Fountain Tallman Soda Works Museum

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Many miners and townspeople alike enjoyed a cool bottle of flavored water,

some spirits still do…



The Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building is now a museum, using both floors to display artifacts of the past history of Eldorado County. A variety items were donated from Placerville and Eldorado County families who have roots in this town since the pioneer gold rush era. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984. The El Dorado County Historical Society takes care of the museum and the fabulous building that houses it.

The El Dorado County Historical Society just finished some needed restoration and renovation on the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building, that was started in 2014.

The Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum building was built to last the ages. The stone and brick Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building is a “thirty by twenty foot two story” rectangular building made of slate and the native stone serpentine; both cut from the hill slope right behind the structure.”

The walls are massive; more than 2 feet thick, as part of it was used to store ice. The floors were made of field stone. Today, the original stone floors are under the wooden floors that presently exist.

To add some style to this rather plain but practical building, and improve its curb appeal, bricks were added around the doors and windows, as well as being strategically placed under the eaves of the roof to make “dentils”.

To add further flair, what is called a “radiating arched head area” was strategically placed around the front entrance. Except for a bronze plaque, donated by The Native Daughters of the Golden West that dedicates this rock fortress as a significant historic structure, the front hasn’t changed a bit since it was built.

While other buildings burned in the fires that rolled through town in the 19th and early 20th century, the Soda Works building proved to be hardy and fire-resistant, and survived unharmed.

Inside, it has changed through-out the years to meet the needs of the owners, though it has “much of its original integrity”, with its “mid-to-late nineteenth century artisanship”, giving the visitors the feel of a “Gold Rush Era building.”

Besides the addition of wood floors, during the 1920s’ and sometime after 1929, a skylight, a back door and the installation of “rocking” around a window in the newly constructed brick west wing built by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.



Back in 1852, John Fountain and Benjamin Tallman had a very successful soda pop factory and ice facility located on Main Street. They sold clean bottled water with carbonate and fruit juice added. The miners and the townspeople enjoyed drinking safe, flavored water, as all their water sources available to them were polluted by the mining.

Business was so good that they decided they needed a bigger building. So they built the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building that was located just across the street, stating this ambitious project in 1853, and opened the doors in 1854.

Something must of gone wrong with their business plan, because Tallman sold his interest in their business, Soda Works probably to his partner, John Fountain in 1855. Perhaps an improved water system was created to give people unpolluted water, which would cut into their business.

Tallman went on to invest in an ice selling business in Georgetown and Sacramento. People needed ice for their refrigerators.

In 1857, John Fountain couldn’t pay his taxes on his other properties and Soda Works. These properties were placed on the delinquent tax list. This led to the Soda Works property being sold at the sheriff’s auction in 1858.

From 1858 to 1889, the property had five different owners who used the building for a variety of businesses, making good use of the building’s assets.

In 1889, The El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Company bought it and used it as a storage building.

In 1908, The Soda Works building became the property of Sierra Water Supply Company. They in turn sold this property to the Western States Gas and Electric Company.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company bought the Soda Works building along with Western States Gas and Electric water systems in 1928.

Rodger Darrow and his wife were the next owners in 1960, under the agreement that the Soda Works building would be kept up as a historical landmark. They opened up a small restaurant on the first floor.

Ownership was transferred on February 2nd, 1981, to the group that could maintain and promote the building properly: The El Dorado County Historical Society, who has established a city museum inside with lots of artifacts and interesting items; some perhaps were still valuable to their former owners, now in spirit form.



Spirits like to visit places in this world that they have fond memories of when they had a body and were breathing. Many miners and townspeople alike enjoyed a cool bottle of flavored water, after a hard day of work, in front of the building, or perhaps inside where they sold individual bottles.

People who work hard and enjoy running a business, sometimes like to visit the building for short stays or stick around to watch and perhaps offering help to the living. Sometimes they died in the building.

One such spirit, called Molly, has proven to be helpful. One theory as to whom she may be: she could’ve run a business in the Soda Works building, and enjoys the structure and her memories. She may of died there as well.

Items that mean a lot to people while alive, can draw them back into this world after they become spirits. Some of the displays or items found in the museum, may have belonged to a spirit, called Molly by the docents who guide people in the museum.



It is very likely that spirits have fond memories of enjoying a bottle of Soda, outside and possibly inside as well.

Robert Oliver, a local citizen who has unique psychic abilities and a sensitive who is conscious of “orbs, auras, and flashes of light” that the normal folks miss, has taken pictures of orbs floating around the outside of the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum.

While other spirits may visit or stay as well, only one spirit has been identified.

Spirit of Molly

A quiet, gentle, friendly soul who likes to help. The staff that work at the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum know her well, and have named her Molly.

What she has done to make herself known hasn’t been revealed to the public but some possible tale-tell signs of a spirit are listed below:

Anything electrical, such as lights have a mind of its own.

Actual physical manifestation of the spirit.

Objects are moved around, unexplained moving of furniture, like a rocking chair.

Sometimes a misplaced object is suddenly present in an obvious place by a helpful spirit.

A Helpful Spirit

Molly and/or possibly one of her spirit companions came to the rescue of well-known author George W. Peabody. George was enjoying the exhibits on the second floor, and was locked into the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum, during Placerville’s 2007 Founders Day Celebration in 2008. The museum wasn’t going to open until Wednesday the following week.

In his 2008 publication of his own series, “The Poetic License of George Peabody,” he wrote about his paranormal experience, calling it “Molly and Me.”

Linda J. Bottjer, author of “Gold Rush Ghosts of Placerville, Coloma and Georgetown”, explains in chapter 14 how Molly and perhaps other spirits helped George Peabody escape his museum prison. Her book is well worth the money.


Possibly so. While there isn’t much published evidence either personal experiences or hard evidence caught on scientific investigations that would prove that spirits are here, the general report of the docents and staff, plus Peabody’s experience and Oliver’s photos, point to the possibility of Molly and friends still enjoying The Soda Works building.

Molly may love to be near her special item(s) that were given to the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum by her family. She may also be a former business person who ran a business here and wants to enjoy her memories and help when she can.

Other spirits may also be there; inside or outside. What is needed is more psychic and paranormal investigations. I don’t think investigators are allowed in because Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum doesn’t want to be known as being a haunted building; just an interesting museum.

While not any details of personal experiences with Molly have been reported over the years, the docents and other staff of the museum know very well the entity, Molly, which means that she has made herself known to them in no uncertain terms.

George Peabody reported his personal experience with Molly mentioned above. Robert Oliver has caught colorful orbs on film.



Fountain-Tallman Soda Works Museum
524 Main Street
Placerville, California 95667

Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building is located on the south side of Main Street, just past the point where Main Street curves up from the Bedford Avenue intersection. It is between two more contemporary brick structures, with its main entrance facing Main Street.



  • Gold Rush Ghosts of Placerville, Coloma and Georgetown
    by Linda J. Bottjer
    Haunted America
  • “Downtown museum closing: Fountain Tallman to be restored”
    By Wendy Schultz
    Published in The Mountain Democrat
    On February 25, 2014
    Retrieved July 30, 2018
  • Photos © Tom Carr

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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