First stop on our 2019 Road Trip, is the historical mining town of Grass Valley. It was our first stop too in 2014 Road Trip. The town was part of the gold rush in the 1800’s and holds a lot of history.
Grass Valley, a small town in the Sierra Nevada Foothills
Grass Valley is located in northern California 75 miles from Sacramento in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Situated at 2,500 feet elevation, the town has a population of approximately 12,860. The town was originally known as Boston Ravine and later officially named Centerville. Many settlers were tin miners from Cornwall, England
Empire Mine & North Star Mines
Two of the richest mines in California, Empire Mine and North Star Mine, are located in Grass Valley.
Discovered in 1850, Empire Gold Mine was the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mine producing 5.8 million ounces of gold. The size of the mine was approximately 850 acres with underground passages totaling 367 miles. The Empire Cottage which is still standing, was the country house of the owner William Bourne Jr, that did most of the development of the mine. Today, it is a California Historical Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a federal Historic District.
The North Star Mine is located south of Grass Valley and was the second largest producer of gold during California’s Gold Rush. Discovered in 1851 by the Lavance Brothers with nine other Frenchmen, formed the Helvetia and Lafayette Gold Mining Company. It was 65 acres in size and the Grass Valley Gold District’s deepest mine, measuring 4,000 feet. The Pelton wheel that sits at the end of town was the biggest ever built for a mine.
“Pasties” originally made for the miners in the days of
Gold Rush Towns of Nevada County: Nevada County is webbed with some of the richest veins of goldbearing quartz in the world. First discovered in 1849 as placer gold washed into creek beds, hydraulic miners later used massive jets of water to melt mountains and free the precious metal. Click here for more info.
Holbrooke Hotel – a historic hotel
The gold rush brought many people people from all over to “boom-town” Grass Valley. The Express Office and the Golden Gate Saloon was one of the first buildings built. On September 13, 1855, a fire broke out, and the were all destroyed by fire along with most of Grass Valley. The tinder dry frame buildings burned fiercely and the destruction was enormous. More than three hundred buildings were destroyed in an area covering thirty acres. In the downtown business district, only two structures escaped. Every hotel and boarding house was ruined. Residents lost their savings and important documents to the fire. Contemporary records indicate that the loss of property was valued at $400,000 – in today’s money; this loss would be $8.5 million.
The saloon was rebuilt with a brick facade, making it safer from the threat of another fire. The Golden Gate Saloon is now the oldest, continuously operated saloon west of the Mississippi River. In 1862, the hotel was built and named the National Exchange Hotel. Later in 1879, the 19,400 sf hotel was purchase by Daniel Holbrooke and its name as stayed the same since then.
Throughout the years the hotel has hosted well known persons such as Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Jack London, “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, entertainers Emma Nevada, Lola Montez and Lotta Crabtree along with U.S. Presidents — Grover Cleveland, James Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and Herbert Hoover.
Grass Valley was named for its spring-fed meadows, but its history springs from deep below the soil. An immeasurable wealth of gold lay in ancient river courses, embedded in quartz, or scattered capriciously in surface gravel. Click here for more info.
The California State Landmark hotel has 27 rooms – many are rifled with a variety of ghosts; a man in a top hat has been seen reading the newspaper and sometimes mingles with guests at wedding receptions in the banquet room; Ghost children run up and down the stairs; one gambler who slit his throat and Room 15 has a a cigar-smoking ghost and a cowboy who has been spotted leaning against the bar.
After a series of negligent owners, the building fell into a state of disrepair. However, In the late 1970s, a restoration project and completed in 1982. In 2007, the property was accepted into the Historic Hotels of America National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Del Oro Theatre – is it haunted?
The Del Oro Theatre and its illuminated 70-foot tower soars above the other historical buildings on Mill Street. It was built in the early 1940s by United Artists as a single-screen movie house and adorned with classic Art Deco architecture. In the 1970s, it was renovated with the addition of two theaters and a total of 845 seats. Several legends of untimely deaths and hauntings in the theater have been noted over the years, from the women who fell to her death on the fire escape to the mischievous child throwing popcorn from the roof.
Episcopal Church – the oldest church in American West.
The Episcopal Church located on 235 South Church Street, is one of the county’s iconic buildings and the oldest Episcopal Church in the American West.
The land was donated in 1856 by the Gold Hill Quartz Mining Company. However their gift had a stipulation: a church had to be built within 18 months. With the help of $6,000 collected by miners who handed wads of cash and gold nuggets to horseback-riding women of the church who visited them, the construction barely made the 18-month deadline. Emmanuel Church opened its doors for worship on August 1, 1858.
The church was built in Gothic style. Gothic style was developed in the 1200s in European cathedrals which were made of stone. The Gothic architecture style came to America in the 1800s. Here in America, fine timber was plentiful, and the Gothic European style was translated into wood vs stone, creating a new style called “Carpenter Gothic.”
From the start, the building attracted photographers and inspired artists. Emmanuel Episcopal Church has appeared on postcards, calendars, notecards, book covers, tea towels, blankets and mouse pads, making it one of the most enduring images of Nevada County.
Planning a trip to Grass Valley and need and inn or hotel? Or maybe you want to try the haunted Holbrooke Hotel!! Click the TripAdvisor link to book hotels in the area.