One of California’s oldest existing theater buildings opened for the first time in September 1865. During the early year of the Nevada Theatre, Mark Twain, Jack London, Emma Nevada and Lotta Crabtree were regular performers.
Today, the 200-seat Nevada Theatre is used year round for stage plays, variety shows, poetry readings, film showings, graduations and community meetings in Nevada City. Six different theatrical companies use the space.
Residents of Nevada City decided to form the Nevada Theatre Association in 1863 to purchase the remains of the burned out 3-story Bailey House Hotel. The group planned to salvage some of the usable bricks and raise money to build a new theater. Their success came quickly. By 1865 visitors were enjoying the first of thousands of performances at the new Nevada Theatre. By 1909, fortunes changed for the theater. The movie industry was becoming more popular and the owners decided it was time to update the theater to meet the community’s interest in a movie house.
The building was reconfigured to show movies and continued as a movie theater until it closed in 1958. The building owners blamed the development of television and a sluggish economy on reduced box office revenue. When the theatre closed, it was called Cedar Theater.
Once again, a community group formed to save the theater. The nonprofit group, now called The Nevada Theatre Commission, took over the theater and has maintained it ever since. The theatre has undergone several stages of upgrades and remodeling during its long life.
The Nevada Theatre is located 401 Broad Street in Nevada City.
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.