40 years in a landmark’s life
Nineteenth- and early-20th century photographs and sketches of historic buildings in the Twin Cities abound. Take a look at Harry Wells’ “History of Nevada County,” 1880, published by Thompson & West of Oakland. Photographs of the recent past, from after World War II to the present, for some reason are in short supply. Since Nevada City’s historic district has been awarded National Register status and since Grass Valley’s increasing awareness of its historic treasures, more attention is focused on these venerable structures. Let’s take a 40-year look at one of Nevada City’s Broad Street buildings, 1960 to 2000.
230-236 Broad St., Nevada City
This magnificent two-story, red brick building was built by Capt. George Kidd and Dr. William Knox in 1856. Through the years, it has been identified by many names; among the first, of course, was Kidd and Knox. At one time, it was the Brown and Morgan Block or Building, but that was the 19th century.
Let’s move ahead to the 1960s, when it was known as the Durbrow Building, named after owner William Durbrow. For many years, the important business of the Native Sons of the Golden West was conducted in the upstairs lodge rooms.
Professional offices filled the balance of space on the second floor.
Painter’s Market occupied the ground floor until 1959. Yes, that’s the “P” in SPD markets. After the move, Knee’s Electric and Alice’s Style Shop were two of the downstairs tenants during the ’60s. It would be difficult to name all the businesses that have occupied space there.
After Durbrow, Dr. John and Christine Freeman were the owners. The Freemans did much to restore the facade and built a porch on the Broad Street front and Pine Street side, closely resembling the original.
On May 3, 1980, the Nevada City Chapter No. 10 of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus honored the Freemans by placing a bronze plaque on the Pine Street side. It reads:
“Kidd & Knox Building, 1856. Major commercial building since the Gold Rush. Early offices of judges, lawyers, statesmen including U. S. Senators A. A. Sargent, Wm. Morris Stewart; California Supreme Court Chief Justices Niles Searls, Lorenzo Sawyer were here. Site of ‘Dramatic Hall’ where Edwin Booth, Lola Montez, Kate Hayes performed.”
A continuing noshing tradition began upstairs in the abandoned Native Sons lodge hall. In 1979, John Parent and Neil Locke opened the Posh Nosh. Unfortunately, a fire the next year required that they relocate their operation, which they did in June 1980 to 318 Broad St.
At one time during the 1980s, the front of the building was transformed to resemble a particular Midwestern savings and loan company for a television commercial. Nevada City was seen by the producers as more Midwestern-looking than the Midwest!
An interesting double celebrity sighting took place in the Freeman Building on a Saturday in December 1980. The Soda Saloon, a coffee shop/soda fountain/ice cream shop, occupied the building’s northeast corner at Pine and Broad. Seated for lunch in a booth with his California Highway Patrol driver, the driver’s son and a popular vocalist named Linda Ronstadt was Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. Ronstadt was camera shy and left the room, but the governor happily posed. His fabled blue Plymouth was parked in front of the Button Works.
Today, the building can be called the Baker-Tintle Building since ownership recently passed to Ken and Kay Baker and Gary and Patti Tintle.
Bob Wyckoff is a retired newspaper editor, an author of local history, a lifetime student of California history and a longtime resident of Nevada County. You can write him at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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