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Firehouse’s disuse shameful

It began around the time Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s alleged “vault” on live TV, if you remember that debacle. And the results were about the same: Councilman Steve Cottrell’s treasure hunt is finally over.

In an act akin to grave-robbing, Cottrell’s eight-year quest to unearth the cornerstone from under Firehouse No. 2 and exhume its contents finally came to an end yesterday, all but unnoticed. It was a far cry from his original plans to invite the governors of California and Nevada to witness this event, along with the press. Broad Street would be closed for daylong festivities, and the speeches would run long into the evening.



Steve claimed to have evidence indicating the cornerstone might contain an ore sample from the Comstock Lode, gold nuggets from local mines, rare coins, documents, and other priceless treasures. We tried to tell him.

Nevada City likes to claim that Firehouse No. 2 has been “in continuous operation since 1861.” The truth is, the city has refused to allow any efforts by its own fire department to use, maintain or repair the building for more than a decade. (The balcony only recently received attention when it threatened to collapse and became a liability.)




During this time, Firehouse No. 2 has primarily served as dressing room and costume storage for the playhouse across the street, and occasionally as a public restroom during special events. It survived an attempt to turn it into another museum; and it survived Mr. Cottrell’s two previous (public) attempts at looting its cornerstone.

While it’s good to hear the building might finally get some long overdue repairs, it isn’t likely to serve as an active firehouse ever again. Today, the people who put their hopes and mementos into the new firehouse they built 140 years ago – those people would’ve probably wanted their belongings removed anyway.

Michael McGowen

Nevada City


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