Renovation of Nevada City’s National Hotel on pace for December reopening |

Renovation of Nevada City’s National Hotel on pace for December reopening

National Exchange Hotel owner Jordan Fife walks through the many halls of the historic downtown Nevada City hotel where renovation is in full swing.
Elias Funez/

When Jordan Fife bought Nevada City’s iconic National Hotel in February, he had hoped the renovation would be done by November.

He acknowledges the top-to-bottom, multi-million-dollar restoration will miss that mark. But he’s determined to be open by the first Victorian Christmas, which is on Dec. 9.

As if renovating one iconic Nevada County hotel wasn’t enough work on his plate, Fife also is updating Grass Valley’s Holbrooke Hotel. That hotel will remain open during the phased work, however.

At the National — which has been renamed the National Exchange Hotel — a new roof is well underway, Fife said.

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Construction crews discovered three layers of roof as they dismantled what was there, Fife said. They are also currently doing some structural work on the parapets.

Inside, all framing is done and the demolition is effectively complete, Fife said last week. Materials have been ordered and permits are being finalized, after some tweaks had to be made to make every room ADA-compliant.

During a tour of the National, Fife outlined some of the design ideas that will revitalize the space.

Formerly carpeted wood floors and plastered brick walls are being uncovered and restored. Some of the smaller rooms without bathrooms are being combined to create spacious suites, one of which will feature a clawfoot tub in the front room so guests can take in the view from the windows while they soak.

One quirky feature Fife loves to show off: a vintage Minute Maid can flattened and nailed down to cover a hole in one of the hotel rooms.

“That’s staying,” he said.

Another longtime quirk that will not go away: the decided tilt of the staircase leading from the ground floor to what was the lobby.

The lobby will relocate downstairs and the upstairs space will become the dining room. A tufted sofa in a goldenrod shade will run all the way around the edges of the dining room with diners eating off small tables for a communal feel. Fife is going big and bold with Victorian-inspired, floral-on-steroids wallpaper extending onto the ceiling.

“There were so many different funky wallpapers” in the hotel, he said. “I want to preserve that aesthetic.”

The former registration desk, still behind a grill, will become a bar.

The first floor, meanwhile, will be converted into a lobby/lounge with a library feel, in which breakfast and lunch will be served. A private room with a fireplace will be accessed through a hidden door in a bookcase wall.

The National’s bar will also get a face lift with some distressed leather touches, but the original back bar will stay. The ceiling will be covered with pressed tin — and the Christmas ornaments that once hung year-round will make their reappearance during the holidays.

Fife noted that any 170-year-old building is going to take longer to bring back to life, but added his team has not hit any major roadblocks yet.

“So far, we’re on track,” Fife said. “We’re trying to cut 90 days out of our schedule. It will take some hustle. Realistically, though, it’s about doing it right, not doing it quick.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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