Giuseppe “Joe” Murer
Giuseppe Murer, A Builder
By Cindy Baker, 2008
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Murer House Foundation, Folsom California
In January 2022, the Murer House and Gardens was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
Life in Crespano del Grappa
Giuseppe (Joe) Murer was born in Crespano del Grappa, a small town about 30 miles east of Venice, Italy, on November 15, 1885. At the age of 12, he was apprenticed to Signore Giuseppe Melchiore as an apprentice in his carpentry and cabinet maker’s studio. In this studio, Murer mastered cabinet making and finish work.
After the San Francisco earthquake of April 12, 1906, news quickly spread to Italy of the plentiful work available for carpenters to come and rebuild the city. Murer, then 21 years old, decided overnight to go to California with three other young men from his Crespano del Grappa.
After they found few jobs in San Francisco, Murer headed to Shasta County to find an uncle, who had immigrated to California in the 1880s.
Joe Moves to Folsom, California
After a few years, with money he had earned building small hotels, he came to Folsom. Once in Folsom, Murer became the proprietor of the New Western Hotel (now known as the Folsom Hotel) at 703 Sutter Street. He was joined by his nephew, Paulo Murer.
Giuseppe Murer became an American citizen in 1913. Giuseppe “Joe” became involved in the local community, developing long-lasting ties. He served as Fire Chief of the Folsom Volunteer Fire Department and joined the Knights of Pythias in 1917. He was a 25-year member of the Folsom Aeries of the Eagles organization. He also served as President of the Portuguese Club after being asked to do by his numerous Portuguese friends.
He also organized two local groups. One was the Folsom Gun Club and the Folsom Marching Band, where he played the trombone. The gun club was started with several other Folsom men. He went deer hunting in the mountains for a few weeks each fall. There were other well-respected local men, such as William Rumsey (who owned the local hardware store) and Colonel Pratt. The club was usually involved in shooting skeet or doves, which Murer cooked in a regional Italian sauce for large gatherings at the club. The club was located where the Young Wo Memorial Park is today. After World War II, Joe gave the property to Sacramento County for use as a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.
The Murer House Conception
By 1921, Joe bought the site of the Murer House. He started building his residence there in 1925, basing its design on the architecture in his native Italy. His property was bounded on the west by dredge tailings. To retain these tailings, Murer constructed terraces using the river cobbles, nestling the house back into the pile to maximize yard and garden space.
Joe designed the house and did all the construction work, probably with the help of his nephew, Paul. Murer did all the interior woodwork in the house, such as the pillared bookcases columns (identical to those in the Folsom Hotel today) and built-in hutches.
1927 a Pivotal Year
When the house was near completion in 1927, he hired Antonio Zanetta, another Italian immigrant, to plaster the interior and install the tile roof. Zanetta, a native of the Piemonte region in northern Italy, went on to work with Joe on other projects, again doing the plastering and tile roofing. Antonio worked alone, and Joe usually found an assistant or laborer from the hotel to work with him. His son, Fred Zanetta, would become a builder in Folsom and still lives here today. His contribution to the Folsom Historical Society, Zanetta’s Barn, sits behind the museum on Sutter Street today.
Once the house, garage, and workshop buildings were completed, Joe landscaped his property. The landscaping focused on fruit and nut trees (including an Italian staple, the chestnut), grapes, and decorative ornamentals, such as camellia and holly. Fruit trees included winter pear, bing cherry, apricot, pineapple guava, tangerine, pomegranate, lemon, and carob. Nuts included English walnut and hazelnut. Joe also built a grape arbor with six varietals of concord grapes in the backyard.
Giuseppe “Joe” Murer, The Builder
Joe built many notable buildings on Sutter Street. After he bought the hotel in 1925, he stripped out the interior, which was run down after 40 years of continual use, and did all the interior woodwork. Joe renamed it the Hotel Golden and then the Hotel Folsom. He then built the gas station and garage at 701 Sutter. He also built the Folsom Fire House across the street, which still stands between the Hacienda restaurant and the American Visions gallery. He bought 705 Sutter Street and reconstructed it, tearing down the wood storefront with the detailed inset windows. In 1940, he built the Folsom post office at 627 Sutter Street and three offices/stores at 305, 307, and 309 Riley Street.
Giuseppe ran the gas station’s hotel, bar, and liquor store into the 1940s. During the war, he sold the hotel and sent the money to help family members in Crespano del Grappa, ravaged by Nazi aggression. He continued to own and operate other properties for the rest of his life. He gathered the spring asparagus, summer cherry, fall grape, and winter chestnut and walnut harvests at his home every year. Through all those years, he also had big steak dinners on the grounds of his house with fellow expatriated Italians from his region of Treviso, creating strong friendships with the Italian community in Sacramento.
Joe passed away in November 1972 and is buried in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, just across Folsom Boulevard from his home.
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