St. Joseph’s Cultural Center is hosting a garden party Saturday, May 13th, noon to 4pm! Bring your own picnic lunch and sit on the lawns amidst 100 year old roses. There will be live music, a raffle, a bake sale, popcorn, and upstairs the newly renovated Grass Valley Museum will be open. Children are welcome. Admission is free!

St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley
St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley

If you drive down S. Church Street in Grass Valley to the end you will see a big white building behind a red brick wall. In between the building and the wall is a beautiful rose garden. There are wheelchair accessible walking paths between the lawns, and a trickling fountain in the middle. You can spread a blanket right on the grass and have a picnic, or there are benches available too. It is such a peaceful place. It is normally open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 am to 3 pm. But there isn’t enough staff to keep it open on the weekends so that’s part of why St. Joseph’s wants to have a Saturday party. We feel so blessed to be the custodians of this garden. We want to share it with everyone. 

The big Victorian building was built in 1866 and served as convent for nuns who ran an orphanage and a school. A hundred years later the last nuns retired and St. Joseph’s became a non-denominational non-profit whose mission is to serve the community by supporting cultural activities. The rooms on the top floor, where the nuns slept, are now rented out as artist’s studios at below market rates. The middle level housed school rooms and a parlor, and now is occupied by the Grass Valley Museum. The basement was the kitchen, dining hall, and storerooms, and now houses the Mt. St. Mary Thrift Store and more studios. At the end of the original stone and brick building is a wood framed chapel. It was added in the 1890s for the use of the nuns. Now it has been deconsecrated and we call it the Hall. It gets rented out for weddings and events and is lovely inside with tin tile walls and ceiling and stained glass. Many members of our community have been married there. 

The Grass Valley Museum will be open during the garden party and we hope everyone will wander up to it. It was closed over the winter and now is reopening with a new look. The volunteers have worked hard to rearrange the displays to tell our story. New items have been acquired or brought out of storage. Other museums in town focus on railroad and mining history, but our museum focuses on the women and children and daily life. 

The gold mines were dangerous places and many miners were killed in explosions. These accidents created orphans and “half orphans”. Half orphans still had a living parent, usually a mother who couldn’t care for her children without a husband’s support. The mother would send the children to St. Joseph’s. The museum has records and letters from the orphans. The nuns also operated a school and the museum has part of the old school room set up as it once was. Our modern children have fun seeing what school was like in those olden days before the internet. 

St. Joseph’s is a historical treasure but it needs some help to keep it from falling down. The Board of Directors has been assessing the need for repairs and is pursuing grants and fundraising ideas. Board meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome to attend. Opportunities for volunteers include helping in the garden or the museum or with fundraising or planning. It’s a nice group of people who work for St. Joe’s and we need more to join us. For more info call (530) 272-4725. 

The Board of Directors of St. Joseph’s would love to share our historical site with the community. We hope you will come for the roses and the music and enjoy the peace of our garden. 

Saint Joseph’s Cultural Center