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Scotia in the redwood country ... still a company town.

Scotia in the redwood country ... still a company town

At 7:30 weekday mornings, the whistles blow atop the mills. The streets, filled with pickups and men carrying lunch pails, quickly empty. Soon you hear the deep boom of rolling logs and smell the tang of freshly cut redwood. Another workday has begun in Scotia, one of California's last company-owned towns. A visit to this mill town, 25 miles south of Eureka on U.S. 101, is a chance to see life as it used to be all over Humboldt County, from the turn of the century to the 1930s. The region's timber mills have been the major supplier of lumber for the state. Now, as automation transforms the industry and concerns about logging mount, the one-industry town of Scotia may represent the end of an era. At a museum and a mill tour here, and at sites in Eureka, you can learn about logging, then and now. Later this month, a festival re-creates early logging days.

In Scotia, tour a huge redwood mill

Owned by the Pacific Lumber Company and smack-dab in the middle of town, Mill B is open for touring. It processes trees 20 inches in diameter and larger. As these old-growth stands, which once blanketed the coast, dwindle, concerns have focused on Pacific Lumber's logging of virgin trees not protected in parkland. (The company is the largest private owner of old-growth coast redwood forests.) But for now, business is pretty much as usual in Scotia. Founded in 1869, it still has the self-sufficiency of an isolated logging camp: the company generates its own power, treats its own water, puts out its own fires. From the highway, turn the corner onto Main Street, which still looks much as it did in the 1950s--the pale green shopping center, the redwood-fronted movie theater, the row-upon-row of pastel-colored housing for the 1,200 townsfolk. All buildings are company owned; even school and church pay rent ($1 a year). At the bend in the road is Scotia's heart and soul: the largest redwood mill in the world. Allow about an hour to take the self-guided tour; free tour permits and brochures are available at the main office, on Main Street. (May 29 through September 14, get permits at the company museum, described below; the mill is closed July 1 through 8.) Hours are 7:30 to 10:30 and 12:30 to 2:30 weekdays. From the office, follow signs 1/2 mile south to the parking lot. Yellow arrows lead you from the debarker through Mill B, a sawmill where steaming logs get sliced into lumber. The tour ends at the manufacturing plant, where the wood gets cut into siding, decking, and trim. Besides the mill tour, the company also runs the Pacific Lumber Company Museum, an impressive Greek revival-style building just across Main Street. Cases display photographs of the disastrous fire of 1895 and of the flood of 1964, when the nearby Eel River crested 29 1/2 feet above normal. And you'll get an image of town life--mustachioed millworkers on company softball teams, starch-collared boards of directors.

An antique bed, a blue-plate special

For a bit of luxury, visit the Scotia Inn, at the corner of Main and Mill streets. Elegant with Oriental carpets and burnished redwood paneling, the inn has 11 antiques-furnished rooms ($55 to $150, all with private bath). The formal dining room is open 5:30 to 9:30 Wednesdays through Sundays. Or try the 1-pound logger's steak ($9.95) in the green-tiled lounge, open 4:30 to 9:30 daily. The menu at the Scotia Coffeeshop, across the street at 105 Main, ranges from ham and eggs to homemade lemon meringue pie. Hours are 5:30 to 4 weekdays, 6 to 1 Saturdays.

In Eureka, train rides, Donkey Days, and lumberjack fare

At Eureka's Fort Humboldt Logging Museum (follow signs on Highland Avenue, east of U.S. 101), peek into a typical logger's cabin, see steam donkey engines used to haul logs, and ride operating Gypsy and Falk steam locomotives. Museum hours are 9 to 5 daily; picnic at tables outside. Train rides are offered 10 to 4 the third Saturday of each month; donations are accepted. April 28 and 29, watch ax-throwing, Jack-and-Jill handsawing, and other events at the ninth annual Dolbeer Steam Donkey Days. Contests will be held from 10 to 4. Trains will also run and the donkey engines will be fired up, too. The Samoa Cookhouse has been taking care of big appetites for a century. From 1890 until the '50s, the barn-like structure served loggers and workers from a nearby mill. Now you can eat here much as they did--family-style, at long tables covered with red-checked oilcloth and platters of hearty fare. Breakfast and lunch cost about $5; dinner is $9.95. A museum displays antique cookware that matched lumberjacks' appetites--six-loaf bread pans, melon-size ladles, a 10-gallon coffee urn. The cookhouse is open from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. daily. From U.S. 101, take State 255 northwest across the Samoa Bridge and follow signs.

PHOTO : Redwood Doric columns give local twist to 1920 Pacific Lumber museum, a former bank

PHOTO : Place markers reserve space for regulars at Scotia coffee shop

PHOTO : Framed by redwood-covered ridge, Mill A, shown in 1908, looks similar today, but white

PHOTO : director's house is gone

PHOTO : Nearly 20-ton logs, stripped in the debarker building, head to mill next. Visitors watch

PHOTO : from platform, at left

PHOTO : Guests relax in redwood-paneled lobby of 1923 Scotia Inn, on the site of a former

PHOTO : stagecoach stop and boarding house
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Title Annotation:California's last company-owned towns
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Words:936
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