72 Bars on One Road? The Legend of Mount Shasta’s Whiskey Row

The stories of Siskiyou County during the Gold Rush are like something out of a Wild West movie. The town of Weed was once dubbed the “Sodom and Gomorrah of Siskiyou County” by the Redding Free Press. Black Bart and Rattlesnake Dick were known to rob stagecoaches in the area along the Siskiyou Trail. It was an era of Gold Rush prosperities and vigilante justice in an area known for its beautiful surroundings.

There’s one specific road in Siskiyou County that illustrates the Wild West mantra held in the area in the late 1800’s – the legendary Whiskey Row in the town that’s now named Mt. Shasta City.

The town was first established in 1887 as the town of Sisson, a boomtown sitting in between McCloud and Weed. Unlike its neighboring towns, Sisson wasn’t established as a “company town,” meaning it didn’t adhere to the same moralistic regulations. Without a moral compass like McCloud and Weed, Sisson became a destination for loggers and lumbermen looking for whiskey, cigars and brothels. Thus began the famed Whiskey Row, which from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s had 72 saloons on one stretch of road. The block had a saloon on every lot.

Whiskey Row. Photo: The Sisson History Project

Whiskey Row stretched from Castle to Alma Streets on what is now Mt Shasta Boulevard, with the El Monte Hotel and Berryvale Hotel on either end. For decades, the road was almost exclusively the home of saloons, brothels, cigar shops and barbershops, with many hotel rooms upstairs in each business.

The Vet’s Club still operates at the same location when it was built in 1896. Photo: Watson’s Vet’s Club

The one remaining relic of Whiskey Row is now the Mt Shasta Vet’s Club (currently named the Watson’s Vet’s Club), which has stood in its location since 1896. The Vet’s Club has been known by many names over the past 100-plus years, including its original name Mugglers. In its Wild West days, Mugglers had a brothel upstairs and if you look closely at the ceiling, you can see a cut out where a bucket would be lowered down to the bar. The bucket would be filled with drinks by the bartender and pulled up for the patrons upstairs.

From 1904 to 1917, a series of fires would completely devastate the town of Sisson, burning much of the boomtown to the ground. Although the buildings were quickly rebuilt during the first couple of fires, the firestorm of 1917 consumed much of the town during the beginning of California’s prohibition (and subsequent national prohibition). Only brick and concrete buildings survived the flames (including the Vet’s Club). The town that was once know for Wild West debauchery could no longer operate with that many bars. It was the end of an era under the shadow of Mount Shasta.

Whiskey Row. Photo: The Sisson History Project

Today, the road once dubbed Whiskey Row is now a beautiful downtown block of restaurants, bars, outdoor stores, coffee cafes and crystal shops. The road provides residents and visitors with a charming small town feel, one that may have been the complete opposite of Whiskey Row. It remains the heart of Mt. Shasta City, with the Mt Shasta Vet’s Club remaining as the relic of a once rowdy time in Siskiyou County.

The history and legends of Siskiyou County remain some of the most fascinating stories in the Northern California. While we may never know the crazy stories from Whiskey Row, it’s certainly fun to imagine.

For more information on the history of Sisson, check out the The Sisson History Project.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

6 Comments

  1. The Veteran’s Club IS NOT ON ITS ORIGINAL LOCATION. And, the the 1904 fire was the second to the last of ELEVEN fires that burned the town. Thanks for sharing the information. Because Zuckerberg has a vendetta against me, I’ve stopped sharing on the Facebook Page. I’m currently blocked again for a month. this time, these was NO EXPLANATION, and no appeal. I have won half my cases on appeal, but FB claims I am a NINE TIME LOSER. (100%) I recommend viewing my 2.5 hour presentation on Vimeo. Search for Vimeo Sisson Fire Fire Perry Sims.

      1. I just looked at the Watsons Vets Club website and it also says that it’s in the same location as the original Vets Clubs which was there since 1896 and it describes the former brothel above it.

  2. Whiskey Row, Weed, and McCloud all post date the gold rush. Whiskey Row was a thing about 1879. Weed was established in early 1900s, McCloud was established in 1897.

    The two story brick portion of the Vets Club bar appears to have been built where two tiny shacks stood. Those shacks were probably each bars too. The first bars were tiny shacks or tents. You can still see the two tiny shacks if you walk down the hallway to the back door of Watson’s Vets Club. One is now the bathrooms, the other is now a storage room.

  3. The scope and impact of the eleven major fires that torched Sisson is crudely paraphrased in this article. I recommend viewing the Vimeo offerings that can be found by searching “Vimeo Sisson Fire Fire” there are two parts totaling about 2 hours 20 minutes. For example, the 1917 Whiskey row fire DID NOT “burn much of the boomtown to the ground.” In fact, this second fire on the ‘Row’ burned less than the first. Less than a city block. The ’92, 1904, and 1914 fires all burned a MUCH larger portion of the town. And, you misspelled Mugler’s name.

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