Historical nomination withdrawn | TheUnion.com

Historical nomination withdrawn

The Union StaffThe North Star house languishes near Grass Valley.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The house Julia Morgan built at the turn of the last century on the southern edge of Grass Valley will not become a historical landmark any time soon.

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to withdraw an application to nominate the house and adjoining buildings a county historical landmark.

The property sits on 760 acres that Robinson Enterprises Inc. and the Amaral family’s Terra Alta Development Co. want annexed into the city of Grass Valley. The land is slated for development.

The designation would have made the property eligible for grant funding and the property could have been restored under the state Historical Building Code, which is not as strict as the regular building code.

Supervisor Bruce Conklin said he voted to withdraw the application because the application is going nowhere.

Supervisor Sue Horne said the timing is wrong. The idea has not gained the approval of the owners and that would have put the county’s Historical Landmarks Commission in a very awkward position, she said.

Nancy Pennebaker, who helped coordinate the recent $1.7 million effort to restore Sacramento’s Julia Morgan House and Gardens on T Street, spoke to the supervisors at the behest of the property owners.

Pennebaker, a special assistant with the California State University at Sacramento Foundation, said the timing is wrong to apply for historical landmark status for the Grass Valley property.

“We don’t know what the (future) owners would do with the property,” Pennebaker said after the meeting. “I don’t really know why the county wanted to do it in the first place.”

But after the meeting, Robert Mackensen, an architect who has worked with the state Office of Historic Preservation, and Roberta Deering, executive director of the California Preservation Foundation, said they did not understand Pennebaker’s logic.

“That makes no sense,” said Deering in a telephone interview Tuesday. “The sooner, the better,” she said of a landmark status.

The status could help the owners find funds to do the restoration, Deering and Mackensen agreed.

Neal Mitchell, a Grass Valley area resident who’s led efforts to have the house designated a historical landmark, said the owners only want to retain control over the property.

“I think it’s a tragedy,” he said. “I’m just speechless.”

Pennebaker said she could sign a contract with the North Star property owners to serve as a consultant to search for a nonprofit organization with the money to restore the house.

The Sacramento house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Pennebaker said.

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