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Gold Country, California: Nevada City


 My favorite library


Originally called Caldwell’s Upper Store, after Dr. Caldwell’s business which opened in 1849, by 1850 the town had become established enough that residents wanted a better name.  Nevada City was chosen from suggestions written on slips of paper and voted upon at a town meeting.  The California Gold Rush was well under way, claims were staked all over the hillsides and the ore washed in Deer Creek, which runs down the mountain at the edge of the town’s historic business district.


One might think, considering its much smaller population and proximity to its larger neighbor, that Nevada City is an appendage to Grass Valley.  Not true.  So strong a personality is the smaller town that I was quite surprised when I learned how few people make up it’s official population, about 2,800 to Grass Valley’s 12,000.


Just 4 miles apart and connected by Gold Country's Highway 49, Nevada City has contrived to be the greater tourist draw and for that reason I chose to live in Grass Valley.  Twice I’ve lived in places that became more and more popular with visitors, first Sausalito, across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, then Bisbee, Arizona.  When you open your curtains and find tourists with cameras looking back at you, it’s time to go.












Nevada City is a charming place, possibly a bit precious, definitely the flashy sister and I love having it just up the road.  In Nevada City there are parking meters, in Grass Valley parking is free.  Grass Valley has stores, Nevada City boutiques.  It’s a very nice place to visit, get the drift.


The first places I stayed decades ago, other than Aunt Betty’s house, were in Nevada City because, back then, it drew me to it.  I stayed at the the Red Castle Inn, my first bed & breakfast experience, when they were few and far between.  Then at another, Piety Hill Cottages, an ancient motor court with separate cabins, each with a carport and cuted up within an inch of its life.



 Deer Creek



 The scary high bridge across Deer Creek.







  The hanging wooden sidewalk.


Nevada City is the county seat of Nevada County and, while not as atmospheric as the Carnegie-built library in Grass Valley, my favorite place for books is the newer, larger Madelyn Helling Library at the county center, above the town where there are no tourists and parking is free.  Sometimes, to encourage myself to walk more, I park between the 2 towns near SPD Market, climb aboard the small local bus, the Gold Country Stage, pay my 75¢ and ride to the library.   Then I walk back down the hill, through Nevada City, across the scary high bridge over Deer Creek, climb the other side and back to my car, a great walk of about 2 miles.  The bus ride has it’s rewards too, a slice of life I might otherwise miss.


It’s been my impression that houses are smaller and prices are higher in Nevada City.  And streets are narrower and steeper to properly set off the smaller houses.  There’s even a stretch of wooden sidewalk clinging to a hillside on one residential street, I discovered recently during a deviation in my library walk.



Methodist Church, folk dancing through the rear door, lower left. 








It was the first warm sunny day in a while when I walked around town taking the pictures you see here.  Having no other quest but to see the town, I was taken by all the reminders of my own history as I went.  The second floor loft where my brother had lived.  The location of Carmina’s tiny shop, she who had introduced me to the idea of visiting Chiang Mai.  The house by the Methodist Church where friends had lived and the nearby Miner’s Foundry Community Center where that same friend, Gary Goldschneider, had performed his famous Beethoven and Mozart Marathons.  The store where I’d shopped one day and discovered the owner was the sister-in-law of a Bisbee friend.  And another store owner who knew my granddaughters because their mother was a customer.  I realized once more why I love small towns, that it’s because the town is small we somehow feel free to speak and connections are made with perfect strangers.  It was a good day.





 My brother's 2nd floor loft. Toad Hall, formerly Carmina's Freeman & Swig.





 The view from the courthouse.



1937 Art Deco Courthouse




To read more of PortMoresby's 'Gold Country, California' series, click here.

To read more of PortMoresby's contributions, click here.







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When you open your curtains and find tourists with cameras looking back at you, it’s time to go.


It's that old ironic feeling, no? Some days you're the windshield, some days the bug! I've often been plagued with the feeling that I'm who I'm complaining about...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

I LOVE when this happens!  In the midst of my series on the Gold Rush towns in California and coinciding with our discussions of early photography in 'Gumbo's World' on the homepage, I read this morning of an exhibit of photographs at Stanford University.  From the gallery site: "...Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) ventured west in 1849 to strike it rich. But instead of prospecting for gold, Watkins developed a talent for photography—a medium invented only 22 years before."  Read more here.  I will certainly be making the drive down for this.

My turn to be jealous that you'll get to see the exhibit. The images look wonderful, but what is sticking in my mind is that Watkins was traveling primitive roads and trails with...omg...18 x 22 glass plates. One stumble, and...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

It reminds me that the thing, technology, that we think is making us great, is setting us up for extinction.  That effort, compared to digital, what wimps we are.  Including me, from my Rollei SLX to the camera I use for pictures here, the size of a pack of cigarettes.  I'd be in much better shape if I hadn't put down the Rollei.

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