North Star House History
Julia Morgan designed the 11,000-square-foot house in the Arts and Crafts style, using stone hauled from the mine and shingles from native trees. The total cost was $15,000 when it was constructed in 1905. The two-story house has two wings separated by a courtyard, which once contained a pool, rose trellis and yew trees.
One wing of the house was devoted to the servants; the other contained family bedrooms, a photography studio and a long sleeping porch. On the first floor was a study for Mary Hallock Foote, another bedroom, and living and dining rooms.
The grounds included extensive gardens, orchards (some trees are still producing fruit), a pool, and several outbuildings.
In the late 1960s, the home was sold to Outreach, a religious organization that planned to create a school for troubled youth. Many changes were made to the building and the grounds. The school failed in the 1980s and the house has been vacant and heavily vandalized since then.
Initial efforts to have the property acquired by Grass Valley or Nevada County failed. Sandy Sanderson purchased the property in 2003 and agreed to donate the land to the Nevada County Land Trust. The deal was finalized in December 2003.
-Evelyn Gardiner, Bob Wyckoff, North Star Foundation
Who was Julia Morgan?
California’s first female architect, Julia Morgan, was born in San Francisco in 1872. She studied civil engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and strove to become an architect at a time the field was exclusively male. She may have been inspired by her relative, Pierre Le Brun. He designed the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower in New York City.
Not easily discouraged, Morgan convinced deans at the prestigious architecture program at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris to admit her. Following her 1902 graduation, Morgan became a prolific architect, known for her “painstaking craftsmanship” and detailed focus on her clients’ wishes.
When she was 32, Morgan was hired by North Star Mine owner James Hague to construct a grand home for his mine manager, Arthur D. Foote, and his family on the mine’s property in Grass Valley.
When she died in 1957, Morgan had crafted more than 700 buildings, including residences, hospitals, schools, stores, churches, YWCA buildings, and banks. Morgan is best known for the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, which she designed for the publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. She also restored the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco after the 1906 fire and designed the Asilomar conference grounds in Pacific Grove.
-Julia Morgan Collection, Cal Poly Special Collections Department
Who were the Footes?
Arthur De Wint Foote was a civil engineer whose career was overshadowed in many ways by his wife. Foote moved from mine to mine throughout the West – according to some accounts, his honesty and recurrent depression thwarted his professional success. He was hired in 1895 to bring electricity to the North Star Mine. Following the move, the family found the economic success and stability they had long lacked.
Mary Hallock Foote was an accomplished illustrator and author. She was published in Scribner’s Monthly and Harper’s Weekly. After marrying Foote, the New England Quaker moved west and wrote several novels chronicling life in the West. For a brief period in the late 1880s, her income was the family’s sole support.
Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer-winning novel “Angle of Repose” is loosely based on her life. For more information on Mary Hallock Foote, read “A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West: The reminisces of Mary Hallock Foote,” published in 1972.
-Frontiers, Boise Public Library
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