Grass Valley gives ‘entryway’ monument the go-ahead | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley gives ‘entryway’ monument the go-ahead

A new "entryway" monument to downtown Grass Valley will provide a change from the traditional nod to the town's gold mining roots.

The design, which incorporates Art Deco styling and a memorial to Grass Valley's volunteer firefighters, received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Grass Valley city council members Thursday night. The council gave the OK in a unanimous vote to proceed with getting a bid, an estimated time frame and cost for the sign, which will be at the corner of Neal and South Auburn streets.

"This project has been 10 years in the making," said Mayor Howard Levine.

The proposed sign, designed by architect Robert Wallis, draws inspiration from the sign on top of the Del Oro Theater, with a vertical 20-foot metal strip with the words Grass Valley spelled out, as well as a mine rock quarter round wall and a fire station bell structure relocated from the old fire station. An existing flag pole will remain, behind the bell.

Former Grass Valley firefighter Charlie Jakobs gave the council an abbreviated presentation on the history of the volunteer department, which got its start in 1853.

Those volunteer firefighters "saved this town over and over and over again," Jakobs said, citing a fire in 1896 that burned all of Mill Street and the "Great Fire" of 1855 that burned 30 acres and "decimated" the town.

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Jakobs noted that the bell being used for the monument used to be rung to call out volunteers to fires, with a sequence of bells coordinated to different parts of the city.

"We ring this bell now in honor of firefighters who have passed away," he said.

The monument will also honor Grass Valley's firefighters who died in the line of duty. One of the three was Jakobs' uncle, "Doc" Lobecker, who died of a heart attack in 1964 while fighting a fire at the Salvation Army Depot on Mill Street.

Council member Ben Aguilar commented the monument would provide history about the volunteer fire department that many residents don't know, and called the design "an amazing face-lift."

Some members of the public commented during the planning commission hearing that they wanted the design to incorporate an ore cart already at the site, according to the staff report.

Council member Lisa Swarthout noted there already are numerous ore carts in public spaces in Grass Valley, however, and suggested possibly moving the cart to Elisabeth Daniels Park. Fellow council members Jan Arbuckle and Jason Fouyer gave kudos to a design that steps away from tin roofs and other gold mining elements.

"I'm so glad there's something fresh," Fouyer said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.