A History of Chinese Americans in California:
Double Springs Courthouse
Double Springs was an important mining center during the early Gold Rush period. In 1850, Double Springs was named the county seat for Calaveras County, but its honor as the county's governmental center ended in July 1851. Double Springs is a ghost town today, having suffered the same fate as many other mining towns in the Mother Lode.
Calaveras County's first courthouse still stands in Double Springs. This building measures 13 feet by 18 feet. The building material is camphor wood imported from China in October 1849. The building originally consisted of several individual sections, placed end to end. Only one section remains today. The front of the building is asymmetrical, and features one door, three feet wide, placed to the left of the center.
The small size of the courthouse may indicate that the camphor wood was pre-cut for ease of transport. The segmentation of the building, the repeated paneling, the lack of windows, and the use of doors with window openings suggest a traditional Chinese influence.
The courthouse has been moved about 10 feet from its original site, and a protective roof has been constructed over it.
The significance of the Double Springs Courthouse for Chinese American history lies in its evidence of friendly trade relations between the West Coast of the United States and China. This initial open welcome for Chinese goods and merchants was influential in inducing many Chinese to immigrate to this country.
The discovery of gold in California drew a great influx of people, and brought about an urgent need for additional government and commercial buildings.
However, there was a scarcity of building materials. Some of this acute shortage was alleviated by importing materials from China, a country with which American merchant ships from the East Coast had been trading for almost a century.
As long as Chinese goods and people were meeting needs that could not be fulfilled elsewhere, they were welcomed; but when either Chinese materials or people were perceived as competition, protectionist measures were passed. For example, an ordinance was later passed in San Francisco forbidding importation of Chinese granite for use in construction of buildings.
Double Springs is a California State Historical Landmark.