James Romaggi left his home in Romaggi, Italy near Genoa in 1850 for New York and sailed around the Horn to California. He made his way to Albany Flat, a booming gold rush town of about 3,000 just south of Angels Camp, Calaveras County, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. He panned $1,000.00 worth of placer gold in Mud Gulch, in front of the area where he eventually built his home. In the town of Melones, the site of the present day reservoir, he bought into a mine and accumulated over $30,000 in gold in less than five months, making him a wealthy man. A stonemason, Romaggi built himself a grand home almost identical to the home of his birth in Romaggi, Italy where his descendents have resided for over 200 years. The home was fabricated from local schist rock and adobe, with walls two feet thick, wood plank floors, and a metal roof.
In 1857, James married Louisa Foppiano and they had six children. James developed his 100 acres to produce fruits, vegetables and grapes for wine to supply his store. Eventually he had a bar and card room for miners and travelers when his home became a stage coach stop.
After James and Louisa died in 1905 and 1917, respectively, the home was rented and by the 1930′s it stood vacant. Hobos burned the flooring for heat during the Depression. In 1940, San Francisco resident Ernest A. Wiltsee purchased the property and planned to restore the home, but died without a will or heirs before that could happen. In 1957, the Bank of America Trust Company divided the home and Wiltsee’s estate into six equal shares and gave them to various public service organizations. None of these owners did anything to maintain the building, and over the subsequent years it slowly deteriorated.
In 1985, Cal-Trans relocated Highway 49 that ran directly outside the front door of the home. Before that relocation a car had run into the south end of the building causing severe damage. Vandals and souvenir hunters also caused further damage, as have recent winter storms.
The property sat vacant, unused and deteriorating until 2002, when Adrian Nestor of Angels Camp, who had recently retired to the area, happened upon it and began the arduous task of creating the non-profit Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation to obtain ownership of the structure, locating the scattered owners, negotiating transfer of their ownership shares to the new Foundation, and raising funds and support for the eventual restoration of the structure and the creation of the Gold Country Family Museum within. Complete and undivided ownership of the property was secured by the Foundation in 2003, and recorded on December 31 of that year.