Notes on the Geography of The Western United States: Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Downieville: Photo 6
Gold production started out with surface diggings north of town but soon turned to deep mining. Here: an over-the-fence peek at a miner's mansion: the Bourne Mansion of 1897. Designed by Willis Polk, it was built with waste rock from the nearby Empire Mine. The mine, which operated from 1850 until 1956 (barring a government-ordered closure during World War II), produced about 32,000 tons of gold--enough to form a cube about 7 feet square, and the Bourne family owned it from 1869 until 1929. Bourne senior, who died in 1876, was a San Francisco capitalist of the first order--owner of the Spring Valley Water Company and San Francisco Gas Company. It was his son, Bourne junior, who made the mine a world-class producer, with tunnels reaching a mile below the surface. Still, the stamp mill was so noisy that even Bourne didn't like living here and spent most of his time at Filoli, a mansion at the south end of the Crystal Springs lakes, south of San Francisco. Filoli was sold in 1936 to William Roth of the Matson Lines and in 1975 became a National Trust site. Meanwhile, between 1929 and 1956 the Empire mine belonged to Newmont Mining, today the world's biggest gold producer. The Empire was Newmont's first producing mine.
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