Restoring an icon: North Star House volunteers show off restoration work |

Restoring an icon: North Star House volunteers show off restoration work

People mingle in the courtyard of the North Star House, designed by the first female architect in California, Julia Morgan, in 1905. The building was lost to disrepair before being saved and brought back to its current state.
Photo: Elias Funez

Volunteers at the North Star House have been busy during the pandemic.

While the doors were shut to the public, workers rolled up their sleeves and went full steam ahead with restoration work. Since beginning in 2006, volunteers have put in over 50,000 hours of work and have nearly finished restoring the entire first floor.

Members of the community got the opportunity to tour the recently reopened North Star House Saturday evening. People could sip wine and taste hors d'oeuvres while learning about the history of the building and future restoration plans.
Photo: Elias Funez

Next up is restoration of the second floor of the historic building, which will require much more work and volunteer hours.

“It’s such a benefit to the community,” said Tom Milam, board member with the North Star House.

An open house was held Saturday at the building, giving people a chance to see the renovations.

The North Star House was designed by famed California architect Julia Morgan in 1905, and was the first home designed by the first female architect in the state. The estate was built with the entertaining of mining clients in mind.

People sit in the lower rooms of the North Star House during an open house. Restoration of the lower floor has been completed and work on the upper floor now continues.
Photo: Elias Funez

“Kids came out here and had paintball wars,” Milam said as he described the poor state of disrepair the North Star House was in before volunteers decided to save it.

“As much as possible we’re trying to reuse and preserve the original materials,” Milam said. “In the next five years we’d like to have the upper floor roughed out.”

The second floor of the home is where the bedrooms were located and an art gallery dedicated in honor of longtime advocate for the North Star House, Peggy Levine, is being planned.

Restoration of the North Star House has been costly and taken time. The group is always looking for more volunteers.

“Landscaping, carpentry, general construction skills are always accepted. We’re always looking for volunteers in all types of different areas,” Milam said.

“We are currently searching for benefactors,” Milam added as the upgrades are a costly barrier to the restoration.

Members of the community on Saturday make donations and sign up to stay informed about the North Star House.
Photo: Elias Funez

In order to restore the house for public use, upgrades for health and safety need to be made.

“An elevator is $60,000 to $100,000, fire sprinklers $60,000 to $100,000,” Milam said.

As volunteers work toward the big milestones in their restoration work, the North Star House will continue to be made available for weddings and venues on the weekends.

For more information from the North Star House, visit

Volunteers serve wine during Saturday’s open house at the North Star House in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email, or call 530-477-4230

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User