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Celebrating ‘a great old building’

They came to pay homage to the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research on Thursday, out of deep respect for its 100 years as a repository of knowledge.

Before the building erected with Carnegie Library funds was turned into a historical facility in 1991, the stout edifice on North Pine Street was the Nevada City Library. It is where Cathy Whittlesey used to go in the mid-1960s to get her homework done.

“I came here to do reports. It was open at night,” said Whittlesey, one of many who attended a day-long celebratory gathering. “It was a good excuse to get out of the house, and we did have reports to do.



“What I needed was encyclopedias. There was no Internet then,” Whittlesey said. “It still looks pretty much the same as I remember it.”

“It’s a great old building,” said Pam Dickerman. “Back in the ’70s, I was working at the courthouse, and I’d come here during my lunch hour” to read and relax.




Taking care of her needs back then was Madelyn Helling, the former Nevada County librarian whose name graces the county’s main library across from the Rood Center in Nevada City. She began running the city library in 1974.

“When I took it over, we did a lot of redecorating,” Helling said. “My goal was to make this the Nevada County local history center.”

After the new library was built, historical materials from the Grass Valley Library were folded into what already was in Nevada City, and the patrons began coming, Helling said.

“Being the point of the Gold Rush, we got many researchers here” and people tracing relatives, Helling added. “I expect this to be here another 100 years.”

In 1997, the library was named after Doris Foley, a former county historian.

“We wouldn’t have so much of our history preserved if it wasn’t for her,” Helling said.

Orval Bronson used the library heavily while researching his book, “Nevada City.”

“This was my home away from home when I wrote the book,” Bronson said. “I looked at old newspapers on a daily basis.”

Patrons were looking at many historical documents at the library Thursday, including old photographs of downtown Nevada City. One of them was of the library itself, covered in ivy, its beauty shielded from passersby.

That is not the case today. With the area’s deep interest in history, a feeling persists that the treasure will remain for many researchers to come.

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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