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South Yuba Canal Office (No. 832 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 South Yuba Canal Office is one of the oldest commercial buildings in northern California. Built in 1885, it was first known as the Potter Building and housed a drug store. From 1887-1890, the building was the headquarters for the South Yuba Canal Water Company office. In 1905, the South Yuba Canal Water Company entered the utility business and later merged with PG&E.

The first ditch was dug in 1850. Eighteen miles of canal provided water to both domestic and agricultural users. Three competitive ditch companies – Rock Creek, Deer Creek and South Yuba Canal - joined to form the South Yuba Canal Water Company in 1870. Once incorporated, the water company was the first to serve the needs of hundreds of local hydraulic mines and the Comstock mines of Nevada. The South Yuba Canal Water Company owned the largest network of water flumes and ditches in the state. Over time, the company built and operated a huge network of reservoirs, water ditches, and flumes that carried water for thousands of miles.

The Assay Office moved into the South Yuba Canal office in 1863. There was never even one robbery, although the building held as much as $27 million in gold at one time. This Assay Office was managed by James Ott, a cousin of John Sutter. One day Ott was visited by a miner who wanted to show off his new strike. The ore that Ott examined turned out to be silver and the miner’s new discovery triggered a second “Rush” as big a news story as when James Marshall discovered gold in Coloma. This new strike was the rich mines of the Comstock Silver mines of Nevada. Within a few years, the mines yielded $1 billion in silver. Miners rushed to Nevada to seek their fortunes in silver.

The historical marker is located at 132 Main Street in Nevada City.

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