Historic Sites and Points of Interest in Nevada County
Like all Gold Rush settlements, Nevada City was first a camp and then a tent village It became a tinderbox town of wood buildings in 1853. Razed by fire, it was rebuilt; burned; rebuilt again. The worst fire destroyed 400 buildings on July 19, 1856, along with the new courthouse and all county records, Ten persons lost their lives.
Fire destroyed nearly all of the business district again in 1858 ,although a number of fire-proof brick buildings stood the test and preserved their contents. In less than a month, however, sixty-five new frame buildings were erected and construction of a half-dozen brick ones begun.
The fire menace, common to all early gold towns, aroused the citizens of Nevada City to action. In 1860, fire companies were formed, and by 1861 two firehouses had been built. Eureka Hose Company No. 2 completed a fire house near the head of Broad Street on January 14, 1861, a building still in service today. Nevada Hose Company No. 1 completed their building on Main Street on May 30 of the same year. (The elaborate wood front, a good example of Eastlake style, replaced the original plain front circa 1890.)
The Main Street fire house is considered to be one of the finest surviving examples of this kind of architecture in the Northern Mines area. It is the most popular subject in the city for photographers and artists and has become one of the best-known buildings in the gold country because of the many pictures of it in books and magazines. The building now serves as a museum for the Nevada County Historical Society.
Excerpted from the NRHP nomination for Nevada City Downtown Historic District.