Saint Joseph's Cultural Center
A Beautiful Landmark Monument and Community and Cultural Art Center
Historic Rose Garden . Weddings . Concerts . Dance . Yoga . Taiko Dojo . Moving Ground Studio
3rd Floor Artists . African Drumming . Grass Valley Museum . Classes
410 South Church St. Grass Valley, CA 95945 (530) 272-4725
Located on the Corner of Church & Chapel Two Blocks From Historic Downtown Grass Valley, California
Saint Joseph's Cultural Center
St. Joseph’s Cultural Center is a non profit organization dedicated to preserving a historic landmark for cultural activities in the community. It is owned and operated by the Historic Mt. St. Mary’s Preservation Committee. The building was completed in 1866 by members of the local community as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy.
Originally the Sisters moved here to teach the local children, but soon they were inundated with children orphaned by mining accidents. The Sisters then had several dormitories built for the orphans. Being the only orphanage in Northern California; children came from as far away as southern Oregon and Western Nevada. By the 1890’s there were over 400 orphans and 60 nuns. The nuns housed, clothed, fed and educated the orphans until the 1950’s.
After the nuns left in the late 1960’s, a group of concerned citizens took possession to preserve the building. In the early 1970’s the group received non-profit status and later State of California Historic Landmark status as well as listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, in addition to the Grass Valley Museum, the Cultural Center features 13 artist studios, Moving Ground dance studio, Earth Planet Museum, the historic rose gardens, and St. Joseph’s Hall. St. Josephs’ Hall, built in 1894, and is available for weddings, receptions, concerts, parties, business meetings, workshops, and recitals. The historic rose gardens have over 100 rose bushes, some over 100 years old, crepe myrtle trees, three kinds of Holly trees, the only palm trees in Grass Valley, and other flowering plants and trees.
The history of the buildings begins in the post Gold Rush days with the arrival of Father Dalton in 1865. The construction of a church and a school, under his administration, began in 1858. The Private School opened in 1860. In 1862, at Father Dalton’s request, a group from the Sisters of Mercy order in San Francisco was invited to visit the area. Later in 1863 a permanent contingent from the Sisters of Mercy returned to take up residence and take over the administration of the school (one for boys and one for girls). In 1865 construction began on what was to become the Convent building. The Sisters occupied the Convent in early 1866 and accepted their first group of orphans a month later. Soon more would follow.
The facility gained regional importance and expanded its influence on the region by developing three schools, the convent, St. Patrick’s church and assorted other buildings. The reputation was further enhanced by the founding of a “Select School” for young ladies in 1868, which provided advanced education for women in English, Literature, French, German, vocal and instrumental music. No small achievement for this locale only a few short years after the Civil War. So important it had become that for a time it was the home of the Bishop and center of Diocese.
Success, however, always comes at a price. Under pressure from its creditors for its building costs and from the cost of maintaining the orphanages; the Bishop threatened to sell the convent to settle its debts. It was saved by a special appeal to the local mining interests and other special events, a situation not too dissimilar to the present day.
The deaths of the Bishop and Father Dalton, the principal forces behind the development of the facility did little to dim the importance as the facility’s expansion continued through the end of the century with the addition of property and buildings; expansion of the convent, and finally the construction of St. Joseph’s Chapel in 1894.
A shift in the importance of the Convent began in the 1920’s. In 1927 the existing school building was constructed next door and the Sisters of Mercy merged with another order. In 1932 the orphans were relocated to St. Patricks’ Home in Sacramento. School continued in the Convent until 1968, when the Convent building was finally closed and the Sisters relocated. St. Josephs’ Chapel had been previously closed in 1965.
Copyright 2005 Saint Josephs Cultural Center