Nevada City’s National Hotel


Nevada City’s located roughly 90 minutes from Reno. Nestled among the firs and pines, at an elevation between 2500 and 3000 feet, it quickly became a prosperous town during California’s Gold Rush period.

I love to visit Nevada City because of its rich history and Victorian elegance.

The first miner to search for gold in the area was James Marshall, the same James Marshall from Sutter’s Mill, who in 1848 started the gold rush. In 1850, a man named Stamps was elected to the position municipal magistrate and named the city, Nevada.

The Native Americans who had inhabited the area for centuries were driven out and some even slaughtered.  For a time in the 1850’s there was a bounty placed upon the scalps of Indians.

The prospectors wanted all the land they could get, and they just came in and took it. It didn’t take long for the gold above ground to be mined, so in 1850 underground mining began.

Thirteen years later the State of Nevada was formed. As a compromise, the town was allowed to keep the name providing the word City was added. Hence — Nevada City.

With mining came the need for traditional amenities like saloons, livery stables, and living quarters. One of the first was the Bicknell Block, which opened in August 1856, which was also used as a stagecoach stop and telegraph, mail, and express center.

Later its name was changed to the National Exchange Hotel. In 1977, the old hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a California Historical Landmark as the National Hotel as one of the oldest continuously operated hotels west of the Rockies.

Nevada City businessman John J. Jackson, claims an 1898 meeting took place in Room 74, leading to the creation of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The hotel has also offered shelter to such notables as Black Bart,  Lola Montez, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Lotta Crabtree, and Herbert Hoover.

Of course, with over 150-years of existence — there’s bound to be a ghost story or two connected to the place.

One story is that the woman’s bathroom in the bar section’s haunted by a woman as patrons have seen her apparition. Her spirit’s believed to be connected to Room 48.

As the story goes, the woman owed a man money, but she refused to pay. So the man she owed money to, hid in her room’s closet and when she entered the room, the man cut her throat.

Then there’s the little girl who died of either mumps or the plague in Room 78. The girl’s name is Elizabeth and people have felt her presence, heard knocking while spending the night and seen what’s described to be a child riding a tricycle on the same floor as the room.

Finally, a full body apparition of a man in black pants, white shirt, black vest, and trimmed hair is said to have been seen walking up the hotels interior steps. Folks have reported seeing his side profile and then as they watched, he vanished.

As for Nevada City itself, in the late 1960s ordinances were revised to eliminate historically inaccurate storefronts and signage. The city also buried the power lines in the downtown area.

Gas lights made from original 1800s molds were placed along Broad Street and the Nevada Theatre was restored. Following restoration of the town, in 1985 the downtown area became a registered National Historic Landmark.

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