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County backs landmark bid

The Julia Morgan house is seen in the early 1900s. The house could become a state Historical Landmark.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The Nevada County house designed by San Simeon architect Julia Morgan early in her career could become a state historical landmark.

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to seek state landmark status for the house and several cottages.



The house is on the North Star property, a 760-acre parcel slated for annexation into Grass Valley.




The house was designed in 1905 for Arthur deWindt Foote, the manager of the North Star Mine, and his wife, Mary Hallock Foote, a novelist and illustrator.

Under an annexation agreement between the two main property owners – Robinson Enterprises Inc. and the Amaral family’s Terra Alta Development — and Grass Valley, the house is to be turned over to an acceptable third party. Both Grass Valley and the property owners have decided the county could be an acceptable party.

Supervisor Bruce Conklin, who made the proposal, said the landmark status would make the house eligible for grant money, give prestige to the property, and attract a huge amount of publicity.

The property owners representative Andy Cassano, a land-use planner with Nevada City Engineering Inc., said his clients neither oppose nor support the historic designation. They need more information on the implications, he said.

The property owners opposed an earlier proposal to designate the house a historical landmark.

Members of the public urged the board to apply for state historical landmark status as soon as possible, saying the house is rapidly deteriorating.

“Time is of the essence,” said Norm Westmore, a board member of the Miners Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City.

Rob Kellenbeck, a Grass Valley resident, said restoring the house would have cost $2 to $3 million five years ago. It now could cost $10 million, said Kellenbeck, who has tried to save the house for more than five years.

Author Sands Hall reminded the supervisors that Mary Hallock Foote was also a woman of accomplishment. Foote, like Morgan, left quite a legacy, said the author of “Fair Use,” a play based on Foote. It’s vital the house be saved, she said.

Board Chairwoman Barbara Green told county analyst Pat Ward to have the application ready in two weeks. The supervisors also asked Ward to prepare a memorandum addressing the owners’ concerns regarding the implications of the landmark status.

But Ward said the application proposal could take more than two weeks, depending on the extent of the research.

Supervisor Sue Horne said the property owners were not aware of the meeting and asked that all parties work together.

Ward said the property owners were formally notified of Tuesday’s meeting Feb. 6.


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