Nevada City and nearby Grass Valley share early mining history and location on today's Sierra foothill Highway 49. Nevada City's Romanesque Carnegie is constructed of dark gray man-made stone, and rough and smooth concrete blocks fabricated at the site. Located across from the Nevada County Court House on a steeply sloping lot at the southwest corner of Pine and York streets, it is part of the historic downtown which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and was added in its own right in 1990.
Nevada City was an 1849 mining camp, one of the few to survive as a prosperous settlement. Its library history dates from an 1850 reading room, a scholarly 1857 library association, an 1869 YMCA reading room and library, and 1874 Odd Fellows Library; it was the latter that was transferred to the city in 1902. That same year, trustees purchased a building, one of very few boards to independently take such a step. Then the women of the community, not yet formally organized, urged that Carnegie funding be sought and $10,000 was granted in 1904. Architect William H. Weeks designed the building and W.J. Wilkerson of Granite Rock Company of Watsonville was the builder. The women, then organized as the Civic Improvement Club, planned the landscaping. In 1976 the Native Daughters of the Golden West honored the building. After a new county library was constructed in Nevada City, the Carnegie became a research library for local history and the California gold rush.