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Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy (No. 855 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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The Grass Valley Museum was once an orphanage, a convent and a school. The Sisters of Mercy took pity on children who had parents working in the mines due to mining accidents or illness. Conditions were harsh in the mines, and within the first year after the orphanage opened, nearly 70 children were taken in.

The cornerstone was laid in 1865 and a year later, the children came. The three-story Victorian mansion cost nearly $20,000 to build and became the first home for orphans located in the Northern Mines.

From 1866-1932, Mount Saint Mary’s was an orphanage. It remained an academy until 1965 and a convent until 1968. Today, as a museum open year round to the public, the building includes an original classroom, parlor, music room, a doctor’s office and memorabilia from the early days of Grass Valley.

Mount Saint Mary’s is located at 400 South Church Street in Grass Valley.

Nevada County

Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish. During winter months, Nevada County’s eastern border is wholly engulfed in the snows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In the 1840s and 1850s many emigrants arrived in California via the Overland Emigrant Trail which threaded through the infamous Donner Pass.

Time Period Represented


Nearby Places