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Historians look for support to make mansion a landmark

The long road to rehabilitation for the long-neglected North Star mansion is expected to go through the Nevada County Supervisors this week.

Local historians are petitioning the state and federal government to recognize the property on their respective registers and asking for a letter of support from the supervisors at today’s scheduled meeting.

The historic Grass Valley property, one of the first residential commissions for famed California architect Julia Morgan, was built in 1906 for North Star mine manager Arthur D. Foote and his wife, noted illustrator and author Mary Hallock Foote. It fell into disrepair after the Foote family moved out in 1968 until it was purchased by the Nevada County Land Trust in 2003, according to a staff report.



“It stands out primarily as one of the earlier works of Julia Morgan, one of the pre-eminent female architects in California,” said Polly Allen, an architectural historian who authored a report on the property. The 11,000-square-foot estate is constructed in the “California vernacular,” meaning it was built using redwood and granite.

Morgan, trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from the prestigious institution, would go on to design the famed Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif.




The estate is a historically important place for more than its connection to the dawn of Morgan’s career, though, said Peggy Levine, a representative with the North Star Historic Conservancy.

“We think it may have a chance (at federal recognition) because there are so many tie-ins to other parts of history,” Levine said. “The Footes lived all over the west, the husband oversaw a mine in Deadwood (S.D.) and Mary Hallock Foote wrote about the places they went for many national publications.”

Members of the conservancy are set to attend a Friday, Nov. 5, meeting with representatives from the California State Parks in Sacramento to apply for recognition as a State Historic Landmark. The Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley has a similar designation.

State recognition would be the first step to national recognition.

Both could open up opportunities for grant funding for the historic home, but a use must first be found for the property, Levine said.

“The last thing Nevada County needs is another empty historic museum,” she said. “I don’t know if we can put money into something to sit empty.”

Currently groups use the property’s yard for concerts and local food grower’s markets.

In other county business:

– Supervisors are expected to extend a moratorium on adult businesses, such as strip clubs or adult movie stores, for another 10 months and 15 days, when staff is expected to recommend action on where to allow such businesses.

Supervisors are set to meet at 9 a.m. today at the Rood Center on 925 Maidu Ave. in Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.


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