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Cultural activist Osborn dies at 70

Osborn
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Longtime cultural activist David Osborn, who helped preserve a host of historic buildings in Nevada City and co-founded the American Victorian Museum, died Sunday of natural causes, a longtime friend said Monday.

“This is a tremendous loss for the community,” said Paul Matson, a former Nevada City mayor. Matson first met Osborn and his longtime partner, Charles Woods, in 1970. “They were among the first to recognize how great Nevada City was.”



Osborn, a graphic and building designer, was 70. Woods was unable to comment Monday.




City Councilman David McKay, who first met Osborn and Woods in the early 1970s, was shocked at the news.

“We’ve just lost an icon for Nevada City,” McKay said Monday. “You just hope people like that live forever.”

Osborn and Woods, who was also a graphic designer, supported the city’s early efforts to preserve Nevada City’s Gold Rush history, friends and acquaintances said.

Osborn and Woods moved from San Francisco to Nevada City in 1957. In 1961, they opened a gift shop on Commercial Street, Matson said.

Together, they either supported, sponsored or created many cultural events in Nevada County, friends and acquaintances said.

The American Victorian Museum’s first home was at the former foundry, now known as Miners Foundry Cultural Center, on Spring Street.

Osborn and Woods founded KVMR radio, Matson said. They also helped save Nevada Theatre in the 1960s, he added.

KVMR is named after the American Victorian Museum. It was first based in the museum, Matson said.

The museum provided a first home for Foothill Theatre Company until it moved to Nevada Theatre. Osborn and Woods also supported the founders of Music in the Mountains, he said.

Osborn and Woods co-founded the annual Teddy Bear Convention, which is celebrating its 19th anniversary this year.

“They do everything with a fine, creative flair,” longtime friend Teddy Kell of Rough and Ready said of the two men.

Ellen Davis, Miners Foundry executive director, said Osborn and Woods helped keep the foundry as a cultural center. Many of the events they started continue there, she said.

Osborn, who was born in Columbus, Ohio, graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s in history and art history. He earned a master’s degree in art history from the University of California at Berkeley.

The American Victorian Museum is now on South Pine Street.


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