Built in 1852, the Craycroft Building has been home to a courthouse, Masons, a men’s clothing store, a restaurant, a jail, and a printing office, but its always been a saloon at heart.
Rebuilt during the gold rush as a saloon after the first hewn log structure burned in the town’s first of many large fires, the huge brick building was erected by Jack Craycroft using locally fired brick and stone. The gorgeous interior was just as grand as the outside of the massive watering hole with a suspended platform for musicians that hung from iron rods above the dance floor and a 70-foot long bar for the miners to belly up to. The building is a key player in many of Downieville’s local tales, including that of Josefa Segovia, the only woman ever lynched in California.
On the 4th of July, 1851, Josefa had been sitting in Jack Craycroft’s gambling house and drinking establishment with her dealer boyfriend when a drunken Scot by the name of Frederick Cannon grabbed (some say groped) the shoulder of the young Mexican lady. Insulted and furious, the petite woman whipped a knife out from her garter and threatened Cannon, who was spirited away by tipsy friends who wished to squash the incident.
Later that evening, an even more inebriated Cannon was carousing through town. When he arrived at Josefa’s door, some say he went in to apologize for his earlier transgression, while others insist he kicked the door in, furious that the Mexican woman had dared to threaten him earlier. Regardless of his intention, Josefa did not take kindly to the intrusion, and stuck her blade into his throat.
An angry crowd immediately formed, and it’s said that Juanita went to seek shelter from a lynch mob in the place where the altercation began—Craycroft’s establishment. A mock trail was thrown together, and despite cooler heads insisting that she be given a fair trial and a doctor testifying that she was pregnant, she was deemed guilty by the mob, and after being allowed to change into her Sunday best, he was led to a newly hung noose swinging from the bridge that went through town. It is said that Josefa, defiant until the very last moment, threw her hat to the crowd, declared that if the opportunity presented itself she would do nothing differently, and stepped off of the boards herself after calling out “Adios Senores!”. Her death was considered a blight on the history of Downieville as well as the entire state, and Josefa remains the only woman ever lynched in California to this day.
Update: The Craycroft building burned down in the Dixie Fire in 2021.