Memorial for NC artist and preservationist Charles Woods planned for March

Charles Woods at his Teddy Bear Convention at Miners Foundry
Nevada City artist, preservationist, KVMR co-founder and longtime resident Charles Woods died peacefully Thursday, and a memorial is planned for March. He was 79.

“He was with friends all day . . . and to the very end,” said his friend and former Nevada City Mayor Paul Matson. “We will put together a memorial, honoring and celebration, most likely in March. What a great friend he was to us all.”

I admire Paul for his help and support for Charles, as Charles’ health deteriorated since the fall. He sent all of us regular updates.

I admire Charles for all of his talents, helping to revitalize Nevada City. In this digital age, Charles always took the time to send hand-written notes thanking me and others for our support with his Northern Sierra Foothills Alter Show at the fairgrounds. We sent a note to Charles last month, thanking him for all he had done.

Charles was born and raised in Winona, Minnesota and got his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota. He completed a Master’s Degree in Art History from UC Berkeley.

Along with David Osborn, Charles had been an artistic force in Nevada City for over 50 years. (David passed suddenly on Jan. 10, 2002). Their business was Osborn/Woods.

Charles and David (photo: Bob Wycoff)
“In 1957, while doing a bit of design work for an avant-garde Christian shop in downtown SF, they came across Jubilee, a new Vatican II pictorial magazine, with a photo of Harold Berliner on the cover. Berliner ran a greeting card company up in Nevada City, and David and Charles contacted him to see if they could work on a collaboration. They were invited to come visit Nevada City, a former mining town 3 hours north of San Francisco that they soon called home,” according to GravelandGold.com. (Details here.)

By the late 60′s, Gary Snyder, Utah Phillips and a host of authors and musicians were following their footsteps north. Others who were inspired to do the same included Paul Perry, who came from San Francisco to become the first Artistic Director of Music in the Mountains.

“Along with running the Osborn/Woods store, David and Charles took an interest in a whole bunch of projects serving the Nevada City community. Their first big step was to save the old Miners Foundry from dilapidation,” said GravelandGold.

Miners Foundry
They purchased the building in 1972. They christened it the American Victorian Museum, and it remained in their ownership until 1990, at which time it became the Miners Foundry Cultural Center.

The Victorian Museum was a hub of civic and cultural activity for nearly 30 years, drawing the likes of Jerry Brown, Allen Ginsberg, Snyder, Burgess Meredith and General William Westmorland.

The Teddy Bear Convention, Foothill Theatre Company and Performing Arts Guild Children’s Theatre all had their beginnings at the American Victorian Museum.

Their extensive collection of “Victoriana” found a home at the museum, including the last remaining organ created by Josef Mayer, California’s first professional organ builder and glass shades salvaged from a demolished English church.

“Much of what Nevada City offers today is the result of the vision and good works of Charles Woods and David Osborn,” said long-time Nevada City Manager Beryl Robinson.

Added Bob Wycoff, a long-time friend: “Together they left behind many significant footprints in the community they came to love.”

Woods adamantly opposed the construction of a freeway through Nevada City. He and David retreated to the Bay Area as “refugees” during the freeway construction.

Charles and David were the original holders of KVMR’s FCC broadcast license.

“Nevada City itself owes Charles and David a tremendous debt for their efforts in starting KVMR, in establishing the town as an historic destination, and for establishing the vision necessary to begin turning a run down building into a community resource,” according to the station.

They also designed the poster for the first Father’s Day Bike Race, now in its 51st year and known as the Nevada City Classic.

Charles’ professional background included working at the Henry J. Kaiser Corp. as senior chartist, graphic design for Cost Plus and the Berkeley Co-op and greeting card design for the de Young, Crocker and Denver Art Museums.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

14 thoughts on “Memorial for NC artist and preservationist Charles Woods planned for March”

    1. I was David’s and Charles’ niece, and it is not far wrong to say that the two of them greatly influenced my life and my sense of aesthetics. I will really miss Charles

  1. What a loss for our community and what an indelible mark he has left on Nevada City: some equivalent to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You will be missed by many, Charles. Thank you for dreaming up such a wonderful community for all.

  2. I have many fond memories of the Osborn/Woods store on Commercial St., going back to my teen years. It was the forerunner of the Gray Goose and all the other quirky gift stores that now exist downtown. The building next door (on the corner) housed the Selective Services (draft) offices.

    1. As a child I used to go there frequently, when we were up visiting David’s father (my grandad). I remember the shop being set up, and I remember their amazing apartment above, with the swing chair and all of the carpets.

    2. While I didn’t know them personally, I remember the name Osborn and Woods from when I was really little! My mom used to take me in with her while she browsed the exotic scents of the perfumes, incense and candles which were plentiful in the store.

      This is why I remember, to this day, the smell of the place as I walked in as a child; it was the early ’70s I believe. It smelled of sandalwood which I can easily recall if I close my eyes and inhale.

      This place will always be emblazoned in my psyche. What great memories.

  3. David and Charles brought a sense of sophistication to Nevada City early on with their beautiful graphic design work. Their vision for Osborn & Woods and the American Victorian Museum was brought to life because of their keen eye for aesthetics and historic preservation. Charles’ talent and gentle nature graced the streets of our town, and he will be remembered always by the legacy that he left.

  4. I always thought of Charles and David when mounting various productions in the Foundry during the ’90s. Though it was no longer the AVM, you could feel their roots underneath.

    A fitting tribute to them would be to name a new performing arts facility in Nevada City in honor of their legacy. Once we’re out of this recession and arts growth is again on the table, I would love to see built somewhere in or near downtown Nevada City, the new Osborn-Woods Performing Arts Center.

    1. Yes, they truly had the original vision Michael. I remember the first time I stepped inside the AVM in 1977, feeling that someone had an incredible eye for detail, let alone a vision for possibilities. It was David and Charles. A performing (and visual!) arts center in their honor would be so perfect.

  5. I knew Mr.Woods through my association with the Altar Show.
    My husband Brad and I are so very sad that David did not live to see his former house restored.
    The completion date was January 2011, but things come up unexpectedly sometimes and have to be addressed.
    I was thinking of a plaque somewhere on the property to commemorate Woods and Osborn.
    Brad came up with the idea of installing a time capsule in the attic of the house, with a history of the owners who loved and cared for this fabulous old building through the decades.
    Any ideas out there would be welcome.

    Judith Lowry-Croul

    1. It has to be a fairly good-sized capsule, since you’re going to need to put at least a few teddy bears in there!

      PS I agree with LeeAnn that the visual arts should be equally represented in the new Osborn-Woods Visual and Performing Arts Center in fabulous downtown Nevada City.

  6. I just heard the sad news on his beloved KVMR.
    What a sad feeling many of us now have to hear about Charles’ passing. I worked [volunteered really] at the AVM every weekend just after Charles and David saved it from the bulldozer which was clanking & rumbling down the road when the papers were being signed. Lots of time spent to resurrect, rebuild and restore that grand building. We will miss a great local inspirational figure of our community.

    ”Goin home, goin home
    by the riverside you will rest your bones
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs
    to rock your soul.
    Fare you well, fare you well
    We love you more than words can tell
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs
    to rock your soul.”

    Fair Thee Well Charles

  7. Nice post Jim…
    Personally I can’t speak enough about how important to my own life as well as Nevada City that both Charles and David were. Charles always felt like part older brother/part father/mother to me and was always such a loving dear friend whenever we saw or spoke to one another.

    So many others here said it all so well. And that ‘sophistication’ Lee Ann mentions lives on to this day and I like so many others will be eternally grateful for their contributions.
    For me the memories of the old AVM looking like a magic castle on Sunday morning brunches. The two of them and Lee Amundsen starting KVMR which they asked me to be a part of way back in 77 make me so proud. The beauty of this little town almost untouched by the storms of progress and urban expansion that invaded so many other nearby communities, I mean darn we owe them so much for their guidance and wisdom for our community.

    But it was their smiles, their laughter and their courage and friendship that I will remember most. Dang I miss them both and hope they are having a very fine together. Love you guys! Miss ya and hope to see you one day down the road.

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