March 17, 2023

REDISCOVER REDDING: TOP 15 HISTORICAL SITES NEAR REDDING, CALIFORNIA

A young family walking along a brick wall at Shasta Historic Park

Redding, California is a city rich in history and culture, with numerous historical sites presenting visitors with a unique glimpse into the past.

Redding’s reputation as one of the great outdoor playgrounds on the west coast is well-storied. From geological treasures to grand old hotels and a fascinating link with President John F. Kennedy, there’s plenty more to learn and discover about this city.

But scratch below the surface, and there’s a lot more to the rich history of this northern California city than you may have realized.

If you’re planning a trip to Redding, be sure to include these historical sites in your itinerary.

WHISKEYTOWN DAM OPENING

Opened in 1963 just six miles west of Redding, the Whiskeytown Dam holds a special place in the history of Shasta County. The dam’s construction was a major milestone in the development of Redding and the surrounding area.

Completed in 1963, the dam created Whiskeytown Lake, a popular destination for boating, fishing, and hiking. The opening ceremony for the dam was a historic event attended by President John F. Kennedy and a large portion of the then 15,000-strong population. Kennedy arrived at the dam by helicopter to greet the excited crowd.

Today, visitors can learn about the dam’s construction and its impact on the region at the Whiskeytown Visitor Center.

A photo of JFK standing a the podium with Whiskeytown Lake in the background.

President Kennedy at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area | Photo Credit: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library/NARA

JFK MEMORIAL AT WHISKEYTOWN

President John F. Kennedy’s speech at the Whiskeytown Dam is believed to have been his last public appearance in California.

“Every time we bet on the future of this country, we win,” he the crowd. “Every time we develop the water resources, we set aside recreation areas, we can be sure they will be used.”

Tragically, he would be assassinated in Dallas just 55 days later.

Twelve months later, Italian American artist Roberto Ciabani, who had ties to Redding, unveiled his Kennedy Memorial Plaque at the east end of the dam.

The memorial, located on the east side of the lake, was built to honor the President’s visit to the area and his dedication to conservation efforts.

The site includes a plaque with a quote from Kennedy about the importance of preserving natural resources. Visitors can also enjoy a scenic hike along the Kennedy Memorial Trail, which offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Black and white vintage photo of the IOOF Hall in Redding, California

The Original IOOF Hall | Photo provided by the Shasta Historical Society

INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS LODGE (IOOF)

Built in 1888, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge is the “oldest brick building in Redding.” The local chapter of the IOOF began in 1878 with twenty founding members.

In 1878, “Redding Lodge No. 271” was founded as part of the International Order of Odd Fellows. The IOOF was a fraternal organization, and Redding’s local chapter grew in membership during the late nineteenth century.

The completion of the IOOF Hall brought the City of Redding into the modern age with the installation of the very first eight electric lamp posts installed on Market Street.

The top floor of the Odd Fellows Lodge was reserved for usage by the local Odd Fellows chapter. The first floor featured retail stores along the street. One of these stores was Firth Brothers, which operated out of this building for fifty years.

The IOOF Hall in downtown Redding

The Restored IOOF Hall | Photo provided by Viva Downtown

For many years the historic building was hidden by the Downtown Mall, and through revitalization efforts and the streets reopening this piece of history is once again the focal point of Market Street.

The McConnell Foundation recently purchased the IOOF Lodge, pledging to preserve the historic building. The roof’s pitch, bricks, and windows are all original to the structure, and the new owners plan to highlight this history as part of the restoration efforts.

Efforts to reimagine the architecture and provide a space for artists to present their works with mini murals in the first floor arches.

Viva Downtown and The Art Hunger have been activating the IOOF Hall for community meetings, events, and artist creative spaces.

RELATED: WHY REDDING’S CULTURAL DISTRICT IS ON THE RISE

Inside the cave tour at Lake Shasta Caverns

Inside Shasta Caverns | Photo Credit: Brent Van Auken

LAKE SHASTA CAVERNS

If you wish to travel back further in time—say 250 million years—the Lake Shasta Caverns are sure to capture your imagination.

This jaw-dropping experience showcases these limestone caves’ many incredible and wondrous formations. It also reveals the long history of humans in the region and details the cultural importance of the caves to the Wintu Tribe for hundreds of years.

You’ll learn about further exploration and finds in the caves over a century since they were discovered in 1878 by J.A. Richardson, an employee of the McCloud River fish hatchery.

The caves have been open to the public since 1964 and really are a must-see, as long as you can cope with the approximately 600 steps through a moderately challenging hour-long tour.


SHASTA DAM AND LAKE SHASTA

Shasta Dam is the eighth-tallest dam in the country, creating the 4.5 million acre-foot Shasta Lake, the largest manufactured lake or reservoir in California.

The pair have maintained and regulated the area’s water supply since it was completed in 1945. California taxpayers stumped up $550 million a century ago for the build, but the Great Depression saw the project face financial problems. The federal government ultimately completed it.

Women replaced many men who had begun building the dam and were called to active duty during World War II.

There are ample opportunities to drive, hike, and bike around the picturesque lake, a popular spot for fishermen and hunters. The fully equipped Tsasdi private cabins at Shasta Lake also offer an idyllic place to stay.

The Cascade Theatre marquee

Photo Credit: Brent Van Auken

CASCADE THEATRE

Cascade Theatre is a must-visit while in Redding. The beautiful building was designed by and constructed in 1935 as a movie palace and vaudeville stage.

The Cascade is an incredible example of Art Deco architecture, with no detail spared. It includes gold-gilded and silver-gilded walls, period chandeliers, ornate plasterwork, a grand neon facade and marquee, and stunning murals.

In a sadly common occurrence, the Cascade struggled to fight off the rise of movie megaplexes, and while hard to believe, the theatre was shut down and boarded up.

But with a funding boost from the McConnell Foundation, the Cascade was wonderfully restored and now includes all the technology essentials of a modern venue but maintains all of its history.

The theatre now plays a central role in Redding’s arts culture, so make sure you see a show while in town!

BANK OF SHASTA COUNTY

The Bank of Shasta County Building is a historic landmark that has been beautifully restored to its original grandeur. The original bank was built on California Street in 1884 but moved to the current site on Market Street upon its completion in 1901.

The bank was designed by Henry H. Meyers and is of a Beaux Arts Classical style and one of the most ornate in Redding.

The bank has a colorful history, merging with the First Savings Bank of Shasta County in 1910 before some bad loans forced its closure a year later. It re-emerged in 1911 as the Redding National Bank and was later purchased by the Bank of Italy, eventually becoming the Bank of America.

Black and white photo of a person diving off the Diestelhorst Bridge in Redding, California

Diestelhorst Bridge (circa 1920) | Photo provided by the Shasta Historical Society

DIESTELHORST BRIDGE

Built in 1914-1915, this majestic 639-foot concrete reinforced bridge replaced a local ferry and is named after Gotlieb Diestelhorst, a local 19th-century landowner.

Diestelhorst’s sons ran a popular resort near the bridge offering a swimming hole for locals to escape the blistering summer heat. The bridge is also on the National Register and was closed to traffic in 1997 with the completion of the Lake Redding Bridge.

Resplendent with its period glass-topped light poles, it now allows people to walk, jog, bike, or skateboard across its new bikeway via the new Diestelhorst to Downtown trail. It really is one of Redding’s most significant landmarks.

Black and white image of the Lorenz Hotel in Redding, California

The Lorenz Hotel (1911) | Photo provided by the Shasta Historical Society

LORENZ HOTEL

One of the most iconic buildings in Redding, the four-story Lorenz Hotel on Yuba Street began construction in 1901, as indicated on the side of the building.

Its grand opening was held on October 18 the following year, boasting 132 rooms, eventually containing private bathrooms. The hotel was once a grand and luxurious accommodation for travelers.

The brick structure was renovated in 2014 and is now owned by the Shasta Housing Development Corp, providing affordable housing for senior citizens in the area. The Lorenz retains its original façade, with its arched windows, intricate moldings, and ornate details.

SHASTA STATE HISTORIC PARK

Like much of the west coast of California, Redding is rich in gold rush history.

Shasta State Historic Park once operated as the gold mining town of Shasta and was known as the ‘Queen City of the Northern Mines.’

Step back in time and return to a world where the thrill and excitement of panning for riches lured men from across the country. You can visit the beautifully restored Litsch General Store, one of Shasta’s original buildings, or take in the paintings of local artists on display at the restored Courthouse Museum.

You can also get involved in demonstrations and classes at the blacksmith shop and wander through the ruins of hotels, schoolhouses, and even the remnants of the Washington Brewery, which has long since run dry.

A black and white image of the Behrens-Eaton House

The Behrens-Eaton House (circa 1930s) | Photo provided by the Shasta Historical Society

BEHRENS-EATON HOUSE MUSEUM

Behrens-Eaton House Museum is another glorious trip down memory lane where visitors can experience the grandeur and beauty of this 1895 Victorian home with authentic furnishings from the era.

Judge Richard Behrens Eaton passed away in 2003, but four generations of his family history and home have been beautifully preserved for future generations.

The home is filled with fashion, literature, and artifacts from the era, including world wars and local history dating back to the mid-1800s.

Visitors can explore the house’s various rooms, including the parlor, dining room, and bedrooms furnished with period furniture and décor.

Old City Hall in Redding

Photo Credit: Christopher Michael Everett

OLD CITY HALL

Designed by M.W. Herron, Old City Hall sits proudly on the National Register of Historic Places in Shasta County.

Built with quality bricks from the Redding Brick and Tile Company, it is guarded by majestic palm trees planted in 1908. The building, which doubled as the city’s police station until the 1960s, now accommodates the Old City Hall Gallery and Performing Arts Center, exhibiting quality pieces by local artists.

RELATED: WHAT MAKES REDDING FAMOUS? TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS AND FUN FACTS

A black and white photo of the monolith with the redding civic auditorium in the background.

The Monolith (1972) | Photo provided by the Shasta Historical Society

THE MONOLITH

An intriguing example of when work and art collide, the Monolith in Redding is the remnants of the Shasta Dam build, converted into a public art space by Seattle-based artist Buster Simpson.

It was once part of a conveyor belt that transported more than 12 million tons of gravel to the dam from the Redding river bed.

Spanning 10,000 square feet, the simplistic yet haunting architecture provides an ideal facade for events and photographic shoots of all kinds.

Sundial Bridge in Redding CA

Photo Credit: Adventures of A + K

SUNDIAL BRIDGE

The jewel in Redding’s crown, the iconic and spectacular Sundial Bridge, was built in 2004 to create a tourism hub for the region.

Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the bridge’s design is inspired by a sundial, with its distinctive 217-foot tall pylon acting as the gnomon.

It functions as a pedestrian bridge across the Sacramento River, joining the north and south sides of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, and as a working sundial—one of the largest in the world.

The bridge is 700 feet long and features a deck of over 200 tons of glass and granite, supported by more than 4,300 feet of cable.

Spoiler alert: It only accurately tells the time on one day of the year, the summer solstice.

A modern-day street view of the Shasta Historical Society in Redding, California

Image courtesy of the Shasta Historical Society

SHASTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Founded in 1930, the Shasta Historical Society operates a museum, a research library, and archives that showcase the cultural, social, and economic development of the region from the pioneering days the present.

The museum is worth a visit to see a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, documents, and memorabilia that highlight the local Native American tribes, the California Gold Rush, the railroad era, and more.

The research library and archives provide access to a wealth of resources for scholars, students, and genealogists who are interested in studying the history of the area.

The Shasta Historical Society also offers educational programs, events, and tours that engage the community in learning about and appreciating the heritage of Shasta County.

Experience Redding’s Rich California History

If you’re looking for historical sites in northern California—whether you’re interested in the Gold Rush era, the construction of the Whiskeytown Dam, or the legacy of President John F. Kennedy—there’s something for everyone to discover in Redding.

Why not plan a trip and add Redding to your list of historic California towns to visit? Located just a few hours north of San Francisco, Redding has much to offer in the way of tourist attractions, art galleries, and a revitalized downtown.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Redding with kids, we have 25 more fun ideas for your family to explore.

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