A Bird's-Eye View - Grass Valley, California

Like other towns of the Mother Lode Grass Valley exploded in population with the discovery of gold. Unlike most other boom towns, though, mining endured in this Nevada County town for over a century. Evidence of the impact of mining and sudden growth on the surrounding environment is found in an interesting source in the case of Grass Valley and many other American towns of the late 1800s: the bird's-eye view lithograph. Town boosters commissioned these wide angle artist's renderings to entice new businesses and population. Looking at a time series of bird's-eye views of Grass Valley provides a unique insight into not only the town's early history, but the environmental impact of its growth as well - particularly the impact on the surrounding forest.

Roll your mouse over the 1852 image below for a winter view of the town today.

Grass Valley





To Start You Thinking -

Each of the dates in the table above is linked to a different bird's-eye view of Grass Valley. The images will open in a new window for you to study. Use the buttons ( zoom buttons) in the upper left to zoom in and out. Drag the painting in the desired direction using the mouse to view a different portion of the display.

As you study each image complete the table in the Bird's-Eye View worksheet comparing and contrasting various aspects of the town and the surrounding region over the period from 1852 to 1889.

1) Write a general description of the changes in the landscape of Grass Valley and the surrounding hills over the approximately 50 years represented in the paintings. Specifically discuss changes in the vegetation you see in the paintings.

2) Describe the specific evidence in the paintings that allows you to draw conclusions about the use of timber products and the extent of that use in and around Grass Valley.

images from Robert E. Ogilby, artist, " View of Grass Valley [Nevada County, California, 1852" as found in the Online Archive of California, Identifier #BANC PIC 1963.002:0849--FR and

Rick Thomas, "View of Grass Valley, 2010." This picture was taken from the only semi open vantage point near those used by Ogilby and the other bird's-eye artists.

Last modified in February, 2013 by Rick Thomas