Grass Valley - Nevada City

(From Grass Valley's history is part of the colorful lore of the California Gold Rush.  The first notations about the area are from the late 1840's when a party of men searching for cattle came upon a "grassy valley".

Grass Valley's claim to historic fame is embedded in the vast amounts of gold discovered and extracted from its rich underground mines. In more than 100 years of mining, the mines of Grass Valley made it the richest of all California gold mining towns

In December, 1848, President James K. Polk declared in a State of the Union address that large quantities of gold had been discovered in California.  As word spread about the gold rush, prospectors flooded the foothills. The small settlement began looking like a village. Then in 1850, a settler by the name of George McKnight discovered gold in the quartz rock along Gold Hill and the real boom began.

162 years after McKnight's discovery (September 2012), I went to Grass Valley and neighboring Nevada City with my Aunt Mable to see what the sights looked like now.   How much of the old own was still the same?  Let's see...


                                                                                                                        GV Main St. Then
GV Main St Now
Here is Main St. Grass Valley as it looked in 1902
Main St. in 2012.  It is possible that the blue building is the same as the second building in the "Then" photo at left.  Both have six windows and a similar structure
Note: You astute observer you, noticing that the angle is slightly different between the two shots.  It was all a matter of camera placement.  The original shot was taken from the middle of the cross street.  No way to do that in 2012 without risking your life! 

                        Mary's convent St Mary's
Here is St. Mary's Convent way on the other side of town
Fortunately, Aunt Mable (after some searching) was able to find the convent.  The middle section in front has been modified extensively, the "widow's walk" has been removed from the roof as well as the two (whatever they ares).  Also, as is so frequently the case with the Then/Now, visibility of the structure has been removed by confounded trees; the bane of the Then/Now photographer!  
Below is tower that is visible on the right.
SM Now



As you'll not doubt observe, Aunt Mable and I took very few shots of Grass Valley but  tramped all over Nevada City during our visit.  There are a few reasons.  One is that there is very little parking in Grass Valley.  I had to leave her in the illegally parked car when I went down about six blocks to take the shot of Main St in GV.
In Nevada City, however, we found centrally located parking and simply walked all around town sizing up Then/Nows.  Nevada City was the fun part of the day.  

MS Now
The first stop on our tour of Nevada City was to revisit a building on Broad St (for a narrow road, a strange name).  The shot on the left is from the last 1950s.  Aside from the obvious paint job, there are subtle differences between then and now.  The 2nd story window on the left has been replaced.  The telephone poles are gone, the closest one replaced by a sign.  And, finally, there is now a bicyclist in the road.

Further up Broad St, is very old fire house.
Firehouse then
Firehouse now

 Let's spend some time at the historic Nevada City National Hotel
The National Hotel, in operation since 1856, deserves a proper introduction, hereby supplied by its website:

If you enjoy old-fashioned comfort and luxury, visit us at the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Rocky Mountains. When you arrive, you'll step back into the Victorian era. Our sumptuous suites are furnished with antiques from the Gold Rush Days. Most rooms have private baths. Enjoy swimming and sunny afternoons in our secluded swimming pool filled with cool, clear mountain water.

Let's visit the hotel by going backwards, step by step, through the historical photos

 NH Then

Very little has changed since the 1950s.  The sign has been changed and the windows structure in the lower left has been modified.  Oh, and also emergency vehicles have been added.  By the way, if you ever visit the hotel and are curious about exactly where these photos are taken from, go across the street and you'll find a small drug store.  The shots were taken from the second step of that store.

NATIONAL HOTEL ca 1925 (okay, I colorized a little here just for contrast)
NATIONAL HOTEL 1900 (colorization done for post card)

oldhouse then
oldhouse now
I found this old photo online somewhere and kept it just in case we could find where the building was...if it still existed.  Run down and shabby, it didn't look too good whenever this photo was taken.
While heading towards another destination, we happened across this building.  It took a close examination of the photos we carried with us but, sure enough, it was the same one.  But some strange changes had been made to it.  The most obvious one is the section on the left.  In the "Then" image, the left side juts out right to the street.  That "jutment" has been removed.  The brickwork has  been restored, The fence on the balcony replaced, as has been the door and the windows. 

Library old
Library old
Library now
The Nevada City Library.
At least once on every Then and Now trip there comes a time where we talk with someone and find out some interesting information. For the shots of the Nevada  City Library, we were initially working from the vine covered image of the library at the upper left.  There was debate as to whether it was the same building and - always importantly - where the photo was taken from.  It was impossible to replicate the angle. Finally we went inside and met a Nevada City historian who showed us the image on the upper right. (ca. 1940)  The light at the top is not the sun, but the flash from my camera.  We recreated the image below.  He also told us where to take the shots below.  Fantastic!

Back of courthouse
Pine st now
The caption on the photo I found above said "Pine St. to back of courthouse.  We went up Pine St. and could not find this image, mostly because none of the buildings still exist.  The historian at the library looked at the photo and told us immediately where we needed to go to recreate the shot.
And here it is, taken from down on a location on Pine St. we had not walked to initially.  Wouldn't it have been something if there were horses in the same spot now as then? 


 old photo then
Miners foundry
Aunt Mable and I stopped into an ice cream parlor in Nevada City where I found the two photos (at the top) on the wall and took pictures of them. 
We took great care in taking the "Now" shots of them, which was difficult because we were looking at the images on the camera to try to find the perfect setting.  The one on the right came out nothing short of beautiful with the now shot.  The treeline in the background looked the same (but green).  Just a nice shot.  We also found and recreated the shot of the Miner's Foundry.  It is now covered with ivy.  Somehow during the transfer of photos from the camera to a computer, to a zip drive and then to my computer, the "Now" shots were lost.  I put them here, however, in case anyone heading into Nevada City would mind reshooting them.  
Then and Now home
San Francisco
Cliff House
email Dennis