Nevada City’s quaint downtown has a new — and noticeable — addition to the National Exchange Hotel in the form of a large mural, a first for the downtown historical district, as well as the property which is a National Historical Landmark.
It took 10 days to add the art to the side of the building after a lengthy process of receiving permission from the city. The painting was done by local artist Cru, who was also responsible for the exterior signage on the National’s sister hotel, the Holbrooke in Grass Valley.
“We worked hard to ensure that every detail of the restoration was reflective of the Mother Lode architectural style of the Gold Rush era, so this mural was no different,” said Sherry Villanueva of Acme Hospitality, the hotel and restaurant group that holds the National under its umbrella.
“This type of hand-painted signage was quite common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” she continued, “and can also be seen in numerous historical references throughout Nevada City.”
Local artists Andrea Good and Rich Good were brought in to design the logo and mural design.
Andrea said, “Having the opportunity to redesign the National Exchange Hotel logo was a rare and special opportunity to work in our hometown on the visuals for a building that was already dear to us.”
The two performed extensive typographic visual research, familiarizing themselves with Victorian-era design and ornamentation, and gathered as many stories as possible about the hotel through the decades.
They worked with designers on the project like architects and interior designers, being careful to harmonize the outside art with the overall appearance of the structure.
“It was a dream job, from beginning to end, on a beloved focal point in the hometown,” Andrea said. “With a fantastic team of people; to be entrusted with bringing the hotel’s visual identity to life was an honor. The community has also been so supportive of the entire process. We had so much fun.”
The idea for the mural was brought up during the three-year renovation process, according to Villanueva. Following extensive top-to-bottom reconstruction, the National reopened for business in spring 2021. The property had originally been built in 1856.
Strict signage regulations have long been in place within the historical district.
“The city did make a change to its ordinance in 2021, before the National completed its remodel, that allowed for such an item (the mural) to be there,” City Manager Sean Grayson explained. “Previously, it would have been prohibited.”
“I think it’s beautiful,” I said. “It’s the gateway coming into the historic town.”
Stuart Baker, executive director of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t involved in the project, but said he could see it from his desk in his office on Union Street and each day saw the progress Cru was making.
“Yeah, I think it creates a sense of place, which is great,” said Baker. “And in this age of social media, those things help from an attraction standpoint. It really does a lot towards the place-making, and I think they were really thorough when they chose the right look and the feel to match the building.”
“I think it blends in so well.”
The National Exchange Hotel is at 211 Broad St. in Nevada City
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org