Tag Archive for: history

Stone Hall Chandeliers

Stone Hall Chandelier

Kat Alves Photography


Many of the most unique touches in the Miners Foundry were salvaged from demolition projects across the world.  Charles Woods and David Osborn, creators of the American Victorian Museum, were masters at seeing beauty where others only saw junk.  The collection of chandeliers in the Stone Hall are examples of their vision.

The chandeliers date from the Victorian era and were purchased from an English church undergoing a renovation.  Many elements of what is today considered Victorian style didn’t become popular until later in the reign of Queen Victoria.  Victorian style often included interpretations of historic styles fused with new influences from the Middle East and Asia.

The chandeliers were in storage until Osborn/Woods purchased and renovated the Miners Foundry, granting new life to forgotten works of art.



Andrew Smith Hallidie


Another famous inventor to have worked at the Miners Foundry in the 1800s is Andrew Smith Hallidie.  Best known as the inventor of San Francisco’s cable car system, he is believed to have spent time at the Nevada Iron & Brass Foundry Machine Shop (known today as the Miners Foundry) from October of 1861 to May of 1862.

Born in London in 1836 as Andrew Smith, Hallidie was apprenticed to a machine shop and and drawing office.  In 1852, Hallidie sailed for California, where he became a gold miner, blacksmith, surveyor, and builder of bridges.  While working on a mine at American Bar, Hallidie invented wire rope, solving the problem of rapid rope deterioration in mining.

The Clay Street Hill Railway cable car line began service in September of 1873.  Accounts differ as to the extent of Hallidie’s involvement in the design, building, and implementation of the cable car service, however he was the primary patent holder and is generally considered the inventor of the cable car.


Remembering the AVM

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A personal history by Jonathan Meredith

I first came to Nevada City in 1975 and started playing guitar music at the American Victorian Museum in 1976.  I was hired by David Osborn and Charles Woods to play Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday brunches. The AVM restaurant was managed by several different people as David and Charles were still living in San Francisco involved with City Opera. I played at the AVM Sunday brunches for about 10 years. Osborn and Woods not only owned the Foundry building but also some of the buildings on Spring Street with some other partners. I joined the AVM board when negotiations were under way of splitting off the Spring Street properties from the Foundry property which was around 1982.

I was mostly a silent member of the board as OW made all the decisions of the functioning of the AVM. I did help with some minor plumbing repairs and decor decisions. I was able to produce a successful Scott Joplin ‘Ragtime’ show than ran annually for four years. We also produced ‘Songs and Stories of the Gold Rush’, a song and dance play of the Gold Rush era. It lasted about three or four years as well.

Some other production of the AVM were the “International Teddy Bear Convention” that, at first, had 3 or 4 thousand people attend for a full weekend. The first one had a toy bear come over from England in the cockpit of an English airline to attend the festival. I danced the ‘hokey pokey’ as ‘Shorty’ the 9 foot stilted teddy bear. The Foothill Theater Company started at the AVM and did a few plays each year. When we got KVMR started we had to go to the top of Banner Mountain with our vinyl records on our backs if the snow was too deep and the cars couldn’t make it up the road. Originally David and Charles wanted to call the station KAVM but that handle was taken by a Coast Guard ship in California.

The AVM was an eclectic collection of Victorian era artifacts and ephemera as well as local artist displays and galleries. The AVM was always a cultural center and now has improved and expanded into the Miner’s Foundry that fulfills the original Osborne/Woods vision more efficiently and better oversight.

4 Stamp Mill

Moira McLaughlin

Moira McLaughlin

The four stamp mill in front of the Miners Foundry building is a wonderful example of how a community working together can preserve its history.

The Stamp Mill

Kat Alves Photography

In 1991, the parts from a gold stamping mill were donated to the Miners Foundry.  The parts had originally belonged to the donor’s grandfather.

The Native Sons of the Golden West accepted the challenge of restoring the parts and reassembling the mill.  The iron parts of the mill had endured the passing years well, while the wooden timbers disintegrated when the initial transfer to the Miners Foundry was attempted.

Using the dimensions of the iron parts, volunteers were able to ascertain the size of the original vertical timbers and horizontal beams.

By 2000, the project was complete and today the stamp mill greets visitors as they arrive at the Foundry.



Faces of the Foundry – Jesse Locks

Jesse Locks


The talented and spirited Director of the Nevada City Film Festival has a second role as the Marketing Director for the Miners Foundry.  Today Jesse Locks shares her thoughts on community connections, historical preservation, and the importance of sharing stories, plus a shout out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Are you originally from Nevada County?

Yes, born and raised, but I moved back to Nevada City in 2007 after being gone for ten years. During that time I went to college, lived up and down the West Coast while working in publishing.

How did you first discover the Miners Foundry?

The Miners Foundry has always been a huge part of my life. I remember the Seven Hills Medieval Feast, going to Fright Night (for the kids) and seeing bands like Cake perform, but I think the most profound show was the two night concert for Roger Hodgson’s Rites of Passage show.  I grew up with his daughter and son, and that was the first time I was part of a major event.

What were your initial impressions of the Foundry?

I’ve always loved the Miners Foundry. It feels like a second home.  Even today I walk through the halls and feel so connected to not only my personal past but that of my community’s. I have such respect for David and Charles and the many others who had the vision and foresight to protect this cultural and historic asset for future generations to enjoy.

How long have you been working for the Foundry?

I think it has been three years now.

What do you like the best about the Miners Foundry?

I love that so many different community and performing arts events happen under the roof of the Miners Foundry, but what I like best is that connection to the past. It is imperative for us to know where we come from to understand where we can or need to go. I love that the beautiful stone fireplace has warmed people for more than 150 years.

What are your favorite types of events at the Foundry? Why?

In addition to working for the Miners Foundry I work with several organizations that hold events (Nevada City Film Festival, Paul Emery, Music in the Mountains, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, etc) there as well plus I was one of the founders of the wildly successful Nevada City Craft Fairs and instrumental in bringing the Red Hot Chili Peppers to perform, but my favorite types of events are the student spelling bees. It is so much fun to have so many young people together at one time.

Do you have a funny or touching story to share about the Foundry?

Many year’s ago the Miners Foundry asked me to help produce a video for their 150th anniversary and part of a series of short films for Nevada County Arts. I had the opportunity to interview many individuals who were instrumental over the years including Alan Haley, Wyn Spiller, Ellen Davis, Paul Matson, and Charles Woods and Mike Nevius who have both passed away now. To listen to them all share their stories and their love of the building brought tears to my eyes and I felt this overwhelming responsibility to help protect and preserve the building. I think the only place in Nevada County that is more loved than the Miners Foundry is the Yuba River.



What advice would you give someone planning to attend an event at the Foundry?

Take the time to walk around the building and look at the various artifacts and relics, read the signage and soak in the history, because there is no other place like it in the world.

Would you encourage others to become involved with the Miners Foundry? Why?

Absolutely, as a community entrusted with these beautiful historic buildings we must get involved in the continued preservation and up keep of them, and that includes donating one’s time or talents and definitely becoming a member.


Charles & David

Charles & David - Front of AVM

Calling all Nevada County history buffs!  We’re hoping someone can tell us the back story of this great photo.  If you know, please send an email to [email protected]

As the origins of the photo are murky for now, consider it a Happy Easter from the Miners Foundry, throw back Thursday style!


The Pelton Wheel

Pelton Wheel

Invented in the 1870s by Lester Allan Pelton, the Pelton Wheel revolutionized hydro-power and hydroelectricity.

Manufactured at the Miners Foundry, the Pelton Wheel is an impulse type water turbine which extracted energy from moving water, as opposed to water’s dead weight.

Pelton Wheel

Pelton Wheel

The paddle geometry design used by Pelton meant when the rim ran at half the speed of the water jet, the water left the wheel with very little speed extracting almost all of the water’s impulse energy.

There are a number of Pelton Wheels on display at the Miners Foundry and around Nevada City.  The floor of the Upper Gallery is decorated in honor of the largest single pour of  a Pelton Wheel in history.


The Stone Hall

Stone Hall entrance

Built in 1859, the Stone Hall is the oldest section of the historic Miners Foundry.  The Foundry has always moved in conjunction with Nevada City, adapting its use to serve the community for the last 160 years.  Initially named Nevada in reference to the snow capped mountains surrounding the area, Nevada City was incorporated in 1856.  As Nevada City grew to become the most important gold mining town in the state of California, businesses to serve the mines grew with it.

Kat Alves Photography

Kat Alves Photography

In an effort to prevent the roaring fires continually ravaging the city (seven times by one estimate), one of the first ordinances passed by the City of Nevada City stated the Foundry must be outside the city limits.  The area presently known as 325 Spring Street was outside of the City limits in 1859.  Using native stone and local timber, the Stone Hall was built to withstand the fires used to manufacture parts for the gold mines.


Upper Gallery Ceiling

Kat Alves Photography

Kat Alves Photography


“Charles & David saw beauty in all people, animals, and things, even when they were considered junk by others. ” ~ Paul Matson

To see one of the most beautiful areas in the Miners Foundry, simply look up.  The ceiling in the Upper Gallery is one of many items (including the Foundry building itself) saved from demolition by David Osborn and Charles Woods, founders of the American Victorian Museum.  Charles & David spent much of their time seeking out forgotten or unwanted items and restoring them. 

Myrmyr 167

Yulyia M. Photography

The pressed tin tiles in the Upper Gallery were salvaged from a drugstore in Colfax, CA that underwent renovations in the 1970s.  It’s believed the building may have originally been the Butler Drugstore, established by one of the founding fathers of Colfax between 1870 and 1875.  The original site can still be seen in Colfax, and is now known as The Old Pharmacy Building.

Immediately sensing the potential of the tiles, Osborn & Woods purchased the tiles, began the restoration process, and eventually installed them in the ceiling of the Upper Gallery.  The ceiling remains a wonderful reminder of how seemingly worthless objects can be re-purposed and enjoyed by generations to come.


May Martin Goyne

May Martin Goyne

The consummate blend of professional, philanthropist, community leader, and supporter of the arts, May Martin Goyne continues to inspire women in Nevada County.  Born in Nevada City in 1875, May spent the majority of her life here, graduating from Nevada Union High School.  At the age of 12, May visited England to attend Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (where she was presented to the Queen) and was inspired by the vibrant theatre tradition of London.   Love of the arts would guide May throughout the rest of her life.  Her father, a successful miner, purchased the Miners Foundry in 1907, beginning her long association with the building.

Paper dolls inspired by May Martin Goyne

Paper dolls inspired by May Martin Goyne

May worked at the Miners Foundry as the office manager and bookkeeper, successfully combining the skills needed to run a machine shop with the grace and talents of a lady of the early 1900s.   Through her marriage to Richard Goyne (whom she met at the Foundry), May found a devoted partner who shared her life and loves.  Although Dick and May continued to own and work at the Miners Foundry until 1957, their shared passion for the theatre, arts, music, and community filled their private lives.

Deeply entrenched in Nevada County, Dick and May spent much of their time giving back to the community.  The Goynes encouraged the local schools to offer music lessons and often anonymously provided musical instruments for children whose parents were unable to do so.  May was a driving force in the cultural life of Nevada City, involved in nearly every parade, play, or musical production.  Dick regularly dressed up and led the annual Donation Day parade in Grass Valley with his beloved dog.

Although May passed away on March 8, 1962, her energy and enthusiasm continue to inspire those who visit the Miners Foundry.  It continues to be a place where arts, culture, and community meet to celebrate life.  We hope May would approve.

Faces of the Foundry – Glady Birdsong



One of the most devoted supporters of the Miners Foundry is Glady Birdsong.  Glady has served on the Miners Foundry Board of Trustees for many years (currently as Secretary) and is very involved with the Nevada City community.  We are so thankful for her dedication, graciousness, and the cookies she routinely supplies to our staff!


Are you originally from Nevada County?  If not, why did you decide to move to Nevada County?  Where are you from originally?

I was born in San Francisco, but spent my childhood in the Middle East. My husband Larry and I retired from the Bay Area and moved here in 2001 after visiting for years.

How did you discover the Foundry in the first place?

I attended a classical piano performance at the Foundry several years before we moved here.

What were your initial impressions of the Foundry? 

I was very impressed with the beauty and history of the site, and the fact that such a small town has a beautiful, diverse Cultural Center.

What do you like the best about the Miners Foundry?

It’s versatility. It is historical, yet hosts the most modern music and art forms. The variety of events is impressive.

Why did you choose to become involved with the Foundry? 

I love history, and this building, which embodies our Gold Rush history. Preservation of this treasure is certainly worthy of my efforts. I strive to involve others, too.

How long have you been serving on the Board?

I first served on committees and joined the Board in 2007. I served as president for 5 years, and now serve as secretary.

What types of events do you most enjoy? 

Music, art exhibits, the Robert Burns dinner, parties. I have attended several very moving memorial services there.

Would you encourage others to become involved with the Miners Foundry?  Why? 

Everyone loves the Foundry, but many do not realize the Foundry receives no regular government funding. We are very much dependent on donations. If everyone who says they love the Foundry made a small donation we could further restore and improve the building. The top of my list of improvements we could accomplish with more funds is to implement a self-guided tour with a hand-held recording device like you use in museums. We would install signage and old photos so people could clearly see what the building was like when it was a working foundry. We have an amazing, dedicated and talented staff who are key to the success of the organization. We appreciate them!


The Joseph Mayer Organ

Organ Concert in the Great Hall - AVM

Although many historical pieces on display at the Miners Foundry, the Joseph Mayer pipe organ is a definite favorite.  Born May 27, 1823 in Baden Wurttemberg, Germany, Joseph Severin Mayer was the first builder of organs in California.  He immigrated to the United States in 1853 and initially worked in several organ factories in New York City.  Eighteen months later, he left for California to try his luck in the gold fields.  He prospected throughout the Mother Lode Country, but fortune did not favor his quest.  He settled in Marysville in 1856 and eventually moved to San Francisco, where he established a successful organ business on the south side of Page Street, near Octavia.  Joseph Mayer passed away on October 15, 1909 in San Francisco.

Joseph Mayer Organ

Kat Alves Photography

The organ was originally built in 1872 for a Jewish Temple located on lower Post Street.  The congregation moved to a new building near Laguna in 1899.  The organ moved with the congregation and therefore survived the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.  The Temple later became the Zen Soto Mission, a Buddhist sect and the organ, not needed for services, was nearly forgotten.  In 1966 a pipe organ technician named Paul Alexander discovered the organ in a dilapidated state and spent the next five years rebuilding it, together with Robert Hunt.  The keyboards, main frame, manual actions, stop knobs, and wooden pipes are all original.  Of the twenty eight organs built by Mayer in San Francisco, the only piece surviving to this day is the organ housed at the Miners Foundry.


The organ was purchased in 1974 by David Osborn and Charles Woods, and installed in what was then the American Victorian Museum, now known as the Miners Foundry Cultural Center.  A dedicatory recital was given by Reiko Oda-Lane on November 30, 1974, one hundred and two years after the organ was built.  Many more organ concerts followed, to the delight of the Nevada County community.  Sadly, the roof over the organ deteriorated over the years and leaks caused severe damage to the instrument, rendering it not playable.  The organ remains a favorite historical piece for all who visit the Miners Foundry, and is a feature of our annual Fright Night Celebration.