John Augustus Raffetto

John Augustus Raffetto, Sr. (March 1, 1864 October 11, 1954) was an Italian-American businessman who founded the First National Bank of Placerville and ran the Ivy House and Cary House hotels.[1][2]

John Augustus Raffetto, Sr.
John Augustus Raffetto

March 1, 1864
DiedOctober 11, 1954(1954-10-11) (aged 90)
Other namesJohn Raffetto, Giovanni Raffetto
Occupationhotelier, banker
Years activec. 1885 – 1930
EmployerIvy House, Cary House, First National Bank of Placerville
Known forhotels
Spouse(s)Adela Isadeen Creighton Raffetto
ChildrenLloyd Alexander Raffetto, Michael Raffetto, John Augustus Raffetto Jr., Isadeen Adela Raffetto Murray
Parent(s)Domenico Raffetto, Anna Pensa


John Augustus Raffetto Sr. was born in Newtown, California, to Domenico Raffetto and Anna Pensa, both of Ognio, a mountain village northeast of Genoa, Italy. His father arrived in California "by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1859, and the mother joined him later... They were among the most substantial of the early California pioneers." His parents were subsistence farmers in Newtown, whose only income was sale of firewood to the Arcade Bakery in downtown Placerville. [1][2]


In his youth, Raffetto walked more than 60 miles one way to farm during summers in Genoa, Nevada; he would earn $60 a summer. He became a miner and earned $1.50 per day.

Ivy House Hotel

On February 4, 1895, Raffetto and a friend named Potts saved up enough money to buy the Conklin Academy in Placerville, which they turned into the Ivy House Hotel. In 1890, he bought out his partner and became sole proprietor. The Ivy House had fifty rooms and dining hall. The Ivy House was board for miners, serving them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eventually, son John Augustus Raffetto Jr. ran the Ivy House as well as a new Ivy Motel next door. Later, the Ivy House became the Placerville Academy, one of the first boarding schools in the state. During the 1950s, the City of Placerville tore down the hotel to make parking lots.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

In 1908 (or 1911[2]), Raffetto bought the Cary House. In 1915, he demolished and rebuilt it with three stories that had fifty-four rooms (fifteen with baths), coffee shop, and dining room. His oldest son renamed it the Raffles Hotel. (It is now again the Cary House.)[1][2][6][8][9]

Historical figures known to have stayed at the hotel include Mark Twain (who used to write for the Mountain Democrat in Placerville), President Ulysses S. Grant and John Studebaker. Hollywood figures, such as actress Bette Davis, have graced the hotel. Most recently, Brooke Shields and Lou Diamond Phillips filmed a movie at the hotel.[10]

Raffetto became a director of the First National Bank of Placerville.[1] In 1917, in the name of the Cary House, Raffetto became one of three founding members of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, based in Placerville.[11]


On April 22, 1896, Raffetto married Adela Isadeen Creighton (March 30, 1875 – February 9, 1927[1][12]) of Smithflat, California. They had six children, four of whom survived early childhood, all born in the Ivy House Hotel with only a midwife:

Raffetto was registered as a member of the Democratic Party (United States) and a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Native Sons of the Golden West.[1] His name appears in the Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of California at Its Annual Convocation, where he is listed as one of six first-degree "Mark Masons."[19]

John Augustus Raffetto died age 89 on October 11, 1954, at the home of his third son, John Jr., in Auburn, California.[1]


  1. Wooldridge, Jesse Walton (1931). History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 2. Pioneer Historical Publishing Company. pp. 419–420. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  2. Yoholam, Betty (1 October 2001). I Remember" Stories and Pictures of El Dorado County Pioneer Families. Cedar Ridge Publishing. pp. 144–147. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  3. California in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the Golden State. Federal Writers' Project, Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration. 1930. p. 486. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  4. Taylor, Judith M.; Harry M. Butterfield (2003). Tangible Memories: Californians and their gardens 1800-1950.
  5. Wilkerson, Lyn (2009). Slow Travels--California: A Historic Driving Guide. p. 50.
  6. Hoover, Mildred Brook; William N. Abeloe; Hero Eugene Rensch; Ethel Grace Rensch (1966). Historic Spots in California. Stanford University Press. pp. 80, 82. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  7. "Ivy House Parking Area". AmericanTowns. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  8. Bidwell, John (1891). A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California. Chicago: Lewish Publishing. p. 516.
  9. "home". Cary House. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  10. "Historic Cary House Hotel". Sierra Nevada GeoTourism MapGuide. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  11. Raffety, Michael (29 April 2019). "Belltower: Past chamber presidents reflect local history". Mountain Democrat. pp. A4. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  12. "Mrs. J. A. Raffetto Dies". Placerville, California: Mountain Democrat. 10 February 1928. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  13. "History: Recollections of people on the West Slope". Lake Tahoe News. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  14. "Raffetto Campaign Gaining". Mountain Democrat. 4 August 1938. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  15. "Profile: Peter Raffetto". Sacramento Business Journal. 11 February 2001. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  16. "Directors and Executives". Community 1st Bank. Archived from the original on 14 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  17. Sammon, John (15 April 1991). "Placerville Pioneers Pack Up to Leave". Mountain Democrat. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  18. McDonald, Don (3 November 1993). "'Sandy' Murray, Former Mayor, Dies". Mountain Democrat. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  19. Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of California at Its Annual Convocation. Freemasons. 1910. p. 158. Retrieved 27 December 2015.

See also

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