In 2003, the historic North Star House sat vacant. It was in poor condition and deteriorating to the point of near-collapse. Rain poured into the building from a failing roof and through broken windows. The interior had been vandalized, with all fixtures stripped and graffiti covered the walls. Piles of garbage and debris littered the floors. There was no heat, water or sewer. What occurred next to this building and the surrounding property is a remarkable story of perseverance and dedication by countless volunteers. But first, concerned citizens who had been trying to preserve the house had to get possession of it.
Acquiring the property: Sandy Sanderson, an Oregon developer, acquired the 700+ acres that were formerly the North Star Mine property, with plans to develop it. However, he recognized the historic value of the North Star House and transferred title of the house and 14 acres to a non-profit organization, Nevada County Land Trust (now the Bear Yuba Land Trust – BYLT). The property included the North Star House, the Hague House, the Assay Office and the Gardener’s Cottage.
Stabilizing the House: The house was getting close to collapse, so it was critical to obtain funding to replace the roof and stabilize the house against further deterioration. Fortunately, a former PG&E employee, Dryden Wilson, made a bequest of $880,000 to the County of Nevada to support open space protection and parks. The county Board of Supervisors voted to give $508,000 of that money to the Land Trust for preserving the North Star House and another project. The money was now available to do essential structural repairs, put on a new fireproof roof, and make the building water-tight.
Founding the North Star Historic Conservancy: The Land Trust’s charter is to preserve open space, not to restore historic buildings. The Land Trust accepted the property and the money to stabilize the house because the situation was urgent, but a new organization needed to be formed with the express mission of restoring the North Star House. In 2007, the North Star Historic Conservancy was formed as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
In 2015, ownership of the North Star House and property passed from the Land Trust to the North Star Historic Conservancy. Restoration work was already well underway, but it is a very large job and is being done with volunteers and donations. The grounds and first floor are now hosting events, concerts, weddings, meetings, lectures and other gatherings. We’ve come a long way and we still have much more to do. We are pleased that the historic North Star House is once again serving as a beautiful and very special gathering place for the community.
Details of the Dryden Wilson Bequest
Thanks to Dryden Wilson…
In 2002, a former PG&E employee named Dryden Wilson made a bequest of $880,000 to the County of Nevada to support open space protection and parks. The County invited selected organizations and agencies in Nevada County to submit proposals for the use of the funds, and the Executive Director of the Nevada County Land Trust (now the Bear Yuba Land Trust) was authorized to submit a request to the County Board of Supervisors for open space and conservation projects.
After much discussion between the Land Trust’s Executive Director and members of the Board of Supervisors, it was agreed that $508,000 should be granted to the Land Trust for two projects: 1) to begin preservation of the North Star House, and 2) to provide open space to the public within the planned Loma Rica Ranch development in Grass Valley.ﾠAn agreement was signed with the County prior to the close of 2002 providing the Land Trust with the agreed-to funds from the Dryden Wilson bequest.
The North Star House is Rediscovered
Nevada County’s grant from the Dryden Wilson bequest established the Land Trust as the only local organization with the mission of supporting open space and historical preservation, and now with the funding available to save the historic North Star House.
The Land Trust hired a project manager to carry out the terms of the grant agreement and negotiations began for the transfer of the property, including approximately 14 acres of land surrounding the North Star House, Gardener’s Cottage, Assay Office and Hague House, was leased to the Land trust by the Sanderson Company. The lease allowed the Land Trust to proceed with necessary preservation and protection procedures while a lot line adjustment and due diligence processes were underway to establish a separate parcel for the historic district. the separate parcel was established in 2004 and the property was transferred in fee title to the Land Trust.