It's a bit hilly but still accessible for wheelchairs this laid back, pretty little town in the Sierra foothills about an hour or so east of Sacramento. Nevada City lacks a lot of cell phone service, spotty wifi, and no ATM that we ever found (or at least trusted) in this town of many cash-only businesses.
Parking's a little tight but we do find a spot off the side of Broad Street, the main thoroughfare of the old downtown district here.
Before lunch, we do a little exploring. Up at the top of the street, we find Pennsylvania Fire Station Number 2, built in 1861, with funds derived from donations and a grand ball.
The name was changed from Eureka to Pennsylvania a year after the company was formed but the plaque out front does not say why.
As we turn around and head back down, we can see the snow-capped mountains guarding Lake Tahoe poking up in the horizon.
Just before we get to the quonset hut shaped Bonanza Market, we come across a building under renovation. This is the Nevada Theatre, which...until Covid 19...had enjoyed 155 years of continous operation (circa 1865) and will continue to do so after the pandemic restrictions have lifted.
This makes it the oldest, existing theater on the west coast.
A quick stop at the local dive bar, the Mineshaft, and then we continue. Gold country dive bars are the best.
We make a stop in Utopian Stone, a jewelry store, so Letty can check out the jewelry. The Gold Rush era safes still keep the merchandise safe at night. There are several musuem-quality pieces here on display (but not for sale) that make for some interesting browsing. It's also interesting to see the jewelers at work fabricating new pieces.
At the bottom of the hill, we take a quick look at what used to be the assay office.
Then, it's a brunch of crepes and pancakes at the French-inspired Classic Cafe.
Hunger sated, it's time to explore the Gold Rush part of this trip. That means a short drive to nearby Grass Valley and the Empire Mine State Historical Park.
Up in the pines east of highway 49 and just south of highway 174, there is easy parking and fully accessible restrooms waiting to greet you. Into the gift shop and you can pay the entrance fee for the park. The park is divided into two areas...the mine itself and the Bourn Cottage, really a mansion, that the San Francisco based owners to stay in when they visited the diggins.
We start in the mine section. We've just missed the start of the docent-led tour so we're doing a self-guided tour. The first thing we see is the "secret room." This was off-limits to most mine employees back in the day and held a massive, scale model of all levels of the mine.
The model is still there and it is quite impressive. We're told that only the first inch down from the top of the model is still accessible (not to the public) and everything at two inches and below is flooded with water.
Outside, we've caught up with the tour group and listen to the docent for awhile but they've already passed the highlights that we want to see so we break off and continue on our own.
The Administration building is mostly inaccessible. Letty and I take a quick look inside to see the old furniture and scales before returning to Tim, waiting downstairs.
Next, it's off to the blacksmith shop where another docent has the coal-fired forge running hot and working. He explains to us that way out here in the middle of nowhere, mines had to be able to make their own parts for repairs thus many had extensive shops to do that.
Just across the street from the blacksmith is the main entrance to the mine. If you can walk, you can go down about 20 feet or so.
If not, you can still peer down the impressive shaft. There's also a mirror installed so those in wheelchairs who aren't tall enough to peer down can see the reflection. There are a number of exhibits here in the open air that can catch your attention but it's hard to compete with that mine shaft.
After the mine works, we head to the other side of the park to check out the "cottage."
There is a foundation of another house that used to be here but burned down.
Extensive lawns and gardens hide the access ramp pretty well but we find it and make our way to the porch of the house. There is at least one stair at each entrance, although the interior of the building is closed today anyway. We look through the windows to see the period furnishings in each room.
Done with our touring, we head back to the van to make our way back home.
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