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this page last updated: December 20, 2015

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North Star Central gold mining site
now home to a new Arts & Cultural History Institute.

by M. C. McGahan, NCAC Director of Development

The Nevada County Arts Council (NCAC) is creating an educational retreat for the study of the arts and cultural history of Nevada County, California. The site, formerly known as the North Star Mine, is just minutes from downtown Grass Valley off Allison Ranch Road and features historic structures, artifacts, personages, and stories from our region's gold mining history.

Old Assay Office at North Star Central

Backed by the philanthropic support of North Star property owner, Sandy Sanderson, and in collaboration with the Nevada County Land Trust, this partnership is creating the "North Star Historic District"; a 27 acre cultural heritage parkland which includes the North Star House, designed by America's premiere woman architect, Julia Morgan, and two historic structures which remain from the site of the North Star Central Shaft.

NCAC's 10-year project will focus on the sustainable use and preservation of our cultural heritage assets, and interpreting, integrating, and showcasing these major assets as key contributors to our community's quality of life, our place in California's history, and the enhancement of our region's international reputation.


Creating this educational retreat marks the rebirth of the Arts Council as a durable and significant community arts asset. Recovering from the legislature's virtual elimination of the California Arts Council (CAC) - and the subsequent loss of CAC support for our arts council's long-standing activities -- NCAC is forging a new vision with an exciting purpose.


Identifying and treasuring our historic traditions and our rural and cultural ways as essential and authentic resources of our region of California.

Historical and contemporary arts and culture play an integral role in enhancing Nevada County's quality of life by illuminating our character, reflecting and articulating our community's identity, preserving our history, and establishing icons for our future growth and community pride.

Central Mill at North Star Central

Celebrating our artistic and cultural assets as dynamic, energetic forces in the economic viability and social well-being of our community.


The North Star Institute is devoted to integrating interdisciplinary and intergenerational artistic and cultural expressions into our region's social fabric through creative arts education and cultural history.



NCAC's long-term goal seeks the attention of both national and international audiences interested in experiencing and appreciating our local historic resources through educational and heritage tourism programs.


Arts education forms the foundation of a linkage between our community's past and the future. Under the leadership of the Institute's first Director of Artistic Development, Gary Graham, art students from Sierra College will undertake the creation of historical images which celebrate the contributions of the North Star Mine to the ethos of Nevada County.

Map of North Star Central Shaft

Our Institute's start-up project is a public arts initiative which commends the architectural spaces of North Star Central's historic structures to the hands and inspirations of muralists, masters and apprentices alike, who seek the integration of history and art as complimentary forces which aim at inspiring community reflection and pride.


For information on artistic, historical and culture heritage educational opportunities offered by the North Star Institute, please call (530) 798-5955.


The digging of the North Star Central Shaft was a major enhancement of the mine’s productivity; a vertical shaft reaching downward to a level of 8,600' in pursuit of the rich but disappearing mother vein. Above ground, support structures were constructed of stone, concrete and stucco—including a headframe, hoist works and stamp mill (ruins of the foundations remain), and operational, processing and assay offices (three intact structures remain). These single-story, architecturally-functional buildings are being restored by the North Star Central project.


Collaborating with the North Star property owner, and the Nevada County Land Trust, to integrate a viable arts presence into the 760-acre residential and commercial development of the North Star property. NCAC is an originating partner with the Land Trust in the creation of a North Star Historic District; a significant community project that includes the full restoration and public reuse of the North Star House.

Evolving partnerships in the project include the North Star Powerhouse Museum, the Nevada County Historical Society, the Sierra Nevada Arts Alliance, the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, The Sierra Conservancy, and the Sierra Business Council.

Nevada County Arts Council

 "Life beats down and crushes the soul
 and art reminds you that you have one."
 ~ Stella Adler