Lola Montez was a woman of international intrigue, who performed her infamous “spider dance” to audiences around the world. Her dance was imitating a woman who had spiders climbing within her petticoats. Audiences considered her scandalous, amazing, and a delight to watch. Montez claimed to be born in Spain and became known as a Spanish dancer. Montez hid the truth that she was actually born in Ireland in 1818. Her name at birth was Mario Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert.
She had adoring fans spanning Europe and Australia. Montez married three times and enjoyed numerous affairs with men from around the world. One of her marriages was to Ludwig 1 the King of Bavaria, who named her the Countess of Landsfeld. She arrived in America in 1852, beginning a nationwide tour in New York and eventually reached the audiences in San Francisco.
Her home in Grass Valley was the only home she ever owned, a few houses down the street from Lotta Crabtree. When Montez arrived at the gold mining camps, she provided a little culture to their standard fare of entertainment. In addition to her immensely popular performances, Montez was skilled at gathering wealthy investors together to support the lagging quartz gold industry and the Empire Mine during its lean years. As a result of her efforts, the mining industry in the Grass Valley area continued to prosper for 100 years.
Montez married her third husband, Patrick Hull, a newspaper man in Grass Valley. They purchased their Grass Valley home and lived there from 1853 until 1855, when the couple left for Montez to perform in Australia. The next time they returned to the states, Montez sold the house and left Grass Valley behind. She returned to Australia first and then came back to New York to perform during the final years of her life. As her health failed and money ran thin, Montez died and was buried in New York in 1861.
The life and loves of Lola Montez have been portrayed by numerous performers in films, theater, books and music.
The current home that is marked as the historical landmark is a replica of the original house. The house is currently used as the office of the Grass Valley-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. The original house was torn down because its condition had seriously deteriorated.
The historical marker is located at 248 Mill Street in Grass Valley.
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.