• Image about Herb Robbins

It might well be gone entirely if Robbins hadn’t come along.

Robbins caught gold fever as a 15-year-old living in Carmichael, Calif., when his father took him and his buddy panning for gold. A few flakes in the bottom of his sluice pan ignited a lifetime interest in the mining life.

  • Image about Herb Robbins
Map by Phil Foster
“I wanted to go where these people lived and see how they lived and what was left behind,” he says. “I just found it more fascinating each time.”

He got a good look at Gold Point in 1978 while on a camping expedition with his friend Chuck Kremin, Walt’s brother. It wasn’t love at first sight; just another ghost town. And by that point in his life, Robbins had seen scores of them.

Chuck struck up a conversation with an old-timer living here. “Chuck asks the guy if there is any property for sale, then turns to me and says, ‘Hey, you want to buy some property?’ I said, ‘Well, what the heck, whatever.’ ”

They bought three lots for $500 each. Walt Kremin joined as a partner in 1981, then bought out his brother in 2010, and today the partners own “about 90 lots, plus or minus,” Robbins says. That’s about 50 percent of the privately owned lots in the town. Only later did they find out that their claim to the land is in dispute. Due to a technicality, the land may not have been properly conveyed from the federal government more than a century ago. No one is buying or selling in Gold Point until the issue is resolved, which suits Robbins just fine. “We get people asking all the time what we have for sale. I say, ‘I like you visiting me, but I don’t want you as a neighbor.’ ”

Robbins and Kremin use money from their respective jobs — Kremin owns a freight-salvage business in Los Angeles — to maintain the town. They have restored a few one-room cabins for overnight visitors, and guests who stay in them are asked to donate at least $99 a night, with the money going to maintaining and restoring Gold Point. The partners also generate income by renting RV spots in town.

“I just find it fascinating what people did 150 years ago to make money for beans and bacon.”
The media tour winds across Main Street to Sally’s Bordello, stops at a few of the restored cabins and then ends at the saloon, the beating heart of Gold Point. What started out as a 16-by-24-foot telephone office is now a 16-by-110-foot museum that houses the treasures Robbins and Kremin have discovered while scrounging around the West. The bar is up front, complete with an old manual cash register. There’s a shuffleboard table on the side, a circa-1909 Brunswick pool table in the back and an out-of-tune upright piano in the middle. The walls are decorated with pictures of cowboys, historic maps, old bottles, surveying equipment and an eye-popping collection of bric-a-brac that continues into the rafters.

Look closely and you’ll see five plaques on the walls, with urns that contain the mortal remains of four people and a dog — each of whom loved Gold Point and never wanted to leave it.

“Someday I guess Walt and I will be up there too,” Robbins says. “I know I will be.”