The North Star House — Birth and Life
The North Star Mine located on Old Auburn Road in Grass Valley, encompassed over 700 acres of land and contained two main mine shafts, many operational buildings, stamp mills, and was a very active mine property from 1851-1956/ (See timeline.) In 1851 a rich gold vein was discovered two miles south of Grass Valley on the Auburn Road; it was called the Lafayette Hill Claim. A conglomeration of mines in the area became known as the North Star Mining Company in 1867. William Bourn II, Empire Mine owner, purchased it in 1883. In 1886 the main Incline Shaft was down 1500 feet and a 40 stamp mill was built on old Auburn Road. Mr. Bourn created a new water system to supply both the Empire Mine and the North Star. Mine water was pumped out using Cornish pumps. A Pelton water wheel supplied the power.
On February 18, 1887, Mr. James Duncan Hague, a mining engineer and New York City financier, purchased the North Star Mine from Mr. Bourn for $245,450. The corporate headquarters, first in San Francisco was shortly moved to 22 William Street in New York City. Hague consolidated many local mines including Massachusetts Hill, Boston Ravine, Gold Hill and New York Hill. The mine became more productive when the cyanide process was developed allowing for more gold to be removed from the crushed ore.
In 1887-1888, a complex of buildings were created at the site of the Incline Shaft; The Assay House and several business buildings, the head-frame, the Gardener’s Cottage and the North Star Cottage. The North Star Cottage, a Victorian style building, was the home of E.R. Abadie, the North Star Mine superintendent. It was a duplicate of the home of George Starr, Empire Mine superintendent.
The Old Massachusetts Hill mine was filling with water and Hague realized he would need a power plant to take care of all future developments. In 1895 he sent for his brother-in-law, Arthur DeWint Foote. Foote, a hydrologic civil and a mining engineer had worked on the Nevada Sutro Tunnel and an Idaho irrigation project. Foote designed and built the powerhouse and a 30 foot Pelton Wheel on Allison Ranch Road, using Wolf Creek water to power the equipment used to remove mine water. In 1991 Foote’s North Star Mine Powerhouse was designated an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. It is also on the National Register for Historic Places.
Mary Hallock Foote joined Arthur with their children, Arthur Burling (19), Betty (14) and Agnes (10) in 1896, shortly before he was appointed North Star Mine Superintendent.
In 1896 it was decided to sink a vertical shaft to intersect the Incline Shaft about ¾ mile from the Incline headframe. This shaft, called the Central Shaft, necessitated the construction of a new stamp mill, head-frame, cyanide plant, assay house and business office. By 1904, the operations at the Incline Shaft ceased. Almost all of the old operations were demolished except for the Assay House and the Gardener’s Cottage. The Foote’s still lived in the North Star Cottage.
In 1904, A.D. Foote’s son, Arthur Burling Foote, returned from a mining job in Korea to replace Gerald Sherman as North Star Mine Assistant Superintendent.
Later as the mine became more successful and prosperous there was a need for a more suitable social center for entertaining eastern investors, other mining owners and managers, visitors from San Francisco, and the gentry of Grass Valley. James Hague commissioned the house. He also was in competition with the Bourns who had the Empire Mine Cottage designed by Willis Polk, renowned San Francisco Bay Area architect. It is believed that Julia Morgan, whose father was a mining engineer, was introduced to Hague by her mentor Phoebe Hearst, wife of mining prospector George Hearst, and mother of William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper magnate. The Hearst’s, James Hague, the Foote’s and most of the social and business leaders of Northern California belonged to the Pacific Union Club of San Francisco, where much of the networking of the day took place. Arthur and Mary Foote worked with Julia Morgan on the arts and crafts design of the house.
Mr. Foote and Mr. Bourn also belonged to the University Club of San Francisco. Luther Burbank was a member of this club and A.D. Foote became his friend and admirer, as Foote was a mature horticulturalist.
The People of the North Star House
Arthur DeWint (A.D.) Foote b. 1849, Gilford, CT d. 1933, MA
- Yale University, Sheffield Scientific School, Civil engineer & surveyor
- Horticulturalist and photographer, acquainted with Luther Burbank
- Designed and built North Star Powerhouse and 30-foot Pelton water wheel (compressed air power) 1895
- Mining Engineer (hydraulics and deep mining techniques)
- New Almaden Quicksilver Mine, Santa Clara – cinnabar
- Leadville, CO
- Moralia, Michoacan, Mexico
- Idaho Mining & Irrigation Co., Boise, ID
- North Star Mine, Grass Valley, CA 1895 to 1929
- Engineered the building of Foote’s Crossing Road in 1911 (to access a mine he later owned)
Mary Hallock Foote (Molly) b. 1847, Milton, NY d. 1939, MA (buried in Grass Valley)
- School of Design for Women, Cooper Union, NYC
- Married A.D. Foote in 1876
- Illustrator of books and magazines (including The Scarlet Letter book cover, 1877)
- Author of short stories on “American New West” for The Atlantic Monthly, Scribners and Century Magazine
- Author of memoir: A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West
- Chicago World’s Fair Juror on Drawings, 1893
- Elected to the National Academy of Women Painters and Sculptors, 1894
Children of A.D. & Mary Hallock Foote:
Arthur Burling (A.B.) Foote (Sonny) b. 1877, New Almaden, CA d. 1964, Grass Valley, CA
- Boston Tech (MIT), Civil Engineer m. 1913, Jeanette Hooper of San Francisco, CA
- North Star Mine, Assistant Mine Manager – 1904; North Star Mine, Manager – 1913
- Raced his Model T over summit with Empire Mine superintendent George Starr in 1911
- Purchased North Star House in 1929. Jeanette dies in 1968 and their children sell house.
Elizabeth Townsend Foote Swift (Betty) b. 1882, Milton, NY d. 1949, Hingham, MA
- Married North Star Mine engineer Rodman (Tod) Swift. Daughter Agnes born in the North Star House.
- A.D. and Molly go to live with them in Massachusetts in 1929 when A.D. retires.
Agnes Foote b. 1886, Boise, ID d. 1904, Grass Valley
- Died at age 17 at North Star Cottage four days after appendicitis surgery.
James D. Hague b. 1836, Boston, MA d. 1908 Stockbridge, MA
- Harvard University and Frieberg University School of Mining, Germany. Geologist, Mining Engineer
- President, North Star Mine Company, 18 Wall St. NYC 1887 – 1908
- Resided in New York City and San Francisco
- Married to A.D. Foote’s sister, Mary Ward Foote
- Son, William, North Star manager after James’ death, commissioned Robert Peabody, Boston, to build Hague House in 1911. William died of pneumonia in France in 1918 during WWI.
Julia Morgan b. 1872, San Francisco, CA d. 1957, San Francisco, CA
- UC Berkeley in 1894, Civil Engineering
- Ecole Des Beaux-Arts (Paris) in 1903 – first woman to be admitted and earn a degree in architecture
- Worked for Howard John Galen, supervisor of the UC Master Plan. Designed the Beaux-Arts Hearst Greek theater, 1903. Became acquainted with Phoebe Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst.
- Became first licensed female architect in California. Opened her own firm in San Francisco in 1904.
- Embraced the First Bay Area Tradition Arts and Crafts movement w/ Maybeck, John Howard Galen, Brown, Polk.
- Favored reinforced concrete just prior to 1906 quake – reputation-making
- Designed the Arts and Crafts style North Star House in 1905
- Designed Hearst Castle for William. Randolph Hearst 1929 to 1947.
- Designed over 700 buildings.
- Awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Metal, 2014. First woman to ever receive this award.
The Hague House Connection
- In 1908, James Duncan Hague, North Star Mine owner, died at his summer home in Stockbridge MA. George Agnew became the new president of North Star Mine Co.
- Hague’s son, Billy Hague, 31 years old, was appointed Managing Director of the North Star Mining Co. Billy was born in New Jersey in 1882 and educated at Harvard, class of 1904. He worked for the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co. as a surveyor and geologist. He was instrumental in the construction of the Copper Queen smelting plant. He traveled the US and Mexico extensively to broaden his mining experience.
- Billy Hague and A.B. Foote are first cousins. In 1872, Billy’s father, James, married Mary Ward Foote, sister of A.D. Foote.
- In 1910, architect Robert Swain Peabody of Peabody and Stern, Boston, MA, was commissioned to build a craftsman style house for Billy, his wife, Elizabeth, known as Bessie. James Duncan Hague, their son named after his grandfather, was born on July 11, 1911.
- In 1913, A.D. Foote retired as mine superintendent and A.B. Foote assumed the job under Manager Billy Hague. A.D. remained as Consulting Engineer. As mine manager, Billy Hague set up a new accounting system; conducted air drilling experiments; conducted time studies of mining operations; obtained funding and directed the move of mining operations to the Central shaft on Allison Ranch Road. A new steel head was erected in 1915. A 60 stamp mill was running by 1917. The only equipment left at the old site was the Cornish pump. The original Assay House became a rental house.
- In 1918, Billy Hague died of influenza in France during World War I. After his death, Elizabeth and James continued to live in the Hague House. Helen Bontecou, a relative of Elizabeth’s, arrived from back east to be James’ governess. When James went to Tamalpais Boys school in Marin County, Helen became a Resident Mistress of the Katherine Branson School, a private boarding school in Ross, CA. (Note: all Foote daughters attended this school.) Helen returned to Grass Valley/Nevada City, opening an art gallery with artist Tyler Micoleau. Micoleau was married to Janet Foote, oldest Foote daughter.
- In 1929, when North Star Mine was sold to the Empire Star Mines Co. Ltd., Jeanette and A.B. Foote purchased the North Star House and about 170 acres. It did not include the Hague House still owned by Mrs. Billy Hague and her son, James.
- In 1945, a widowed granddaughter, Janet, returned to Grass Valley with her two children. Her mother, Jeanette, suggests that she move into the Hague House.
- The North Star Mine ceased all mining operations in 1956.
- In 1957, Newmont Mining Corporation Chairman Fred Searls, Jr. created a research station on the North Star 700 acres. The main goal of the North Star research was to understand and control bark beetle infestations. The research was administrated by The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, an affiliate of Cornell University. (The Boyce Thompson Institute, named for the founder of Newmont Mining Corp., is an independent research institute devoted to using plant sciences to improve agriculture, protect the environment, and enhance human health). The Central mine buildings were used as labs and offices. The Project Manager, Mr. Vite and his wife and twin daughters lived in the Hague House. Remodeling was done and the swimming pool was built. Bark beetle was eliminated in the 700 acre Ponderosa pine forest.
- After the Institute finished its work, The Hague House was used as a rental. It was vacant and falling into disrepair in 2002 .
- In 2002, a developer, Mr. Sanderson, purchased the 700 acres that included the Julia Morgan North Star House and the Hague House. He deeded 14 acres to the Nevada County Land Trust, now known as the Bear Yuba Land Trust.
- In 2006, the North Star Historic Conservancy became owner of the 14 acres and 4 buildings including the Hague House.