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 of its two floors to display artifacts of the past history of Eldorado County. A variety of items have been 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 Society just finished some needed restoration and renovation on the building, that was started in 2014.

The stone and brick structure 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 and built to last the ages.

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 hidden under wooden floors .

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”.

old photo of woman and child in front of large stone buildingTo 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 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 throughout 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 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 was built by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.



tallman-soda-hauntedBack 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 the other water sources available to them locally were polluted by the mining.

Business was so good they decided they needed a bigger building, so they built the Fountain-Tallman Soda Works building just across the street, starting this ambitious project in 1853, and finishing it in 1854.

Something must have gone wrong with their business plan however, because Tallman sold his interest in their business, probably to his partner, John Fountain in 1855. Perhaps an improved water system had been created to give people unpolluted water, which would have 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, leading to the Soda Works property being sold at the sheriff’s auction in 1858.

artifacts hanging on wallFrom 1858 to 1889, the property had five different owners who used the building for a variety of businesses.

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 it 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 finally 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.



haunted-soda-museumSpirits 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 have 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 in life, sometimes like to visit the building for short stays or stick around to watch and perhaps offer help to the living. Sometimes they have died in the building.

One such spirit, called Molly, has proven to be helpful. One theory as to who she may be: she could’ve run a business in the Soda Works building, and now enjoys the structure and her memories. She may have 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 pop, 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, seems to have a mind of its own.

Actual physical manifestation of the spirit.

Objects are moved around, such as furniture, like a rocking chair.

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

A Helpful Spirit

Molly and/or possibly one of her spirit companions, once 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 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.

  1. mining and logging diorama


Possibly so. While there isn’t much published evidence, 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 entrepreneur 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 no details of personal experiences with Molly have been reported over the years, the docents and other staff of the museum know Molly very well, which means that she has made herself known to them in no uncertain terms.

George Peabody has reported his personal experience with Molly, as 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.

haunted bedroom display

historic model town


  • Gold Rush Ghosts of Placerville, Coloma and Georgetown
    by Linda J. Bottjer
    Haunted America – 2014
  • “Downtown museum closing: Fountain Tallman to be restored”
    By Wendy Schultz
    Published in The Mountain Democrat

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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