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State may recognize historic site

Submitted photoThis photo shows the Yuba Powerhouse land in 1898. On Feb. 1, the state Historical Commission will look at making the powerhouse a California Point of Historical Interest.
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A powerhouse the founders of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. built 104 years ago to produce electricity for the mines and mills of Marysville some 20 miles away could soon gain state historical recognition.

The state Historical Commission on Feb. 1 will consider designating the Yuba Powerhouse a California Point of Historical Interest, making the Browns Valley property eligible for state and federal preservation grants.



John Martin, Eugene de Sabla and Romulas Riggs Colgate, who helped start PG&E in 1906, realized electricity could be transported long distances and saw the possibility of building another powerhouse to deliver electricity to Sacramento, said John Olmsted, the “undeveloper” whose California Institute of Man in Nature bought the 80-acre property in 1989.




“It was a jumping-off place for PG&E,” Olmsted said.

The land, which includes a two-story Victorian-style house, is also a wildlife sanctuary among 10,000 acres of open space, Olmsted said.

The powerhouse, which sits at the end of a 1.5-mile dirt road, operated until 1911 and was dismantled in 1916. What’s left is a 50-foot cement wall and a plaque that reads “Yuba Power Co.”

The two-story house, built of redwood and Douglas fir on a nearby hill, is in dire need of repair. The roof leaks and the house has no running water or bathroom facilities, said Dan Barth, president of the Yuba Historical Society, which hopes to restore the property into a historical educational facility.

“It’s a wonderful place,” said Barth, who lived on the property in the early 1970s. “I would like to see it when it’s cleaned up and fixed up.”

Barth is negotiating to take over the $50,000 mortgage the institute owes on the property. He would then apply for state grants to restore the property, he said.

But so far, no written offers have been made to the institute, said Olmsted and Abe Evenich, the nonprofit’s president.

The institute’s board members, who live far apart, have run out of energy and are willing to sell the property to the Yuba Historical Society, Evenich said.

In the meantime, Olmsted said the institute needs to raise $19,000 by March 21 to avoid foreclosure on 55 acres of the 80 acres. (The property is split in two lots, he said.) A fund-raiser is planned March 16 at Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, he said.

Yuba Historical Society members plan a hike to the Yuba Powerhouse Feb. 3. For information, call 741-0509.


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