of the deal Nevills made an agreement with the Sierra Railway that the rail line from Oakdale would terminate at Jamestown and not go further into Tuolumne County. The idea was that as a hotel at the end of the line wealthy people visiting Yosemite or the mountains east of Sonora would stay at the hotel.

The owners of the railway had decided, however, that it was imperative that they extend the rail line to Sonora and the rest of Tuolumne County. Some of these owners had purchased a marble quarry in Columbia and had plans to sell the marble as a building material in San Francisco. About this time the U.S. government was planning on building a new post office in San Francisco and was considering using marble. To sell the marble, however, the quarry owners needed to find a good way to transport it from Columbia to San Francisco.

Various schemes were proposed, including what may have simply been a ploy, to build an electrically powered railroad on Washington Street through Sonora to Columbia. However, they could not overcome the longstanding opposition to the railroad among the citizens and city government in Sonora, and eventually routed the Sierra Railway past Sonora rather than through it, building a depot, with the first floor made of white Columbia marble and the same Oriental style roof of the Jamestown station, just outside the city limits.

Building the depot just outside the city limits turned out to be not a great idea. In 1946, the depot caught fire, and the Sonora firemen, not able to operate outside the city limits, watched it burn to its marble foundations.