After the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in nearby Coloma, California, by James W. Marshall in 1848 sparked the California Gold Rush, the small town now known as Placerville was known as Dry Diggin’s after the manner in which the miners moved cartloads of dry soil to running water to separate the gold from the soil. Later in 1849, the town earned its most common historical name, “Hangtown”, because of the numerous hangings that had occurred there. According to the museum guide at the Fountain & Tallman Museum, there were only three hangings that occurred after three men on horseback came into town with guns ablaze. The name stuck after that. 1850, the temperance league and a few local churches had begun to request that a more friendly name be bestowed upon the town. The name was not changed until 1854 when the City of Placerville was incorporated. At its incorporation Placerville was the third largest town in California. In 1857 the county seat was then moved from Coloma to Placerville, where it remains today.
Placerville was a central hub for the Mother Lode region’s mining operations. The town had many services, including transportation (of people and goods), lodging, banking, and had a market and general store. The history of hard-rock mining is evidenced by an open and accessible Gold Bug Park & Mine, now a museum with tours and books.
As of 2010 There were 4,541 housing units at an average density of 781.2 per square mile (301.6/km²), of which 2,160 (52.3%) were owner-occupied, and 1,969 (47.7%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.5%; the rental vacancy rate was 7.8%. 5,023 people (48.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 4,765 people (45.9%) lived in rental housing units.