City was originally called Deer Creek Dry Diggins when it was just
a mining camp. In the fall of 1849, Dr. A.B. Caldwell opened a
general store and the mining camp started resembling a town. The
town became Caldwell's Upper Store.
In 1850, the town was
looking more like a city, with a cities' problems. The citizens,
under Mexican law, elected a mayor, or "Alcalde," to
establish and keep order. The new city needed an official name,
so, in a canvas hotel at Main and Commercial streets, ballots were
taken. The choice of "Nevada" which is Spanish for "Snow
Covered" seemed appropriate to the crowd.
On September 9, 1850
California became the 31st state to join the Union. In 1851,
Nevada City became the County Seat when Nevada County was formed
from a section of Yuba County. By 1856, 2081 votes were cast in
the City of Nevada, only Sacramento and San Francisco polled more.
In 1859, Silver was discovered in the Utah Territory. The
first samples were assayed (weighed and assessed for value) at
Ott's Assay Office in Nevada (City). Many of Nevada's residents
headed over the Sierra to search for silver in what became known
as the Comstock Silver Rush. Later, in 1864, that part of the Utah
Territory was formed into the State of Nevada.
In that year, the word "City"
was added to Nevada, to distinguish the two for the benefit of all
(particularly the Postal Service.) After the initial gold rush,
merchants, bankers and the like came to Nevada City and built
homes in the style of the day. This was during the reign of Queen
Victoria, and that style of architecture became known as "Victorian".
Colonial, Greek Revival, and "California Gothic" styles
of architecture are well represented here as well.
Most of Nevada City burned
to the ground on several occasions. Two of the most interesting
buildings in the downtown area are fire houses that were built
with more than utilitarian style. This also accounts for the
prevalence of brick buildings featuring iron shutters.
What accounts for the
preservation of Nevada City is the economic downturn it faced when
the gold mining slowed. By World War II, when the mines in Grass
Valley closed, there was not much reason for building or
refurbishing of old buildings, and the architecture of the period
was spared urban renewal. WPA projects in the post-war period gave
Nevada City the art deco facades of the city hall and court house.
In the late 1960s the
residents and visitors of the area started recognizing the
remarkable charm of the town. City ordinances were revised to
disallow the historically inaccurate and downright tacky new
storefronts and signage, and the city buried all the power lines
in the downtown area.
Gas lights made from
original 1800s molds were placed along Broad Street, and the
Nevada Theatre was restored. Private restorations followed, and
the result is the beautiful little city of Nevada City.
Nevada City is not a
museum. It is a hub of activity. Business, arts, sports, and
entertainment of every variety occur on and around the streets of
the town. There are lots of places to stay, first rate
restaurants, and events that draw visitors from far and near.