Grass Valley began its civilized credit with the Hill Nisenan, a branch of the Southern Maidu. The Nisenan settlements are based in a six mile radius within historic downtown Grass Valley. The Euro-American immigration to the area commenced in the 1840s, ending the native way of life for the Nisenan. Cabins and businesses were built in Grass Valley in the later 1840s and a Post Office was located in Centerville, which was changed to Grass Valley in 1852. Gold-bearing quartz was discovered in 1850. The gold mining activities continued sporadically for a long period of time with the Empire Mine and North Star as the largest out put in California, and was pivotal in attracting several ethnic groups to the area which still shape the character of Grass Valley.
Grass Valley’s historic downtown core, fifteen blocks, continues to be the major supplier of goods and services to the community. The historic downtown still serves the needs of the community and is maintained as a retail, professional and civic center. The area houses scores of buildings that date back to the 1850s and has been the continuous shopping center for western Nevada County. The downtown district includes a 1942 deco movie house, the Del Oro, the contemporary Center for the Arts performance center, City Hall, police department, Post Office and a Carnegie Library.
The Grass Valley Downtown Business Association, GVDA, is organized using the National and California Main Street organization concepts. The GVDA continues to be the longest running Main Street program in California and the only Main Street Program in the Sierra.
Grass Valley is a community which demonstrates the sustained existence of a retail downtown that provides all of the services needed with its 25 food establishments, new and used book stores, markets, home décor, financial and apparel. The downtown is the hub of Grass Valley. The GVDA works to maintain a balance in business types and services offered throughout the area that serves close to 70,000 local residents.
Downtown Grass Valley is still a hustle and bustle town with an active events calendar, a great shopping area, restaurants and history. It is adjacent to high quality parks such as the Empire Mine, the Nevada County Fairgrounds, museums and the Yuba River.