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Arcata Plaza, Arcata

See the historic side of the North Coast’s Hippie Haven

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The History: Arcata, a college town of almost 18,000 on California’s far north coast, may be nicknamed “Hippie Haven,” but its official name was a more somber “Union” when it was settled in 1850. Those pioneers built up this plaza, mostly using wood for construction, but August Jacoby thought to build his store out of brick and stone. As a result, in the wake of an 1875 fire that destroyed dozens of the town’s buildings and businesses, his is the only original building left today. More recent structures, though, are still about 100 years old. The Hotel Arcata dates to 1915; it was once called “Sportsman’s Headquarters” and played host to those to who traveled by rail or steamer. Just off the plaza is the Minor Theatre; opened in 1914, it’s one of the oldest structures in the U.S. built for the sole purpose of showing movies. Don’t leave without debating the merits of slain U.S. President William McKinley—and be sure to do so in front of his eight-foot-tall bronze statue in the plaza, erected in 1906.

Where to Play: Check out August Jacoby’s legacy, the restored Jacoby’s Storehouse, with several restaurants and shops. Have dinner on the 3rd floor at Plaza Grill. You can still stay at the Hotel Arcata, though prices have gone up since its 1915 rate of $1/night. Even if you don’t stay there, be sure to check out the lobby’s cool historic decor. Then mix past and present: Catch the latest Hollywood releases at the aforementioned Minor Theatre, which has been restored and still shows films today.

 

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