City Hotel & Restaurant, taken sometime before 1933, Courtesy Library of Congress Archive

The Rich History of the City Hotel

The settlement of Columbia began as a tent town in 1850. As the town grew in size and prospered, lodgings were upgraded to flimsy wooden frame structures and later to more permanent brick buildings. The City Hotel is an example of this transition in structure style. In 1854, it started as one wood frame building on three lots that had been purchased by George Morgan. Unfortunately for him, five days after he purchased the property it was devastated by the 1854 fire which burned much of the town. Undaunted, Mr. Morgan had two replacement wood buildings constructed, one of which was the “English Ale and Porter House”. By 1856 his business was doing so well that he replaced one of the wood buildings with a two-story brick structure.

The 1857 fire damaged the brick building and destroyed the wooden structure, prompting Mr. Morgan to rebuild with brick. The Morgan family lived in a part of the building at this time, which had a large hall upstairs (42’ x 44’) which was used for theatricals and concerts. The saloon was then called the “What Cheer House”. In 1865, Mr. Morgan bought an adjoining one-story brick building and added a second story to it in the mid 1870s, thus creating the building that is on the site today.

As of 1890, there were twenty bedrooms upstairs; in 1902, a wooden addition on the west side included a kitchen on the ground floor, toilets and a bath on the upper floor. This addition was destroyed in the 1911 fire, and the structure rebuilt by the owners at that time, Dante and Mary Cinelli, included six bedrooms upstairs.

In 1930, Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Nadotti became operators of the business (this is the person for whom “Angelo’s Hall” is named). Board was $30 per week. One of the boarders said the grease on the bacon and eggs would congeal before they could be eaten, no doubt due to the lack of heat upstairs and minimal heat downstairs.

In 1947, the State of California purchased the building. Most of it was closed and used for storage by the State Park system, although the local gem and mineral society had displays in the bar. Twenty-five years later, the building was restored, and in 1974 it opened as the City Hotel under operation by the City Hotel Corporation.

Our thanks to Sherrin Grout, long-time Columbia State Historic Park Ranger and ongoing Columbia historian, as the source for the history of the City Hotel.

George and Margaret Morgan

Both of the Morgans were immigrants, Margaret from Ireland and George from Wales. They first immigrated to Australia, where they met and married. Hearing of the gold rush, they sailed for San Francisco and traveled to Columbia, where gold had been found on March 27, 1850, by the Hildreth party. They had seven children, among them two prominent educators. G.P. Morgan was Columbia School Principal for 67 years and District Superintendent for 56 years. Of him one of his students said that “G.P.” stood for “gunpowder” because of his explosive temper. Rose Morgan, his sister, was one of the first female school district superintendents in California. The Morgan Room in the restaurant commemorates this founding Columbian family.

Reservations: (209) 396-1981
What Cheer Saloon: (209) 396-1979

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