Tag Archive for: throw back Thursday

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.



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.


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.