Historic town finds riches in gold, then apples and tourists

Located about 50 miles northeast of San Diego is the historic town of Julian. After gold was discovered in Coleman Creek during the winter of 1869 a town quickly sprung up as the base camp for fortune hunters digging for gold. The clear, fresh air is perfect for growing apples and the area is now famous for its apple pies. Now the area has a population of approximately 1,600 and is a popular tourist destination.

Julian main street
At the intersection of California highways 78 and 79, Julian's Main Street retains the look and feel of a frontier town. Photo by Louis Shook.

The town of Julian is designated as an official California historic landmark. The fresh-baked apple pies drive the economy here. Each October, thousands of tourists flock here for the autumn colors, old West atmosphere, gold mine tours and its famous Apple Festival.

A few people visit Julian and decide to live here. "Most people move here for the simple lifestyle," said Dennis Frieden, owner of Julian Realty. He moved here ten years ago and likes living in a small town. Frieden left behind a successful real estate business in Mission Hills and opened Julian Realty on Main Street. When he can't get something he needs in town, he drives to Ramona or Scripps Ranch for supplies.

Julian Bakery
Julian is famous for it's apple pies. Photo by Louis Shook..

"Julian seems to attract a lot of unique, successful people looking for a new home or a second home," Frieden said. The median price for single-family homes sold in May, 2015 was $357,000 according to DataQuick. Homes in the area can range in price from $99,000 to over $2 million according to Frieden.

"You still hear of people looking for gold in the area," said Frieden. "Over $700 million in gold has come out of these hills over the years." He enjoys living in a historic gold-mining town and learning about the geology of the area.

The town of Julian is located at the intersection of California highways 78 and 79. It is only 4,235 feet above sea level but seems like a world away from downtown San Diego and the beach cities. Julian still looks like an early California frontier town. Both sides of Main Street are filled with quaint stores, hotels and restaurants - Old Julian Garage, Mom's Bakery, the Cider Mill, Bad Betty's boutique, Julian Hardware & Mercantile, the Gold Rush Hotel and Jack's Grocery. There are many interesting things to see and do here for visitors and residents alike.

Gold tour
Julian is a historic gold-mining town. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold has come out of the hills around Julian. Photo by Louis Shook.

Steve Ballinger lives just outside of town and is the owner of the Julian Gold Rush Hotel. The charming hotel is in the heart of town and is a nationally-registered historic landmark. Ballinger likes the country life that the area offers. "Everyone knows everyone," he said.
"Often the young people move away to a larger city and then come back after a few years. Then they appreciate it here more," Ballinger said.

Ballinger's daughter, Radne Hurtado was born here. She also works at the hotel. She has spent most of her 33 years here and describes the area as "peaceful." She is married, 2 children: 5 and 12 yrs. "It is a great place for raising children" she said. "You get to experience all of the seasons here."

Hotel owners
Radne Hurtado and her father, Steve Ballinger, proprietors of the Julian Gold Rush Hotel.

The area has distinct seasons with average annual precipitation of 30 inches. There are cool temperatures in the spring and fall. During spring, wildflowers decorate the backcountry in and around Julian. Summer has hot days and cool nights with average summer temperatures in the 80s with occasional summer rains. From December to March temperatures drop and there is the occasional snowfall. Various climates, from desert to high mountains, exist within 25 miles of Julian.

julian photo
Julian has a population of approximately 1,600. The median price of homes in the area is approximately $400,000.

"It's an easy life," said Peter Ozuna who moved to the neighborhood with his wife 25 years ago. He explained that it has been a good place to raise their six children. At the Julian Coffee House he seems to know most of the people that stop in. He owns and operates a 48-foot semi-trailer pulling wood chips. "Mostly it's pretty quiet here, but it gets busy on the weekends with all the visitors," he said.
"We have snow here. It's close to the desert and the city and beaches are only an hour away. I love it here,"Ozuna said.


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