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Stories from the valley

The Gold Rush Town of Nevada City: A Historic Gem

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

Although Nevada City is a small town nestled in the Sierra Foothills, this historic gem is a favorite destination of many. Each December, the picturesque community welcomes a host of holiday revelers from throughout Northern California, whisking them back in time at their Victorian Christmas celebration. Nevada City gained national notoriety in 2006, when Hallmark released The Christmas Card, filmed in the downtown section.

My latest visit to Nevada City took place on a quiet weekday afternoon when friendly locals filled the shops and tourists were in short supply. The leisurely pace enabled me to stroll the streets, stopping to snap photos as often as I wanted. Given the wealth of historic buildings, I paused frequently.

The elegant United Methodist Church, one of the oldest existing churches in California, sits at the top of Broad Street. The current building was constructed in 1864 after its two predecessors were lost to fire. The Nevada Theater down the street is California’s oldest existing theater. Built in 1865, such dignitaries as Mark Twain and Jack London have appeared on its stage. The South Yuba Canal Building—home to the Chamber of Commerce and visitors center—and Ott’s Assay office, located at the base of Main and Commercial Streets, are the oldest business buildings in town.

Many prominent figures called Nevada City home, including US Senator Aaron A. Sargent. Among his many contributions, he authored the bill that created the Transcontinental Railroad and the Anthony Amendment that gave women the right to vote. The Sargent House, a private home with a lovely rose covered arbor, located a short walk up the hill from the United Methodist Church, is one of several stately Victorians sprinkled throughout the town.

Touring the town and climbing its hills can work up an appetite. My husband and I satisfied ours with a visit to the Nevada City Classic Café. The small restaurant offers a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, and crepes. The owner, Genevieve, who once danced professionally in Paris, took good care of us. She let me pose with my Christmas Card club sandwich and curly fries, a tribute to a special scene from the movie filmed in that very spot.

The 42nd annual Victorian Christmas taking place Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons from December 8 through December 22, 2019 would make a great time to experience Nevada City. (Follow this link for times and directions.) The sounds of strolling carolers, scent of roasting chestnuts, and sightings of costumed Victorian characters combine to create a festive atmosphere. Visitors are encouraged to don their period finery, too, adding to the fun. Vendors lining the streets will offer a wide variety of handcrafted Christmas gifts, delicious foods, and more.

If you have yet to experience all Nevada City has to offer, I highly recommend a visit. Whether on a peaceful afternoon or during December when the town is filled with merrymakers and holiday cheer, you’re sure to have a wonderful time.