Nevada County Historical Society

Firehouse No. 1 Museum

“In The Heart of Historic Downtown Nevada City”

The historic Firehouse No. 1 museum is a diamond located in the heart of historic downtown Nevada City. The museum holds many of Nevada County’s hidden treasures and is a must-stop for all who visit Nevada City.

Completed in the Spring of 1861, this firehouse was home to Nevada Hose Company No.1 from 1861 to 1938. During those nearly 80 years, horse -drawn fire wagons, handcarts and “modern ” motorized fire engines rolled out the doors.

The brick building originally had a much simpler façade of the Greek revival style, with a tall bell tower. In the early part of the twentieth century, the facade was replaced by the present Victorian gingerbread front. Today the firehouse has become a symbol of Nevada City. It is probably the most photographed building in Nevada City, as visitors are struck by it’s Victorian grandeur.

The Nevada County Historical Society established this same building as its first museum, the Firehouse No. 1, in 1947. The museum has been staffed by volunteers and supported by visitor donations ever since. The Firehouse No. 1 museum hosts four main displays of Nevada County history dating from the late 19th to early 20th century.

The first display encountered when walking through the museum doors is that of the Nisenan Indians of the Nevada City Rancheria. The Nisenan have inhabited Nevada County for thousands of years. The Nisenan exhibit offers a wide range of cultural items including watertight baskets, ceremonial feather dance collars, arrowheads, hand game bones, pounding stones and an extensive photo display.

The Chinese exhibit is the next display visitors to the Firehouse No. 1 museum will encounter. The Chinese display houses altars from the Hou Wang and Kuan Yin Temples from Grass Valley’s Chinatown; 1877-1938. Other items of interest are opium pipes, cooking equipment and school mementos, all which are beautifully displayed in this historic collection from Nevada County’s Chinese pioneers.

If visitors have interest in the Donner Party, here is a chance to see actual items retrieved from the Breen and Graves cabins. The Donner Party relics were collected by C.F. McGlashan. Lastly, the upstairs of the museum contains an extensive collection of Victorian daily-life articles. This Victorian collection includes firearms, tools, household items, musical instruments, wedding gowns, toys and favorites of the kids; the miniature dollhouse.

Summer Hours (May 1 – Oct 31)

  • Wednesday – Sunday, 1pm – 4pm

Winter Hours (Nov 1 – Apr 30)

  • By appointment (for groups of 6 or more)
  • Phone: (530) 263-2496


214 Main Street, Nevada City, CA 95959

Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, Director