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The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, in partnership with the Historic Reno Preservation Society, Reno Historical Resources Commission, City of Reno, Comstock Historic District Commission, Carson City Planning and Community Development, Carson City Historic Review Commission and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), proudly invite you to discover Three Historic Nevada Cities: Carson City, Reno, Virginia City. Nestled along the western border of Nevada near the looming Sierra Nevada Mountain range, these cities were established after the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859 brought a reverse migration from California in the "Rush to Washoe" (Washoe County, Nevada). Once Carson City became the Nevada State Capital, it thrived as the center of state government. While 19th-century Reno's economy was tied to the mining and agricultural industries, in the 20th century it was gaming and the divorce industry that drew many here. The Comstock Lode of Virginia City generated a spectacular amount of wealth, and although the urban town that grew around the mining operations was nearly abandoned in the early 20th century, today it is a remarkable collection of 19th-century buildings. This travel itinerary highlights 58 historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that illustrate the stories of each of these cities and the people who built them.
While working at Virginia City's Territorial Enterprise newspaper in the 1860s, Mark Twain wrote "Some dozens of people in America have heard of Nevada Territory. . . but when it is shouted abroad through the land that a new star has risen on the flag--a new State born to the Union--then the nation will wake up for a moment and ask who we are and where we came from." While in Nevada, Twain resided in Carson City with his brother Orion Clemens, who served as acting governor of the Nevada Territory. Nevada obtained statehood status in 1864 and construction on the State Capitol began in 1870. Carson City founder Abraham Curry was instrumental in bringing a branch of the U.S. Mint to Carson City. Carson City was also home to many interesting figures including Dat So La Lee, famous Washoe Indian basket weaver, and George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris Wheel. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad, established between Carson City and Virginia City in the 1870s, became an integral transportation link between the two cities. The wealth and optimism rampant in Virginia City during its mining boom is evident in places such as Piper's Opera House, the Storey County Courthouse, the King--McBride Mansion and the Savage Mining Company Office. The University of Nevada was moved to nearby Reno in 1884, but it was not until the early early 20th century that this city experienced its greatest growth, reflected by the construction of several schools in the 1910s, including Mount Rose and McKinley Park School. The home of sheep rancher Joseph Giraud reflects the lucrative nature of this and other agricultural industries in Reno. Prolific Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps was responsible for numerous buildings in the region, including the Riverside Hotel, one of several hotels built for divorce-seekers attracted to Reno by its lenient divorce laws. The California Building is the only remnant of the Transcontinental Highway Exposition of 1927, held in Reno to celebrate the completion of the Lincoln and Victory highways. Much later in the century, the Fleishmann Atmospherium Planetarium was built on the University of Nevada campus, the first atmospherium of its kind in the world.
Three Historic Nevada Cities offers several ways to discover the places that reflect the history of these western towns. Each highlighted site features a brief description of the place's historic significance, color photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation bar containing links to three essays that explain more about the individual towns of Carson City, Reno and Virginia City. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for the places included in the itinerary. In the Learn More section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit the Three Historic Nevada Cities in person.
Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Historic Reno Preservation Society, Reno Historical Resources Commission, City of Reno, Comstock Historic District Commission, Carson City Planning and Community Development, Carson City Historic Review Commission and NCSHPO, Three Historic Nevada Cities is the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. Three Historic Nevada Cities is the 27th National Register travel itinerary successfully created through such partnerships. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places hopes you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Carson City, Reno and Virginia City. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.
Welcome to western Nevada. It is my pleasure as Lieutenant Governor of the State of Nevada to extend my invitation to explore our area's rich history and beautiful high desert scenery.
The Carson City-Reno-Virginia City area has much to offer: the site of the state's first gold and silver boom, the state and territorial capitol, grand views of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada, and historic properties that have become legendary in regional and national history. In addition, world-renowned Lake Tahoe is just 20 minutes away!
Carson City, one of the first settlements in Nevada, is the home of the state capitol. It is also a U.S. City of Trees, especially apparent in our large historic district just west of the capitol. Reno is a thriving urban center and is home to the University of Nevada, whose college campus is one of the more historically-intact and memorable places in the American West. The celebrated American architect, Frederic DeLongchamps, designed several university buildings, as well as others in the Reno area. Virginia City, "one of the greatest mining camps in the world," was the site of the Comstock Lode discovery in 1859, and is a National Historic Landmark. By the mid-1870s, over 20,000 people lived in Virginia City and the surrounding communities dedicated to hard-rock mining. Today, Virginia City is a living "ghost town" with its historic downtown largely untouched by modern influences.
The region hosts many exciting annual events. If you're in here in March, join the gastronomically adventurous at Virginia City's Mountain Oyster Cookoff. In June, Carson City hosts the annual Carson City Rendezvous in Mills Park, complete with Civil War re-enactments and camps of mountain men; the Annual Reno Basque Festival, celebrating the large Basque population's heritage through eating, dancing, and traditional Basque contests, also takes place in June. Reno presents ArtTown, a multitude of cultural and art-related events, throughout the month of July. Virginia City holds its world-famous camel races in September; the Great Reno Balloon Race and Reno Air Show are also held in September. Finally, come join all Nevadans in Carson City on the last Saturday in October for Nevada Day, our annual celebration of Nevada's statehood designation in 1864.
If you love sunny days, cool nights, mountain scenery, and a real sense of history, western Nevada is for you. I invite you to browse though our virtual tour, and then come visit us in person.
Lieutenant Governor Lorraine T. Hunt
The first European Americans to visit the Carson City area were John
C. Frémont and his party of explorers in January 1843, during their
survey of the far West for the U.S. Topographic Engineers. While exploring
and mapping the area, Frémont named the Carson River in honor of his
scout and mountain-man companion Kit Carson. The area had been traditionally
inhabited by Washoe and Northern Paiute people until the influx of European
American settlers in the 1860s. The first European American settlement
with permanent structures in Nevada was established 13 miles south of
Carson City in 1851, at the townsite of Genoa. Soon afterward, all the
land was claimed surrounding Genoa, and settlers began claiming parcels
one valley north of the original permanent settlement.
The original Carson City settlement was known as "Eagle Station" after
the initial trading post, which sported an eagle killed by the original
settlers. Carson City was officially established in 1858, seven years
after the first white settler moved into Eagle Valley. Newly arrived
settler Abraham Curry bought the Eagle Station and
Ranch in 1858 (with several business partners), established the town
of Carson City, and had it surveyed and platted, including a 10-acre
parcel for a capitol. Curry named his townsite Carson City, after the
nearby Carson River and Kit Carson. The boom of the Comstock
Mining District, beginning in 1859, brought hundreds and then thousands
of settlers into the area.
The Comstock mining industry resulted in the development of related businesses and industry in nearby Carson City. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad established between Carson City and Virginia City in the 1870s, made Carson City an integral link in transportation between mines and their ore, equipment and lumber from the Sierra Nevada. A wooden flume was established between Carson City and the Sierra to transport the much-needed lumber on its way to the mining district. East of town on the Carson River, several ore mills sprung to life to serve the need to process ore for the Comstock mines. Soon Carson City was an industrial and commercial center. The "Rush to Washoe" in 1860, spurred by the gold and silver strikes, helped make Carson City, only 14 miles west, an obvious choice for establishing the seat of government.
Once Nevada gained its territorial status in 1861 (this area had been part of the Utah Territory previously), Carson City was the designated territorial capital. Carson City has always been the only territorial and state capital for Nevada. President Abraham Lincoln chose James Nye, a staunch supporter of the Union, as Nevada's first Territorial Governor. The Territorial Secretary position was given to Orion Clemens, whose brother Samuel migrated to Nevada to assist the Secretary in his new duties. Soon Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was reporting on the Territorial Legislature for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. The legislature created Ormsby County in 1861, where Carson City is located, making the town the county seat as well. The county draws its name from Major William B. Ormsby, who died in battle during the Pyramid Lake Indian War of 1860. This was the first of two battles between U.S. troops and Northern Paiute warriors (along with some Bannock associates) at Pyramid Lake that year.
Several years passed before Abe Curry's vision for a prominent capitol in the center of Carson City was realized. Although Nevada obtained statehood status in 1864, it was not until 1870 that construction on the state capitol began. During the early 20th century, growth in other regions of the state resulted in the growth of the capital. For instance, many wealthy elite who gained their fortunes during the mining boom in Tonopah (southern Nevada) moved to settle in Carson City. Growth around the state also meant more railroad service in and out of the capital.
The Ormsby County Courthouse was built in the early 1920s by Frederic DeLongchamps, 60 years after the county was created. In 1969, Ormsby County and Carson City became incorporated as one governmental unit, thus the county finally shed its "Ormsby" title.
Essay by Terri McBride, Historic Preservation Specialist, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office
When the first white men passed through the Reno area in the 1840s, Washoe and Paiute peoples inhabited the land along the Truckee River. In the late 1840s and 1850s, thousands of travelers on their way to the California gold fields lingered a few days in the Truckee Meadows before crossing the Sierra Nevada. The first permanent white settlement along the Truckee River was Jamison's Station. Jamison reportedly was among the contingent sent in 1855 by Territorial Governor Brigham Young to establish agricultural settlements in what was then the western part of Utah Territory.
The discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859 brought a reverse migration from California in the "Rush to Washoe." A gold strike in an isolated canyon soon became one of the richest silver strikes ever discovered. Boomtowns like Virginia City, Gold Hill, Silver City and Dayton sprang up overnight. The growth of the Comstock resulted in the development of towns in the outlying area, including Carson City, the Nevada state capital, and Reno, which had become an important agricultural center and transportation hub for people and goods, to and from the Comstock.
In 1859, C. W. Fuller built a bridge across the Truckee River, but annual flooding repeatedly swept it away. Myron Lake purchased Fuller's crossing in 1860, and after building a sturdier toll bridge, he opened an inn on the south side of the river. The spot became known as Lakes Crossing. When the Central Pacific Railroad was pushing east in the late 1860s, Lake deeded 40 acres to the railroad to encourage construction of a depot there. He also sold the railroad 160 acres for a townsite, which was officially established May 13, 1868. The town of Reno quickly became an important freight and passenger center, and grew rapidly.
Although gaming now plays a key role, historically Nevada's economy was tied to mining and agriculture, and inherent in these industries is the inevitable cycle of booms and busts. Over the years, Nevada has found several creative means to support itself through the down times, and early on Reno earned the title "Sin City." It was a wild and woolly town that placed few restrictions on human behavior. Until the U.S. Army petitioned City fathers to ban prostitution in 1942, Reno tollerated several brothels. Nevada attempted to control gambling from the beginning, and although numerous laws were passed, it managed to flourish in back streets and alleys. Seeking ways to survive the Great Depression, the Nevada Legislature legalized gambling in 1931. Casino gaming, as we know it today, developed in Reno.
The birth of the Reno divorce colony can be traced to its first celebrity divorce in 1906, when the wife of the President of U.S. Steel, William Corey, came to Reno to obtain a divorce from her philandering husband. The event was scandalous and widely publicized. The waiting period for a Nevada divorce was a generous six months, except for a two-year period, when the residency requirement was increased to one year. In 1927, during a period of competition among several states for the migratory divorce trade, the Nevada legislature shortened the residency period to three months. This act boosted the industry and divorce-seekers flocked to Reno. In 1931, Nevada was beginning to feel the effects of the Great Depression, and seeing an economic opportunity, the Nevada legislature revised its divorce law once again. This time, it shortened the residency requirement to six weeks, thereby opening the divorce floodgates. During the 10 years between 1929 and 1939, more than 30,000 divorces were granted at the Washoe County Courthouse, and Reno was known as the divorce capital of the world.
From the beginning, transportation has been an important theme in the history of Reno and the Truckee Meadows. The emigrant trails, stage roads, the Pony Express and the railroad have all served to bring people and goods through the region. By the early 20th century, however, a new means of transportation was making an impact on the area's development. The Lincoln Highway came through Reno, on its way to the California state line. With the establishment of the Lincoln Highway, automobile tourism became an economic force in the region, and by the end of World War II, easy automobile access to Reno's casinos thrust gambling into the forefront of the local and state economy. Drawn by gambling, the ease of divorce and the area's beautiful natural setting, automobile tourists flocked to Reno.
Recognizing the importance of automobile tourism to the local economy, the Reno City Council in 1928 decided the town needed a permanent slogan to go on the lighted arch constructed for the highway exposition the previous year. The arch was not Reno's first, but it would become its most famous following the motto competition, which promised $100 to the winner who submitted the slogan "Reno: Biggest Little City in the World."
Essay by Mella Rothwell Harmon, Historic Preservation Specialist, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office
In 1859, placer miners and prospectors in the western Great Basin made two remarkable strikes of gold and silver ore breaching a mountain's slope near Virginia City. It was the culmination of regional discoveries and excitement that began a decade before with the famed California Gold Rush of 1849. The 1859 discovery in the Great Basin provides an epilogue for the California Gold Rush. It was not so much the end of a story as it was an indication of how future mining would change an entire region.
The Comstock Lode, as people soon called the ore body, was distinct in the ways that it influenced subsequent development in the American West. First, the Comstock Mining District quickly became home to deep underground, hardrock mining. Although some California operations had also taken this direction, the Comstock established approaches to technology, corporate investment, and community growth that were imitated internationally for the next 50 years. For example, the Comstock had a huge labor force of salaried professionals, breaking from the California pattern of thousands of independent mining entrepreneurs digging for themselves in small groups.
The Comstock was unusual and will always be famous for the presence of silver as well as gold, and especially for the spectacular amount of wealth it generated. Miners retrieved what today would be billions of dollars in riches; the mines in and around Virginia City produced one-half of the nation's silver up until 1886. However, corporations were necessary to exploit a resource requiring an immense, complex infrastructure. This meant that only a few people ultimately benefited most from the Comstock mines, but that did not inhibit a worldwide fascination with the discovery. In addition, during the flush times money flowed freely and many enjoyed the prosperity.
Unlike the small settlements throughout the California Gold Country, the Comstock District was a highly urbanized, industrial setting. Again, this was the model that all future mining developments generally followed. By the early 1870s, the mining district's capital, Virginia City, together with its smaller neighbor, Gold Hill, reached a population of nearly 25,000, becoming one of the nation's larger communities.
Part of the 19th-century interest in the Comstock resulted from the millionaires it propelled into the international limelight. Wealthy men, from George Hearst and John Mackay to Adolph Sutro and William Ralston, made their fortunes while working or investing in the mines around Virginia City. The mines also spawned the successes of William Stewart, John P. Jones, William Sharon, and James Fair, each of whom served in the U.S. Senate.
Much of the historical treatment of the Comstock has focused on the impressive technology, the immense wealth, and the men at the center of both. Nevertheless, Virginia City and its mining district were exceedingly complex, attracting immigrants from throughout the world. People from North, South and Central America, and from Europe, Asia and Africa came to the district, hoping to capture some of the success that had become a legend.
For over a thousand Chinese immigrants, it was Yin Shan, the Silver Mountain. Irish miners from County Cork, on the other hand, typically saw Virginia City as a chance to sidestep the oppressive Appalachian coal mines in favor of a better place to work and a higher wage. Similarly, a modest number of Spanish-speaking people played an important role in the early development of the mining district. Samuel Clemens, who invented his Mark Twain persona while reporting for Virginia City's Territorial Enterprise, wrote, ".all the peoples of the earth had representative adventurers in Silver-land." Indeed, the mining district played a pivotal role in giving Nevada one of the largest percentages of foreign born in the nation throughout the 19th century.
Still, over half of the Comstock's population was born in North America. The Northern Paiutes, living in the area for centuries before the arrival of others, possessed a culture and society that thousands of gold and silver seekers severely disrupted. Although they confronted oppressive prejudice and treatment, several hundred American Indians eventually settled around the mining district, and like others, they found various means to exploit the many opportunities of the new society. African Americans also came to the Comstock seeking wealth and opportunity. Many become prosperous, well-respected business owners. Thousands of Midwesterners, together with many New Englanders and fewer Southerners, added to the social diversity and complexity of the place. Together these diverse groups wove the rich tapestry that made the Comstock the crossroads of the world.
Initially women were rare, but within a few years much of the gender gap had been bridged. By 1880, one third of the population was under 18 years of age, underscoring the fact that this had become more of a family-based community than a stereotypical mining boomtown.
Mining camps throughout the world pass through an evolution of boom, dramatic growth and excitement, and then decline. The size and nature of each district's ore body define the duration of prosperity. The Comstock was remarkable both for the amount of wealth it produced and for the number of years it was able to thrive. By the early 1880s, it was becoming clear that the good times were over. It had been years since miners had discovered any new bonanzas, and thousands of people were leaving for better opportunities.
By the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Virginia City had declined, shrinking into a town of only several hundred people. These residents became custodians of a remarkable inheritance that included countless documents and photographs, hundreds of 19th-century buildings, and abandoned shafts and adits (an almost horizontal entrance to a mine). In addition, thousands of historic archeological sites are part of the rich heritage of a remarkable mining district, which the National Park Service recognizes as one of the larger National Historic Landmarks in the 50 states.
Essay by Ronald M. James, Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer
The Stewart Indian School complex consists of 83 buildings on a 109-acre landscaped campus. The school was organized as the Stewart Institute in 1890 and operated until 1980. It was named for Nevada's first U.S. Senator, William Morris Stewart, who also sponsored the national legislation creating this off-reservation boarding school (the only one in Nevada) for American Indian children. However, the Institute itself was the only Federal Indian school created by act of State legislature. Children from Nevada and throughout the West were forced to attend the Stewart Institute up to secondary school age. Students came from many tribes including the Nevada-based Washoe and Paiute tribes, as well as Hopi, Apache, Pima, Mohave, Walapai, Ute, Pipage, Coropah and Tewa. The school was intended to teach basic trades and to assimilate young American Indians into mainstream American culture. Assimilation policies such as prohibition of speaking native languages and practicing native customs anguished both students and their parents. The Federal policy toward American Indians radically changed with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, after which self-determination and self-government were supported. In later years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs encouraged schools such as Stewart to let students speak their native languages and to promote classes in native cultures.
The initial Stewart Indian School complex included two dormitories, a barn, carpenter's shop, harness and tool house, root shed, laundry, wood and coal shed, storehouse, girls' and boys' baths and a three-story 10,000-gallon water tower. Frederick Snyder, who served as the school superintendent from 1919 to 1934, was responsible for the school's transformation into an architectural and horticultural showplace. Snyder began the practice of using colored native stone (quarried along the Carson River) for campus buildings, and much of the masonry used in the vernacular-style buildings is the work of student apprentices. The majority of the surviving buildings were built between 1922 and the beginning of World War II. The Stewart Indian School Museum, located in superintendent Snyder's home, was built by Indian students in 1930. National Park Service grants, including a Save America's Treasures grant, were used in the restoration of this building and others on campus. The large, older trees on this campus make this a great picnic location.
The Stewart Indian School is on Snyder Ave., one mile east of US Hwy. 395. The campus itself is owned by the State of Nevada and is open to the public. The museum is currently closed. The Nevada Indian Commission, located in one of the school buildings, can be contacted at 775-687-8333 for further information.
In 1870, Nevada's first short-line railroad, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad (V&T), was completed between Carson City and Virginia City. Two years later, the track was extended to Reno to connect with the transcontinental Central Pacific Railroad. The V&T was the brain child of William Sharon, William Ralston and D.O. Mills of the Bank of California in San Francisco. They feared that Adolf Sutro's plan to drain the Comstock mines of water through an ingenious tunnel would adversely affect the bank-held monopoly of mills along the Carson River. William Sharon petitioned the Nevada legislature and received funds to build the railroad. This calculated move stalled the tunnel's completion for many years. The line served to haul ore from Virginia City to the mills in Carson City, lumber from the Sierra Nevada, and passengers traveling between Virginia City, Carson City, Reno and Minden (south of Carson City). The V&T operated from 1869 until 1950.
Competition with cars and trucks in the 1920s and 1930s brought the V&T near bankruptcy, forcing the business to sell equipment and trains to collectors and Hollywood movie studios for Western movies, with the last run from Reno to Minden on May 31, 1950. About 50 pieces of the railroad remain today, more than half of which are housed at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, including two locomotives listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Dayton and Inyo. Both locomotives saw intermittent service between the 1870s and 1930s. No. 18, the Dayton, was built in 1873, and is the sole survivor of the 62 locomotives built at the Central Pacific Railroad shops in Sacramento, California. The Dayton was used for passenger and snow service. Locomotive No. 22, the Inyo, was built in 1875 by Baldwin Locomotives and used for passenger and freight service. Both the Dayton and Inyo were sold to Paramount Pictures Corp. in 1937. In 1939, the Dayton was used for a publicity run to New York promoting a Cecil B. DeMille film. Both locomotives were part of the National Park Service's celebration of the centennial of the transcontinental railroad in 1969, and displayed at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Promontory Point, Utah, before they were brought to the museum.
Other railroad cars of interest at the museum include Locomotive No. 27 (unnamed), the last one purchased by V&T in 1913 and retired in 1948; the completely restored Caboose-coach No. 9; the V&T Express Mail No. 21, originally built in the railroad's own shops in 1906, and later used by Paramount Pictures in their movies through the 1970s; Express Mail No. 21, awaiting restoration; and Locomotive No. 25 (also unnamed), converted to an oil-burning boiler in 1907, that served as a back-up to the popular "Reno" No. 11. Locomotive No. 25 runs during special "steam-up" events throughout the year at the museum. Other V&T railroad cars and locomotives are on display at the California State Railroad Museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and Old Tucson Studios.
Virginia and Truckee RR. Engine No. 18, the Dayton, is located at the Comstock History Center at 20 North E. Street, Virginia City, NV 89440, which is open to the public from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm Thursdays and Sundays. Virginia and Truckee RR. Engine No. 22, the Inyo, is located at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, on Hwy. 395 (Carson St.) at Fairview Ave. in Carson City. The museum is open to the public 8:30am to 4:30pm daily; there is a fee for adult admission. For further information or for special events check the museum's website or call 775-687-6953
The Wabuska Railroad Station was erected in 1906 by the Southern Pacific Railroad as a freight and passenger station serving the Mason Valley region of Lyon County, Nevada. Early rail service to Wabuska was operated by the Carson and Colorado Railroad Company, until 1900, when the Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the company. During the early 1900s, the Wabuska region served as the principal supplier of agricultural products for the mining camps of Tonopah and Goldfield. Increased freight traffic between Wabuska and the neighboring mining camps coupled with the discovery of copper ore in the Mason Valley prompted the Southern Pacific to erect a new depot in Wabuska. By August 1906, a crew of eight Southern Pacific carpenters were working on the new station, which opened for business by October. From 1910 to 1947, Wabuska also served as the transfer point for the Nevada Copper Belt Railroad, a major carrier of copper ore.
The depot is a single story, wood-frame building, 24 feet wide by 80 feet long with a gable roof, the eaves of which project several feet from the exterior walls. This overhang is supported by brackets. A large bay window on one side of the building originally housed the ticket office, while the other three sides contained sliding freight doors. The interior of the depot was divided into three rooms; the south half of the building accommodated freight, the center contained the ticket office, and the northern end served as the passenger waiting room. The station is typical of early 20th-century Nevada depot architecture, one of the few examples in the state today, and one of the last two surviving stations of the Hazen to Mina branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Of the seven stations constructed to serve this branch, only the Wabuska and a freight station in Mina survive. The Wabuska remained in active service until declining freight and passenger service forced the station to close in 1979. Instead of demolishing the vacant depot, the Southern Pacific donated it to the Nevada State Railroad Museum. In 1983, the depot was moved to the museum complex in Carson City and restored.
The Wabuska Railroad Station is located at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, on Hwy. 395 (Carson St.) at Fairview Ave. in Carson City. The museum is open to the public 8:30am to 4:30pm daily; there is a fee for adult admission. For further information or for special events check the museum's website or call 775-687-6953.
The Nevada State Capitol was designed by San Francisco architect Joseph Gosling for $250, and built by local building contractor Peter Cavanaugh between 1870 and 1871. It is a two-story masonry Classical Revival structure that incorporates Renaissance Revival and Italianate elements into its composition. It is a building of monumental character and harmonious proportions. To keep costs low, the sandstone was obtained free of charge from the Nevada State Prison quarry, just outside of Carson. In 1875, the contract to build an iron fence was awarded to Hannah Clapp, an important early Carson City educator. The original footprint of the capitol was cruciform, a central rectangle with two wings. The first floor contained a major office at each corner connect by central halls, while the wings of the second floor were filled by the two legislative chambers--the Assembly and the Senate. The octagonal dome topped with a cupola admitted light to the second story. In 1905, an octagonal Annex was added to the rear (east) of the capitol to house the State Library. By the early 20th century, the legislature had outgrown the capitol, and prominent Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps was contracted to design northern and southern legislative wings, completed in time for the 1915 session. These compatible wings used stone from the same quarry as the original portion of the capitol, and provided more office space and expanded legislative chambers.
For more than 50 years, all three branches of the state government were housed in the Capitol. The Nevada Supreme Court met here until 1937, when it moved into an adjacent building and the state legislature met here until 1971, when it moved to its new Legislative Building just south of the Capitol. Every Nevada governor except the first has had his office in the capitol. Today, the Capitol continues to serve the Governor, and contains historical exhibits on the second floor.
The Nevada State Capitol is located at 101 North Carson St. in Carson City. The Capitol is open to the public for self-guided tours; hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday. Call 1-800-NEVADA-1 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
The Carson City Public Buildings is a governmental complex of three building--the Heroes Memorial Building, Ormsby County Courthouse and Nevada Supreme Court--designed by architect Frederic DeLongchamps (1882-1969). DeLongchamps maintained an architectural practice in Reno from 1907 to 1965. During his career, the architect was responsible for the design of more than 500 public, commercial and residential buildings, the majority of which were constructed in his native state of Nevada. The son of French Canadian immigrants, DeLongchamps was born in Reno on June 2, 1882. He received a degree in mining engineering from the University of Nevada-Reno in 1904, and after briefly pursing a mining career and working in the U.S. Surveyor's Office, moved to San Francisco in 1906 and served as an architect's apprentice. One year later, he returned to Reno and established an architectural firm with a colleague from the Surveyor's Office, and together they won commissions for approximately 30 buildings between 1907 and 1909. He began his solo career in 1909 when he won the design competition for the Washoe County Courthouse. Throughout his career he favored stone, brick and terra cotta as building materials, enlivening facades by using contrasting stone colors in a variety of patterns.
DeLongchamps holds the distinction of being the only person to serve as Nevada's State Architect. He was appointed to the position on April 10, 1919, and served for two years until the post was temporarily abolished, then reappointed in 1923 and served until the position was permanently abolished in 1926. While holding this office, DeLongchamps began the development of the governmental complex in Carson City across the street from the Nevada State Capitol . The three buildings dramatically illustrate the evolution of the architect's public architecture between the 1920s and 1930s. The twin Heroes Memorial Building (1921) and Ormsby County Courthouse (1920-1922) were designed while DeLongchamps was serving as State Architect, and are monumental, Neo-Classical buildings. Both buildings have large pedimented porticos supported by four Doric columns. The Heroes Memorial Building was designed as "a fitting memorial to Nevada Soldiers who gave their lives in the service of the United States in the European War" (World War I).
A decade later, when the Supreme Court had outgrown its single-room quarters in the Capitol, DeLongchamps was awarded the commission for a new building, which he designed in a compatible but distinctly Moderne style. Today the Heroes Memorial Building and Supreme Court house the Nevada Attorney General's Office. The Ormsby County Courthouse housed the Carson City (formerly Ormsby County) courts until 1999 when it was acquired by the State, and it is currently being remodeled for use by the Nevada State Attorney General's office as well. Although not listed in the National Register of Historic Places, of interest is the granite fountain in front of the Supreme Court, presented to Carson City in 1909 by the National Humane Alliance to provide fresh water for passing horses and pets. Water pours out of small bronze lions heads with open mouths into a large drinking bowl for horses, mounted four feet off the ground, and small cups are located at the base for dogs and cats.
The Heroes Memorial Building, Ormsby County Courthouse and Nevada Supreme Court are located at 100-198 S. Carson St. in Carson City. The Heroes Memorial Building and the Nevada Supreme Court ( both now part of the Nevada Attorney General's Office) are open to the pubic during regular business hours, 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday. The Ormsby County Courthouse is not currently open to the public.
Constructed in 1862, the first hotel in Carson City was one of the state's most elegant and became the main stage stop in Carson City. It consists of two utilitarian buildings, a two-story one on the south and a three-story one on the north, each with Italianate details. The St. Charles-Muller's Hotel is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Carson City, and the second oldest hotel in the state. The northern portion of the building, the St. Charles Hotel, was started on April Fool's Day 1862.
The St. Charles-Muller's Hotel is located at 302-304 South Carson St. in Carson City. A restaurant on the first floor is open to the public during normal operating hours.
In 1869, George Washington Gale Ferris, Sr. purchased property from G.A. and Mary A. Sears, who had subdivided a portion of Carson City, and within a year had built a house upon it. The Sears--Ferris House is a square, frame building measuring approximately 60 feet by 60 feet, and combines Greek, Gothic Revival and Classical Revival influences. Ferris came to Nevada with his family in 1864 as a gentleman farmer. In addition to producing typical crops, Ferris planted numerous varieties of trees and was responsible for importing large numbers of Eastern ornamental trees to Carson City including hickory, black walnut and chestnut. Many of Ferris's imported trees still adorn the Capitol grounds.
George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., who became the most prominent figure associated with the house, was a young boy when the family moved from their homestead in Carson Valley to this house in Carson City. Ferris was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1859. He graduated from military school in Oakland, California, and in 1881 graduated in engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. By 1892 young Ferris Jr. was associated with railroad and coal interests in the east, and became a bridge builder and organizer of G. W. G. Ferris & Company in Pittsburgh. He and other American engineers had been challenged to build something "which would rival the Eiffel Tower" for the World's Colombian Exposition of 1893.
One Saturday while he sat in a "chop house," an idea came to him.
Allegedly he wrote it down immediately on the tablecloth. His invention,
the Ferris Wheel, towered 250 feet with 36 cars, each holding 40 people.
Immediately popular with fair goers, it took 20 minutes to make a complete
revolution. Family descendants believed the idea came from his early
days in Nevada, when Ferris Jr. watched the bigwheel turning near the
Mexican Mill on the Carson River.
The Sears--Ferris House is located at 311 W. Third St., on the southeast corner of Third and South Division in Carson City. The home is privately owned and not open to the public.
Nevada's longest-operating brewery was established in Carson City by John Wagner in 1860 during the rush to Virginia City. Business was prospering by 1864, so a new two-story brewery was built in 1865 in the commercial form of Classical Revival, on the corner of Division and King streets, where it stands today. The brewery and a bar were on the main floor and the upper floor served as the Masonic Lodge from 1865 to 1919. The Carson Brewery made steam beer, a bottom-fermenting brew produced without the constant cold temperatures required by lagers. The pure water came from King's Canyon Creek west of town. Hops and barley were mostly imported from California. The brewery delivered barrels, kegs and bottles of beer to local saloons, Comstock tap rooms and other towns around the state. Five kegs a week were also shipped to San Francisco for some Nevada-based customers who would drink no other brand.
The brewery was sold in 1900 to James Raycraft and Frank Golden, who incorporated and changed the name to Carson Brewing Company. In 1910, brewmaster Fritz Hagmeyer persuaded his brother-in-law, Max Stenz, to purchase the operation. Stenz converted from steam beer to lager in 1913, and labeled his new product Tahoe Beer, "Famous as the Lake." He made several major improvements, including adding a cold storage room and new boiler, and expanding the bottling operation, by bottling soft drinks and mineral water from Carson Hot Springs, as well as packaging artificial ice.
By the 1940s, large brewing companies were buying local beer businesses throughout the country. Arnold Millard, who bought the brewery in 1926 from his father-in-law Stenz, liquidated the business in 1948. After 88 years of continuous operation, this was the end of the longest-running brewery in the state and one of Nevada's oldest businesses. After 1948, the building was the home of the Nevada Appeal newspaper, and today, is the site of the Brewery Arts Center, which received grant funds from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund for its restoration program. An exhibit on the history of the Carson Brewing Company is located at the Arts Center.
The Carson Brewing Company is located at 449 W. King St., on the southwest corner of King and Division sts. in Carson City. The building is open to the public 10:00am to 4:00pm, Monday-Saturday. Call 775-883-1976 or visit the Brewery Arts Center website for a schedule of events and performances.
Constructed in 1874 by Prussian immigrant and merchant Joseph Olcovich, this residence is one of the few in Carson City that still has intact Gothic Revival architectural features. Joseph sold the house to his brother and business partner Bernard Olcovich one year later, and in 1885, the house changed hands again, becoming the property of another merchant, George H. Meyers. Meyers added Victorian elements to the residence, such as the Italianate bays. The porch detailing, spiral posts and a spooled frieze harkens to the Eastlake design style. Significant not only for its intact Gothic Revival features like a cross-gabled roof, arched lintels over windows and decorative bargeboards, this residence is also significant for its association with the local Jewish community and the mercantile trade in Carson City.
The four Olcovich brothers owned and operated a mercantile enterprise on Carson City's main street. They, and other Jewish merchants, greatly aided in Carson City's development through their role in supplying the Virginia City and the Comstock mining district with much needed goods and services. Bernard and Joseph's brother Hyman built a house a few blocks away in 1876 (412 North Curry Street). The Carson City Jewish community never grew to such a size to establish a synagogue; families practiced Judaism within their homes. Eventually Reno became the hub of the Jewish community in Northern Nevada and a synagogue was built there.
The Olcovich--Meyers House is located at 214 West King St. on the northeast corner of King and Nevada sts. in Carson City. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
The Rinckel Mansion was built by butcher Mathias Rinckel from 1875 to 1876. The elaborate and sophisticated Italianate home was designed by San Francisco architect Charles H. Jones, a graduate of the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, who used French craftsmen to complete the interior of the solid brick residence. Rinckel had attained his initial wealth from mining, but later became a successful merchant selling meat products to Virginia City miners and Glenbrook lumbermen. He purchased the most modern of labor-saving devices for his home from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The foundation is six feet high and of dressed sandstone ashlar. A six-sided porch envelops the east side of the home. Doors are handmade, and panels, window casings and transoms are morticed and pegged, requiring few nails. Most furnishings that adorned this building were imported from Europe, shipped around Cape Horn. The front foyer and stairhall, master bedroom, two parlors, the dining room, a kitchen wing and hall are on the first floor. Four bedrooms, each with a large bay window, and a trunkroom are found on the second floor. The main stairway is cantilevered, so no outside supports are used. Bathtubs were installed in this house before the White House. An earlier version of this mansion, the King--McBride House (1870), is located in Virginia City.
Rinckel passed away in 1879, but his widow and children continued to occupy the mansion until her death in 1933. Their daughter, Louise Rinckel, married George Blakeslee of Tonopah, and they resided in the house until 1960. After 1941, when the mansion was featured in a Paramount Pictures film, The Remarkable Andrew, the Blakeslees operated their home as a private museum. After Louise's death, Ronald Machado ran the museum until 1968. Today it is one of the best remaining examples of high-style Victorian architecture in the American west.
The Rinckel Mansion is located at 102 N. Curry St. in Carson City. It is privately owned and currently occupied by the Nevada Press Association. It is not open to the public.
Louisa Keyser, also known as Dat So La Lee, is the most famous Washoe Indian basket weaver. Dat So La Lee was born in the Woodfords area (25 miles south of Carson City) in the first half of the 19th century, before European Americans settled Nevada. At that time, Washoe women would weave baskets to cook and store food, winnow seeds and carry infants. Dat So La Lee moved to Carson City late in life, in 1895, offering small baskets for sale to the owner of an emporium there. This owner, Abe Cohn, became Dat So La Lee's main benefactor and promoter, building this small vernacular board-and-batten cottage for her around 1914. It is located directly east of Abe and Amy Cohn's house.
From that time until her death in 1925, Abe and Amy Cohn supported Dat So La Lee so that she could concentrate on making her superb baskets to sell to tourists and collectors, becoming internationally known. Even during her lifetime, Dat So La Lee's baskets sold for thousands of dollars, a large sum for the early 20th century. Dat So La Lee was the undisputed master of a craft that was at the same time dying in her culture. It is for this reason that Dat So La Lee is so important to modern Washoes and other American Indian weavers; she was an inspiration to young women and girls who wanted to learn the ancient art of basket-weaving, and still is today. Her baskets can be found at the Smithsonian, the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, and the Nevada Historical Society in Reno.
The Dat So La Lee House is located at 331 W. Proctor St. in Carson City. The home is a private residence and is not open to the public.
This Gothic Revival church was built at a cost of $5,500 from 1867 to 1868, five years after the parish was organized. The first service was held in the church on August 9, 1868, although it was not consecrated until June 1870. The rectory, which stands to the south of the church, was built as a private residence in 1867. It was purchased by the church in 1891 for $3,500. A number of fine stained-glass windows adorning the church have been donated by the congregation. The church was enlarged during 1873-1874, with the expansion of one end of the building by 24 feet and the addition of two short wings, equal in height to the main section of the church. It is the oldest Episcopal house of worship extant in Nevada. The building displays characteristics very similar to many New England churches.
In the sanctuary, an unusual half-domed ceiling is supported by Corinthian columns, possibly reflecting a Masonic perspective present in the early congregations. Also, there is no central aisle through the pews to the alter, but instead, two side aisles partitioning the pews into three columns across the interior of the church. This layout, lacking a central focus from the door of the sanctuary to the altar, is reminiscent of New England Protestant church interiors, which tend to emphasize not only the central placement of the altar and other objects, but parishioners as well. St. Peter's Episcopal Church may be the only Episcopal church west of the Mississippi with no center aisle.
St. Peter's Episcopal Church is located at 300 North Division St. in Carson City, and is open to the public.
Abraham Curry was the founder of Carson City, the first warden of the Nevada Territorial prison and the first Superintendent of the Carson City U.S. Mint. Curry arrived in this area of Nevada in 1858, purchased land with three other settlers, and in September of that year, proposed that a town site be surveyed and platted. Although lots were initially divided between the four landholders, the others soon sold or gave their sections to Curry. He shortly established a sandstone quarry which provided building material for many of the city's early buildings, and eventually became the first territorial prison where prisoners were put to work. Among the other businesses Curry established in Carson City was a stone hotel where the first Territorial Legislature met in October 1861. Curry served as Warden of the prison for several years, but then became involved with the construction of the U.S. Mint, to which he was appointed Superintendent in 1869. Shortly thereafter he began construction on this house, and lived here until his death in 1873.
Curry is credited with the design and construction of this residence, which is perhaps a bit reminiscent of buildings in his home state of New York. One of the few residences built in masonry in the late 19th century in Carson City, it is constructed of sandstone quarried at the Nevada State Prison, c. 1871. Although labeled "vernacular," the building incorporates elements of Georgian and Greek Revival design. The sandstone blocks were dressed with picks, plain chisels and tooth chisels, similar to the State Capitol's construction. Five brick chimneys appear along the roofline. The building originally included an octagonal cupola and five-bay porch, but these were removed around 1930. The rear wing was added at an unknown date by Abraham Curry's daughter Maryette, who conducted a private school there.
The Abraham Curry House is located at 406 N. Nevada St., on the northwest corner of Telegraph and Nevada sts. in Carson City. Currently it is used as private law offices, and is not open to the public.
The Carson City Post Office is an imposing late 19th-century building encompassing an entire block in the heart of Carson City. It was the second Federal building erected in Nevada (the first was the U.S. Mint), although it housed the third location of the Carson City Post Office. The cornerstone for this building was laid in September 1888, and the building was complete and occupied by May 1891. The comprehensive use of brick in construction by architect M. E. Bell, the textural qualities, the immense squareness of the building and the clock tower, in addition to rectangular and arched fenestrations, are all typical of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. This style combines Romanesque Revival with Chateau-style massing and silhouette. This building is the only example of this architectural style within the state of Nevada.
Originally, this building functioned as the Carson City Post Office, Land Office, Weather Bureau and U.S. District Court. It included Carson City's first and only clock tower, which rises approximately 106 feet above street level. In 1908, the restrooms were upgraded; in 1935, an elevator was installed, the first in Carson City. Then in 1955, a brick loading dock was added to the rear, the lobby was enlarged and the chimney was removed. In 1971, the building ceased to function as the Post Office, which moved to a new building two blocks to the northeast. In 1972, an extensive interior renovation was completed to accommodate the State Library. Very few modifications have been made on the exterior, so the building's appearance is much the same today as it was over 100 years ago. The wood window and door frames, cast iron columns, safes manufactured by National Safe and Lock Company and the clock tower are all original. Today, the Nevada Commission on Tourism is the main occupant of the building.
The Carson City Post Office is located at 401 N. Carson St., at the corner of Carson and Telegraph sts. in Carson City. The building is open to the public 8:00am to 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday. The clock tower has recently been restored to working order, chiming on the hour.
This two-story residence was built from 1862 to 1863 by Orion Clemens, brother of author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Orion served as the first and only Territorial Secretary (1861-1864), and at times, acting governor of the Nevada Territory. While reporting for the Territorial Enterprise, early in his career, Mark Twain resided at this house with his brother. The high point in Orion Clemens's career occurred while he was living here when he designed the Great Seal for the Territory of Nevada. Because he often served as "Governor Pro Tem" during Territorial Governor Nye's numerous out-of-territory trips, this house became locally known as the "Governor's Mansion."
There were no office buildings in the newly-designated Territorial seat of government in 1861. So Secretary Clemens personally paid to furnish the two territorial legislative chambers, housed on the second floor of a hotel in young Carson City, with a canvas curtain separating the two houses and sawdust as the floor covering. Clemens clearly offered strong support of the newly-formed government in Carson City, as he also paid out-of-pocket for the printing of the House and Senate Journals. However, Orion Clemens was defeated in his run for Secretary of State in 1864 (when Nevada achieved statehood), and afterward, never returned.
The house reflects Gothic Revival and Greek Revival stylistic influences, with 10 original interior rooms, reportedly the finest residence in the Territory when it was constructed. However, the building has been modified over the years. The current stucco surface was applied to the exterior over the original wooden shiplap siding. Additions have been made on the rear of the house, and one on the north side. The front porch has been modified from its original form, and a balcony above the front bay window has been removed.
The Orion Clemens House is located at 502 N. Division St., at the northwest corner of Spear and Division sts., in Carson City. It is currently under private ownership and is not open to the public.
With an abundance of silver from the booming Comstock Lode, it was determined that Carson City would make an ideal location for a U.S. Mint, one of seven buildings serving as mints in the U.S. over the last 200 years. The mint at Carson City was a physical manifestation of the success of the Comstock Lode since it showed Federal recognition of the value of the mines located in the "hinterlands" of Nevada. Although the Carson City Mint was established by Congress in 1863, the Civil War delayed its construction. Ground-breaking ceremonies took place on July 18, 1866. The Mint opened in December 1869, with Abraham Curry, founder of Carson City, as the first superintendent. Beginning in 1870, eight coin denominations bearing the mint mark "CC" were produced until June 1, 1893. More than $49,000,000 of gold and silver was coined here. Coin collectors are very familiar with the desirable "CC" marks on gold coins such as Double Eagles ($20), Gold Eagles ($10) and Half Eagles ($5). Of course, silver dollars, half dollars, quarters, 20-cent pieces and dimes were also minted from metal mined on the Comstock.
The Carson City Mint was designed by Alfred Mullett, newly-appointed supervising architect for the U.S. Treasury Department. The Mint shows Mullett's early fascination with the Classical tradition, a style that predominated in the great post-Civil War building programs. In the Carson City Mint, Mullett combined both Greek and Classical traditions, adding an Italian Villa cupola. Most of the original building remains intact, and all materials for the Mint are native to Nevada. The sandstone was quarried at the State Prison, the brick was manufactured at the Adams Brick Works in Genoa (operated by John Quincy Adams' grandsons) and the interior wainscoting was milled from Tahoe sugar pine. The Carson City U.S. Mint's formal mint status was withdrawn in 1899, due to the drastic decline in mining on the Comstock. Afterward it served as an assay office. The Mint was remodeled to serve as the Nevada State Museum in 1941. Today the Mint's Press No. 1 resides at the museum.
The U.S. Mint/Nevada State Museum is located at 600 N. Carson St. in Carson City. It is open to the public Wednesday-Saturday, 8:30am to 4:30pm. There is an admission fee for adults.
Nevada was proclaimed a territory in 1861, and a state in 1864, but the Governor's Mansion was not built until more than 40 years later between 1908 and 1909. Until that time, Nevada's governors and their families found lodging where they could. State Assembly Bill 10, the "Mansion Bill," was passed in 1907 to secure a permanent site and residence for Nevada's First Families. The land where the mansion stands was generously offered by Mrs. T.B. Rickey for the sum of $10. Reno architect George A. Ferris designed the mansion and the construction bid was awarded at $22,700. The mansion was first occupied in July 1909 by Acting Governor Denver Dickerson and his family, and first opened to the public during an open house on New Years' Day, 1910. The governor's daughter, June Dickerson, was born in the mansion in September 1909, and was the only child ever born in the home.
The commanding Classical Revival building features Georgian and Jeffersonian motifs, first seen in the central placement of the main entry. The elegant two-story pedimented portico is supported by fluted Ionic columns, as is the second-story porch that wraps around the building's front façade. The window moldings employ Greek Revival motifs. On the interior, the first floor contains the grand entry hall, the reception room, a formal dining room, the governor's study, luncheon room and the kitchen. The upstairs contains the private living quarters for the governor's family. The mansion was structurally rehabilitated and redecorated from 1967 to 1968. The circular pergola and curved front stairs and metal balustrades were added in 1969. Additional buildings were added to the grounds in 1998.
The Nevada State Governor's Mansion is located at 606 N. Mountain St. in Carson City. The mansion is open for tours on Nevada Day, the last Saturday in October.
This two-story Second Empire home was built in 1875 by Henry Hudson Beck, a businessman, member of the Territorial legislature of 1864 and an assemblyman in the state legislature (1865, 1874, 1888, 1894). Beck had immigrated to Carson City in 1860 and began manufacturing shingles in the mountains above the burgeoning town. He assisted in construction projects but later began selling shoes. His business flourished into a general mercantile enterprise. He then married in 1869 and had four children, requiring a large family home. The house is one of three remaining examples of the Second Empire architectural style in Carson City. This style was prominent in American residential architecture between 1860 and 1880, although less common in the far West. The house gains visual prominence by its uphill siting on a large hillside lot.
The house was subsequently sold to the Barber family in the late 1870s. Oscar T. Barber was a Comstock-based merchant and a member of the Nevada State Assembly (1870). Barber's business in Gold Hill is listed in the Virginia & Truckee Railroad 1873-1874 directory as "Barber O.T. & Co., dealers in hardware, stoves and tinware, mill and mining goods, Main St. . . " The home was then purchased in 1881 by Nevada Supreme Court Justice Charles Belknap and his wife Virginia. After being admitted to the State Bar of Nevada in 1869, Belknap practiced law in Austin (central Nevada) and Virginia City for six years. During this time, he also served one term as Virginia City Mayor. Belknap was then appointed secretary to Democratic Governor Lewis Bradley (1871-1878), and is credited with assisting the governor pass the Mining Act of 1871 which levied a tax on mines. This tax is still a major source of revenue for Nevada. In 1872, Belknap was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Nevada Supreme Court. He later ran successfully for re-election. He married Governor Bradley's daughter, Virginia, at the Governor's residence in February 1873. The Belknaps resided here from 1881 until they moved to California in 1908.
The Belknap House is located at 1206 N. Nevada St. in Carson City. It is privately owned and not open to the public.
This house was built by James D. Roberts in Washoe City in 1859, and then moved to Carson City in 1873 on a Virginia & Trukee flat car. Many residences and other buildings were moved from mining boomtown to mining boomtown during the late 19th century and early 1900s in this manner. The Roberts House is a rare example of Gothic Revival architecture in Nevada, and the oldest extant house in Carson City. Typical Gothic Revival elements of the Roberts House include its gingerbread bargeboard, lancet windows and a steeply-pitched roof. Roberts was born in Illinois in 1827, came to California during the gold rush and lived in various California locations until 1857 when he settled in Nevada. Roberts fought in the Pyramid Lake Battle of 1860--one of a series of conflicts between native American Indian groups and new settlers and miners during which more European Americans died than in any prior American engagement with Indians in the far West.
Roberts died on January 6, 1915. The last residents of this home were Thurman G. and Hattie Hale Roberts, who bequeathed the home to Carson City. Thurman, son of the builder, was a miner and an employee of the Carson and Colorado railroad. Hattie was a direct descendant of Nathan G. Hale, executed by the British in 1776. Hale's official commission, signed by George Washington, was still hanging on the wall when Carson City acquired the home in 1969. That year demolition of the house was proposed so that a park could be built at the site. Several local groups organized and saved the house from destruction. It now operates as a house museum.
The James D. Roberts House is located at 1207 N. Carson St. in Carson City. It is operated by the Nevada Landmarks Society and is open for tours on the weekend. Call 775-887-2174 for museum hours.
The Bowers Mansion was built in 1863 by Lemuel "Sandy" Bowers and his wife, Eilley, and is the finest example of the homes built in Nevada by the new millionaires of the Comstock mining boom. The land originally was purchased in 1856 by Eilley and her first husband Alex Cowan, who returned to Utah a year later with other Mormon settlers. Eilley secured a divorce and moved to Gold Canyon where she ran a boarding house and later acquired the mining claim which, together with that belonging to her second husband Sandy, became the source of their fortune. The mansion was the fulfillment of Eilley's dreams of prestige and respectability. The mansion, designed by J. Neeley Johnson, a builder and ex-governor of California, combined Georgian and Italianate architectural styles. It was modeled after a design conceived by Eilley based on her recollection of elegant buildings in her native Scotland. Indeed, the Bowers employed stonecutters from Scotland for the construction of their new home, which eventually cost $400,000 to build, an exorbitant sum in the 1860s. Eilley and Sandy toured Europe from 1861 to 1863, purchasing furniture, statuary, painting and other adornments for their home.
Following the death of Sandy Bowers in 1868, Eilley fell on hard financial times and finally lost her precious home to foreclosure. The mansion was abandoned by the time Henry Riter acquired it and operated it as a resort until 1946. The building is currently owned and operated by the Washoe County Parks Department. Some 500 Nevada families have donated period furniture housed in the mansion. The park blends the historical site with recreational facilities such as a spring-fed swimming pool, picnic areas, and a playground. Tours of the mansion are given in summer and autumn.
The Bowers Mansion is located in Washoe Valley, on Franktown Rd., 19 miles south of Reno, on the way to Carson City. Access Franktown Rd. from US 395; the junction is marked with a "Bowers Mansion" sign. The mansion is open from May 18th - Sept 29th 2013 at 10:00am-3:00pm. Hourly weekend tours only with admission fee. For further information call 775-849-0201
Mount Rose Elementary School is one of two remaining Mission Revival style schools from a group of four known as the "Spanish Quartet." These single-story schools were built as a result of a bond issue, and in addition to Mount Rose, McKinley Park School is the only other of the four to remain. The other two schools making up the Spanish Quartet were Mary S. Doten School at the corner of Fifth and Washington streets, and Orvis Ring, on Seventh between Record and Evans streets. Mount Rose Elementary was built in 1912 and designed by local architect George Ferris, in a style that is rare for the Reno area. The school cost $1.18 per square foot for a total price of $39,743. An addition to the school, designed by Ferris's son Lehman, was constructed in 1938.
The Mission school is U-shaped with an arcade sheltering the main entry and brick walls covered with cement stucco. The first of the two domed bell towers was built in 1912, the second added with the 1938 addition. The school originally contained 15 classrooms and a kitchen. When Mount Rose was first built, it was located in a vacant field on the periphery of growing Reno. The vast residential neighborhoods of Newlands and the Plumas eventually grew around the school over the first half of the 20th century. Mount Rose still functions as an elementary school today, serving children from these large residential areas.
Mount Rose Elementary School is located at 925 Lander St., in Reno. The school is open to the public during regular school hours.
The Vachina Apartments building was designed by Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps and erected in 1922 in the Classical Revival style, characteristic of the influence of the Ecole de Beaux Arts on DeLongchamps earlier work. The building was one of the earliest major apartment buildings constructed in Reno, and exhibits the same formal symmetry of the architect's larger Classical Revival works in the area, such as the Washoe County Courthouse. The exterior walls of the two-story building are constructed with small concrete blocks, while large concrete block quions enrich the corners. DeLongchamps's careful attention to detail can be seen in the small Classical portico and cornice. The original owner of the apartment building was Aldo Vachina, who also represented the Italian Consul in Reno. Reno had a significant Italian population, and Vachina was one of many Italians who made significant contributions to the city's development. They were agriculturalists, stonemasons, dairy farmers and business owners.
Later renamed the California Apartments, this building also played a significant role in Reno's divorce industry from the early 1920s through the mid-1960s, by housing temporary "Nevada residents" prior to their divorce court appearances. Until 1927, divorce-seekers had to call Nevada home for six months before a divorce could be granted. In 1927, the residency period was reduced to three months, which boosted the divorce trade. By 1931, when the residency period was lowered to six weeks, the number of temporary residences increased even further. Apartment vacancies were rare, which helped keep Reno afloat during the Great Depression.
The Vachina Apartments--California Apartments are located at 45
California Ave. in Reno. It is still a private apartment building and
not open to the public.
The Levy House, built in 1906, is an elegant example of Classical Revival architecture in Reno. Ionic columns support the grand two-story portico, and the roof is hipped with gabled dormer windows. The house was built for William Levy, a prominent mining entrepreneur and local merchant who owned the Palace Dry Goods store. Between the Palace Dry Goods, which operated until 1932, and his interests in the Unionville Mining Company, William Levy was able to finance the construction of this imposing home.
The building originally faced Granite Street, now South Sierra Street, but in 1940 it was re-oriented 90 degrees to face California Avenue. The move was apparently made to accommodate the disparate interests of William Levy's heirs, his two daughters, Mildred and Fritzi. The parcel was split into two lots, one for each daughter. The house was moved to the west of its original location and Mildred continued to live in it. Fritzi, who lived in San Francisco, leased her lot to a Signal gas station, later a Chevron, which was demolished when Sierra Street was widened in the 1970s. The move of the house created some unusual changes, such as the set of French doors that open onto a non-existent balcony, and the pull-chain for a toilet that remained after the commode was removed.
The Levy House is located at 111-121 California Ave. in Reno. The home is now a salon and day spa, open 10:00am to 8:00pm Monday-Friday and 10:00am to 3:00pm on Saturday. Call 775-786-7720 for further information.
Nevada's premier architect, Frederic DeLongchamps conceived the Giraud House in 1914. The design utilizes formal Colonial Revival style elements such as a wide frieze below the roofline, comprehensive use of white Tuscan columns and red brick construction. The main decorative features are the porches projecting from three sides, each framed with columns. Brick has long been a popular building material in Reno, as well as a favorite of DeLongchamps, and it is employed in the full range of architectural styles found in town. The house is located in the Newlands neighborhood, an early example of the numerous mansions and homes built in the most fashionable district in Reno, primarily between the 1920s and the 1940s.
The house was built for Joseph Giraud, a sheep rancher. For a number of years, the sheep industry was lucrative, and more than a few sheep ranchers made fortunes on wool and meat, which was needed for the mining boomtowns that sprang up all over Nevada. In 1934, the house was purchased by Roy Allen Hardy, a mining engineer who worked for George Wingfield, a prominent Nevada politician and banker. As a confederate of Wingfield, Hardy would have been a prominent citizen in Reno, and served as mine foreman, superviser, owner and operator of a number of mining operation in surrounding cities. He also served as a regent of the University of Nevada for eight years. Much of the interior remains intact and in the upstairs men's bathroom there is a tiled mural of a nude. The model for the mural reportedly posed for many a Reno artist.
The Joseph Giraud House is located at 442 Flint St., two blocks west of Virginia St. in Reno. The building currently houses the Hardy House. Call 775-322-4555 for restaurant information.
Prince A. Hawkins commissioned prominent Los Angeles architect, Elmer Grey, to build his Colonial Revival home in 1911. Grey also designed the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Huntington Library and other notable buildings in the far West. Grey's plan for the Hawkins House evoked traditional forms, with a brick exterior and a commodious, central floor plan. The house had modern heating and plumbing systems, a vast kitchen complex and a third floor servants' area. The Hawkins House is situated on the bluff above the Truckee River, next to the home of Senator Francis G. Newlands. It was one of the first homes built in the fashionable Newlands Heights area. The diversity of architectural styles in the Newlands neighborhood makes it a record of early 20th-century architectural history, with styles ranging from large Colonial Revival residences, such as the Hawkins House, and French Chateau mansions, to more modest Spanish Colonial and Craftsman bungalows.
The Hawkins family has long been one of the first families of Nevada, prominent in Nevada business and banking circles for more than a century, and the house was passed down to later generations. Attorney Prince Z. Hawkins and his family owned the property until 1978. Because the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art occupied the building in the 1980s, the City of Reno designated the property as the City's first historic landmark in return. No major alterations have been made to the Hawkins House.
The Hawkins House is located at 549 Court St. in Reno. It is privately owned and currently houses a public relations firm.
The residence of Francis G. Newlands, U.S. Congressman 1893-1903, and U.S. Senator 1903-1917, was built from 1889 to1890, with the front wing and arbor added sometime before 1908. The Shingle style mansion contains numerous Queen Anne attributes, including a random horizontal plan with wings, bays and porches, and the steep gable roof. Francis Newlands came to Nevada in 1888 to manage the interests of William Sharon, one of the Comstock silver barons. Newlands was elected to the House of Representatives in 1892, and in 1903 he was elected to the Senate. He served as a senator until his death in 1917.
Newlands was the primary author of the Reclamation Act of 1902. The Reclamation Act sought to promote agriculture in the arid west through the construction of large-scale irrigation projects. The first project under the Reclamation Act was the Newlands Irrigation Project in Nevada's Lahontan Valley. After Newland's death, George Thatcher, a prominent local attorney, purchased the home in 1920. Thatcher was a well-known and successful divorce lawyer, who occasionally let his prominent clients reside in his home. This was the case when Woolworth dime store heiress Barbara Hutton came to Reno for a divorce in 1935.
Because of Newlands's prominence in politics, water and reclamation projects in the west, his property was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of just six in Nevada. Newlands's mansion was the first residence built along the bluff overlooking the Truckee River, and the area grew into a fashionable neighborhood known as Newlands Heights. Today it contains many historic mansions and homes. The majority of the residences were erected between 1920 and 1940, and the diversity of architectural styles range from large Colonial Revival and French Chateau mansions to more modest Spanish Colonial Revival and Craftsman bungalows.
The Newlands Mansion is located at 7 Elm Crt. in Reno. The mansion is privately owned and not open to the public.
The Southside School annex was built in 1936 to provide additional classrooms for the Southside School, which was built in 1903 and demolished in 1960 to make way for Reno's City Hall. The school annex was built with Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds and labor, and housed the kindergarten, and the fifth and sixth grades. The WPA programs were initiated under President Franklin Roosevelt and the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. The program employed nearly nine million people over an eight-year period; in Reno, both unemployed professionals and laymen contributed to the construction of the new Southside School Annex. The architect of the annex is unknown.
The two-story red brick school is a striking example of regional interpretation of the Art Deco style. Only a few buildings were constructed in this style throughout Nevada. The school is particularly noted for its stepped, recessed, Art Deco entrance frontispiece. Three second-story front and rear windows are ornamented with floral and owl motifs. The vertical orientation of the door surround, the massing of the building with a central block and additions, the metal casement windows and the elaborate detailing are all characteristic of the Art Deco style, popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The building is the last public school building to remain in Reno's downtown core. It is currently owned by the City of Reno and leased as office space.
The Southside School Annex is located at 190 East Liberty St. in Reno. The school is open to the public during office hours.
This courthouse was the third for Washoe County, established in 1861 as one of the original nine counties in the Nevada territory. Myron Lake donated land in 1871 for the first Reno courthouse, in anticipation of Reno wresting county seat status from Washoe City some 20 miles to the south. The original Reno courthouse, built of red brick in 1871-1873, still stands as an internal component of the building we see today. In 1909, Frederic DeLongchamps won the design competition for the new courthouse, the first solo commission of his career. The building is Classical Revival with Beaux Arts influence, featuring decorative elements in terra cotta. A copper dome with ribs ending in fanciful brackets crowns the courthouse. The building's interior includes an American Indian mural by Robert Caples at the main entrance and two Hans Meyer-Kassel oils under the stained glass dome on the second floor.
During the 1930s, when divorce was the primary industry for Reno, nearly 33,000 divorces were granted in these courtrooms. Famous Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstadt took a photograph of a young woman kissing one of these pillars. The posed picture appeared on the front cover of the June 21, 1937, edition of Life. Additions have been made to the Courthouse in 1946, 1949 and 1960. Frederic DeLongchamps designed each of the additions. The courthouse has been restored with assistance from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund grants. Courtroom No. 1, the scene of action during Reno's divorce heyday, is currently undergoing restoration.
The Washoe County Courthouse is located at 117 South Virginia St. in Reno. It is open to the public, Monday-Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.
The Pioneer Theater--Auditorium, now called the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, was designed by the Oklahoma City architectural firm Bozalis, Dickinson and Roloff, and completed in December 1967. It is located in downtown Reno amidst other historic buildings featured in this itinerary. From the front, the building looks like a bird that has swooped down to the ground with its wings spread. The building's 140-foot diameter gold-anodized geodesic dome consists of 500 faceted panels. The dome was fabricated by Temcor, a Torrance, California, company co-founded by Donald Richter, a student of Richard Buckminster Fuller. The geodesic dome was the brainchild of the far-thinking Buckminster Fuller. Long fascinated with the need for more efficient and cost-effective housing, he saw the solution to the world's problems in nature's design principles. The geodesic dome was the result of his revolutionary discoveries about balancing the forces of compression and tension in building, and his belief that the triangle is the strongest structure in nature.
The Pioneer Theater--Auditorium opened its doors in January 1968, and it has played an important role in the expansion of Reno's cultural milieu at the middle of the 20th century. Today, the Pioneer Center is a focal point of Reno's Arts and Culture District. The district includes a number of historic properties that have been adapted to house cultural events and activities. As an anchor for the east end of the district and as the only building constructed as a performance arts space that still functions in that capacity, the Pioneer is an important cultural and historic resource.
The Pioneer Theater--Auditorium, now the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, is located at 100 S. Virginia St. in Reno. The plaza and lobby are open daily. The events schedule can be found at www.pioneercenter.com or by calling 775-686-6600.
Designed by Frederick DeLongchamps in 1932, this post office is one of the best examples of Art Deco design, specifically Zig-Zag Moderne, in Nevada. MacDonald Engineering constructed the building, with the assistance of the Civil Works Administration (CWA), one of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. The post office, which also housed a variety of Federal agencies, opened for business in 1934. The land for the post office was acquired in 1931 from Katherine Kincart Coughlin, Riverside Realty Company, and the Board of Washoe County Commissioners. A portion of the site was occupied by a Carnegie Library, demolished to make way for the post office.
Although standard building plans had been developed for post offices, commissioned architects were allowed, where practicable, to give individual treatment to the exterior details. DeLongchamps achieved this with exceptional skill and artistry. The exterior is pale green terra cotta incised to resemble quarried stone. The aluminum panels over the entrances salute transportation and are integrated with patriotic and American Indian motifs in the interior. The first-floor lobby has spectacular highly ornamented, dark marble walls highlighted with cast aluminum. Until the area was enclosed in order to house the HVAC units, the central portion of the ceiling was a large skylight. A fourth floor was originally planned but never built. The two upper floors of offices opened onto the open area created by the skylight. Situated along the Truckee River, with a large park-like lawn in front, the post office in downtown Reno is one of the most attractive buildings in Nevada. The Postal Service still occupies this building.
The US Post Office--Reno Main is located at 50 South Virginia St. in Reno. The post office is open to the public 8:30am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday.
The Riverside Hotel sits on the exact location where Reno began in 1859. C.W. Fuller operated a log building here that provided food and shelter to gold-seekers who were passing through the area in the reverse gold rush called the "Rush to Washoe," spurred by the gold, and later silver, strikes of the famous Comstock Lode. Myron Lake owned the property from 1861 into the 1880s, running consecutive hotel businesses under the name Lake's House. After Lake's death, his daughter and son-in-law operated the hotel and renamed it the Riverside. A subsequent owner, Harry Gosse, converted the small frame building into a lavish brick hotel, retaining the name Riverside. This version of the Riverside Hotel was destroyed in a fire. Gosse intended to rebuild but was unable to finance the project and George Wingfield, Reno's most powerful man at the time, acquired the property.
Nevada's pre-eminent architect and former mining engineer Frederic DeLongchamps designed the 1927 version of the Riverside Hotel for George Wingfield. At six stories high, the Riverside was Reno's tallest building at the time of its construction. For the building's design, DeLongchamps employed the rich red brick, so common in Reno, with contrasting cream-colored Gothic Revival style terra cotta detailing. Situated as it is along the picturesque Truckee River, next to the Washoe County Courthouse, also designed by DeLongchamps, it is easy to see why the Riverside was Reno's most elegant and popular hotel. Following the passage of the liberal 1931 divorce law, George Wingfield installed an enormous roof sign advertising the hotel in glowing neon that was visible all over the Truckee Meadows. The Riverside had an international reputation and was mentioned in nearly all of the novels and films featuring Reno divorces.
The Riverside Hotel was laid out to suit wealthy divorce-seekers, with 40 corner suites that included kitchen facilities and connecting rooms for children and servants. Each of the apartment suites was furnished with a specially designed cork-insulated and tile-lined refrigerator. Cold brine was circulated through the refrigerators from the main refrigeration plant in the basement. There were 60 single rooms for shorter stays as well. Such a room was occupied by Clare Boothe (award-winning author, editor of Vanity Fair, congresswoman and ambassador) when she arrived in Reno in 1929 to divorce her husband George Brokaw: "Her train arrived in Reno at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 6, 1929, in a fierce blizzard. Clare's mood turned bleak as the weather when she discovered that her reserved apartment at the Riverside Hotel (a red brick building between the Truckee River and the courthouse) was occupied and that she would have to settle for a 'cubby hole' of a room for the first three days."1
The Riverside Hotel was the spot most watched by news correspondents who had been sent to cover the national phenomenon journalist Walter Winchell dubbed Renovation. Reno had nearly as many reporters on hand as divorce-seekers, with news bureaus representing Associated Press, United Press, International News Service, the Sacramento Bee and the New York Daily News, all looking for an exclusive story. The Riverside Hotel has been rehabilitated and converted into living/studio spaces for artists, with funding assistance through the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office and the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive Program.
The Riverside Hotel is located at 17 South Virginia St. in Reno. The main lobby is open to the public.
1. Carman, Dorothy Walworth. Reno Fever. Ray Long and Richard R. Smith, Inc.: New York, 1932.
There has been a bridge at this site since 1860, when C. W. Fuller constructed the first recorded span of the Truckee River. Built in 1905 by Cotton Brothers and Company of Oakland, California, the current Virginia Street Bridge is the oldest one functioning in Reno, and one of the first reinforced concrete bridges in Nevada. The bridge's classical design has been and continues to be a major architectural focal point in Reno. Architect John B. Leonard of San Francisco chose a Beaux Arts design in keeping with the urban setting of the bridge. Leonard's design employed concrete scored to resemble masonry. Other traditional characteristics of masonry construction include the classical arches and the pilasters rising to the level of the ornate iron railing. Above the arches, the bridge is a concrete shell, earth filled to the roadway and sidewalk level. The quality of design and aesthetics make this bridge unusual in Nevada.
The bridge has always been a major crossing of the Truckee River in downtown Reno. When it was built, Reno was a small but thriving transportation hub, with three major railroads. It did not take long following its construction for the bridge to gain a national reputation. From about 1906 until the 1960s, Reno was known as the Divorce Capital of the World, and the Virginia Street Bridge was the main symbol of the trade. Known as "Wedding Ring Bridge," and the "Bridge of Sighs," the Virginia Street Bridge has been the subject of national folklore that continues to the present day. The legend, which goes as far back as the 1920s and maybe earlier, holds that divorcees, upon receiving their final decree from the judge, exited the Washoe County Courthouse, kissed the columns supporting the portico and proceeded post haste past the Riverside Hotel to the Virginia Street Bridge, whence they cast their wedding rings into the Truckee River.
The Virginia Street Bridge is located on Virginia St., spanning the Truckee River, in downtown Reno.
The First United Methodist Church is one of the oldest remaining churches
in Reno. It was built in 1925 and designed by Wythe, Blaine and Olson,
a firm based in Oakland, California. The Period Revival cathedral displays
impressive Gothic Revival design elements, utilizing a cross plan, typical
of that style. The three-story cathedral was one of the first poured-concrete
buildings in Reno. The wood grain left by the planks used as molds for
the exterior can be seen in the concrete. The rough surface was left
to facilitate the attachment of vines to the walls, but for unknown
reasons, these vines did not grow. The church's scale combined with
its siting on a corner near the river is dramatic and impressive, making
it appear even larger than it is. The parish house and connecting wing
were added around 1940, and were designed by prominent local architect,
Edward Parsons. The Methodist Church congregation was established early
in Reno's history in 1868, organized by Reverend Thomas McGrath.
The First United Methodist Church is located at 201 West First St. in Reno and is open to the public.
Erected in 1925 by Roush and Belz to serve as the first women's club in Reno, the 20th Century Club was part of a national movement organized in 1894. The club was open to all women of good repute and of course the most prominent women of the community were members. Prior to 1930, the club was involved in many causes, ranging from passing laws prohibiting spitting on sidewalks to education and social issues, in addition to serving as a forum for discussion groups dealing with current events, the arts, literature, etc. Membership in the 20th Century Club peaked at 1,000 in its heyday. The club was also utilized by the entire community as a rental space for parties, wedding and other functions. During World War II, it was rented to the USO. Enough money was generated by these rentals for the Club to hire a housekeeper and caterer to live on the premises.
Fred M. Schadler, a prominent Reno architect, designed the building. His design for the club was drawn from the Prairie School, which utilized strong horizontal lines, with the addition of Classical elements, such as tall and prominent arched windows. Today, the one-story building, situated on the western limits of the downtown core near the Truckee River, is impacted by the larger-scale modern buildings in the vicinity.
The 20th Century Club is located at 335 West First St. in Reno. It is privately owned and not open to the public.
Built in 1931, El Cortez Hotel is one of only three remaining major Art Deco buildings in Reno, and is an excellent example of this style. The foliated motif found on the terra cotta design on the building's base and parapet are remarkable Art Deco details. At the time it was built, it was Reno's tallest building. The hotel experienced such extensive use early on that an addition was built just a few years after its construction. The hotel included the Orchid Room, a swanky bar and a popular restaurant called the Tracedero Room. These rooms were elegantly appointed with stylish Art Deco ornamentation. The El Cortez was a high-class hotel, garnering an astounding $6 per night, compared to the prevailing room rate of $2.50 per night. The El Cortez was built in anticipation of increased divorce traffic after Reno's divorce law was liberalized in 1931. The residency period for those seeking a divorce in Reno was reduced from three months to six weeks, to boost the already lucrative divorce trade. El Cortez was one of several temporary residential complexes constructed during this time.
Reno-based architect, George Ferris and his son, Lehman A. "Monk" Ferris, designed this hotel for real estate investor Abe Zetooney. George Ferris's career in Nevada lasted over 30 years. He was educated at Swarthmore College and settled in Reno in 1906, where he opened his own architectural office. He was responsible for the Spanish Quartet of schools, including Mount Rose and McKinley Park, as well as the Governor's Mansion in Carson City, and later in his career he served as the State Architect for the Federal Housing Authority. Ferris formed a partnership with his son Lehman in 1928, which lasted until 1932. Lehman had studied at the University of Nevada and worked with Frederick DeLongchamps before going to work for his father. He was one of the first architects in Nevada to specialize in steel frame construction, served as the City of Reno building inspector, was instrumental in the adoption of a Uniform Building Code, and chairman of the first State Architectural Registration Board in 1947.
The El Cortez Hotel is located at 239 West Second St. in Reno. The lobby and casino are open to the public; for reservations call 775-322-9161.
The Nevada-California-Oregon (NCO) Railroad was the 20th century's longest narrow gauge railway, although only 25 miles of it were in Nevada. In May of 1889, a major fire destroyed a large section of Reno, including the NCO's holdings. Construction of the NCO locomotive house was undertaken quickly, completed in September of 1889. The building was the second locomotive house to be built in Nevada and is now the oldest remaining engine house in the state. It is a one-story rectangular brick building, with a gable roof that originally contained four skylights. In 1901, the locomotive house was divided so that a portion of the building could be used as a machine shop. A small brick addition was constructed in the 1940s.
The NCO Railway Depot was built in 1910 by the Burke Brothers and designed by Frederic DeLongchamps. The two-story red brick building cost $35,000 to build and reflects the eclecticism that early 20th-century architects often employed, incorporating a variety of design features. The depot combines Italianate bracketed cornices, Mission style facade elements, Roman arches and red Spanish roof tiles. The most striking feature of the depot is the extensive use of concrete in its construction, including the quoins at all exterior corners, window sills, and accents on the curvilinear gable and molding of the front entrance. The peak years of the railroad were from 1906 to 1912, and it was during this period of prosperity that the depot was built. By 1914, however, the railroad took a downward swing, and by 1917, NCO was forced to sell 64 miles of the main line and all of its Nevada holdings to the Western Pacific Railroad. In 1918, the last NCO narrow gauge train pulled out of this depot. From 1917 to 1937, the depot served as a Western Pacific passenger and freight depot, and from 1937 to 1975 it served as offices for the railroad. In 1975 it was sold to a liquor distributor.
The Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Depot/Locomotive House and Machine Shop are located at 325 and 401 East Fourth St. in Reno. The buildings are currently not occupied and are not open to the public.
The University of Nevada was established as a Land Grant university in Elko in 1874. In 1884, the campus was moved to Reno, where it has become a well reputed, but comparatively small, educational institution. Until the 1960s the University of Nevada-Reno was the only institution of higher education in the state. It has contributed greatly to numerous fields, including the humanities, mining, engineering and agriculture, and to educational opportunity within Nevada.
The University's quadrangle was modeled on Thomas Jefferson's plans for the University of Virginia campus. Incorporating three existing 19th-century buildings such as Morrill Hall, the campus concept became the master plan guiding the university's growth from 1906 to 1941. During this period, philanthropist Clarence Hungerford Mackay had great influence over the physical form of the campus through his financial support and personal involvement in the development of the campus. The historic campus contains 13 buildings, built from 1886 to 1945, that represent architectural styles of the late 19th century, the Classical Revival which predominated in the early 20th century, and one example of Art Moderne. These buildings represent the work of a number of architects noted for their work in Nevada and elsewhere including Frederick DeLongchamps of Reno, Robert Farquhar of Los Angeles, and the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White, whom Mackay hired to design several buildings starting with the Mackay School of Mines.
The University Gymnasium is the one building in the district not located around the central quadrangle and lake area. It was a departure not only from the classic campus plan, but also the classical architecture that dominated the university's early 20th-century buildings. Designed by DeLongchamps, the Art Moderne gymnasium was begun in 1942 but, due to World War II, not completed until 1945. DeLongchamps's design for the gymnasium tied it to the rest of the core campus by his choice of materials, brick and concrete, and the overall symmetrical massing of the building. The building reflects an important phase of DeLongchamps's work, an architect who worked in numerous period styles.
The University of Nevada Historic District in Reno is bounded by Ninth St. to the south, Virginia St. to the west and on the north and east by later university development. For information on campus tours call 775-784-4700 or visit the university's website. The Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada Library contains many important and valuable research materials including historic photographs and the Frederic J. DeLongchamps Architectural Drawing Collection.
Morrill Hall was the first building of the University of Nevada-Reno campus. This academic building, a three-story Second Empire style edifice, was constructed after the University of Nevada was relocated from Elko to Reno in 1884. Relatively few Second Empire style buildings remain in Reno, and it may be that Morrill Hall was a rare example of this particular type of Victorian building constructed in the city. The cornerstone was laid on September 12, 1885, and the building was ready for occupancy on February 15, 1886. Constructed of two-story brick walls, a third story was formed by the typical Second Empire style mansard roof. A deep basement provided additional space.
Originally called State University, the building housed administration
offices, classrooms, and dormitories. At the time it was built, Nevada
was little more than a collection of rough mining camps and railroad
towns. The new university hall symbolized the determination of the people
of Nevada to provide educational opportunities for themselves and their
children. Currently, the Alumni Association, University Foundation and
the University of Nevada Press occupy the building.
Morrill Hall is located on the south end of the University of Nevada's Reno campus quadrangle, near the intersection of Ninth and Virginia sts. For information on campus tours call 775-784-4700 or visit the university's website.
William S. Richardson, of the prominent New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, designed the Mackay School of Mines Building in the Georgian Revival architectural style in 1906. Built by Northwestern Construction Company, the original configuration for the building was U-shaped, enclosing an open-ended atrium. The front section of the building was laid with Flemish-bond brick and features a two-story portico with four monumental Tuscan columns of Indiana limestone, and a white mosaic tile ceiling under the portico. In 1926, Frederic DeLongchamps undertook a remodeling project, adding a second story and enclosing the atrium. He also added the present copper-sheathed hipped roof and skylights.
The Mackay family funded construction of this building in honor of Comstock Lode "King" John Mackay , an Irish immigrant, who made a fortune in the Comstock mining boom. At the time of his death, John Mackay's estate was worth at least $30,000,000. Mackay's son, Clarence, provided funding for the building and its later remodeling. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, of Mount Rushmore fame, designed the cast bronze statue of John Mackay located at the front of the School of Mines. The Mackay School of Mines is one of the major schools of mines in the county and the building also houses the Geology Museum, established in 1906. The collections, which also include Mackay family silver, are extremely valuable to the history of mining in Nevada and the American West. They are in constant use for teaching and research.
The Mackay School of Mines Building is located on the north end of the University of Nevada's Reno campus quadrangle, near the intersection of Ninth and Virginia sts. For information on campus tours call 775-784-4700 or visit the university's website.
Located at the northwestern edge of the University of Nevada-Reno campus, the Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium was built in 1963 as the first atmospherium of its kind in the world. While other planetaria featured views of the night sky and solar system, the Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium, could simulate both day and night conditions and a full range of atmospheric phenomena, including cloud formations, thunderstorms and rainbows. The first planetarium, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, opened in 1930. But it wasn't until the 1960s that widespread public interest in space exploration and science, coupled with improved technology led to an increase in the number of planetaria, as they spread to mid-size American cities such as Reno. Designed by Reno architect Raymond Hellman and constructed by McKenzie Construction, the atmospherium is an excellent example of the Populuxe style of architecture, characterized by space-age designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms, and parabola. Building such as this reflect American society's emphasis on futuristic designs and fascination with space-age themes during the 1960s.
Dr. Wendell A. Mordy, director of the University of Nevada's Desert Research Institute, envisioned that the atmospherium would not only be a home for the institute but a place where students, physicists and the public could learn about weather and the atmosphere. It was the first planetarium in the nation to feature a 360-degree projector capable of providing horizon-to-horizon images and through time-lapse photography showing an entire day's weather in a few minutes. Although no longer is use, the atmospherium initially featured an experimental solar heating and cooling system designed by Desert Research Institute. The system consisted of 19 louvers, black on one side and white on the other, capable of being rotated to reflect or absorb light. An 18,000-gallon water tank served as a heat exchange unit.
The Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium is located on the north end of the University of Nevada's Reno campus, just off North Virginia St. The planetarium and science center are open Monday-Friday 8:00am to 8:00pm; Saturday and Sunday 10:30am to 8:00pm; there is a fee. For more information and show schedules call 775-784-4811 or visit the planetarium's website.
Designed by local architect George Ferris in 1909, the McKinley Park School was one of four Reno schools known as the "Spanish Quartet," single-story Mission Revival style schools built around the turn of the 20th century (see also Mount Rose Elementary School). The schools represent a growth spurt in the city of Reno and were highly praised at the time of their construction for their modern convenience and technology, as well as their potential to serve as community focal points. The use of Mission Revival style has been attributed to the preference of school superintendent at the time, B.D. Billinghurst, who was enamored of Spanish architecture. However, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction reported to the legislature in 1915 that mission architecture was chosen as it "is especially adapted to one-story buildings," and he added "there is nothing better for school purposes than one-story buildings. The one-story plan eliminates the stair climbing so destructive to the nervous strength of pupils and teachers, and also renders danger from fire impossible."
McKinley Park School is situated across Riverside Drive from the Truckee River and large trees give the expansive grounds a park-like feel. The stucco-surfaced school is U-shaped with a central open court and an arcade sheltering the main entry. A two-story central tower stands at the base of the U, with a one-story wing extending behind it. The school has undergone rehabilitation and now serves as the City of Reno's Arts and Culture Center, which is open to the public. The rehabilitation effort was supported through grant funds from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund.
The McKinley Park School is located at 925 Riverside Dr. in Reno. Call 775-334-2417 for activities and events.
Located in the northwestern portion of Idlewild Park, the California Building is the only remaining architectural remnant of the Transcontinental Highway Exposition of 1927. Idlewild Park was created for this exposition which celebrated the completion of the Lincoln and Victory highways (present day U.S. 50 and U.S. 40). In 1913, members of the automobile industry began raising money to create a hard-surfaced highway coast-to-coast, with accurate signs along its entire length. The Lincoln Highway Association was formed that same year to help complete this early transcontinental highway, and with assistance of the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1916 and 1921, their goal was soon reached. The completion of the highways opened Nevada up to the lucrative automobile tourism trade, and led to growth and development of communities along the highway routes. San Francisco landscape architect Donald McLaren designed the layout of the exposition grounds. McLaren, who designed the landscaping for the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, also worked on the design of Reno's Wingfield Park. Idlewild Park and the California Building were gifts from the neighboring state of California.
The California Building was constructed in the Mission Revival architectural style, appropriate as a representation of that state's Spanish and Mexican heritage, and features stuccoed walls, clay tile roof, a bell tower and arched openings. It was the grandest exhibit at the exposition. In honor of those who fell in combat in World War I, the California legislature dedicated the building, "To the memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion to this nation." At one time, Idlewild Park included a zoo, a fish hatchery and a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. Today, the California Building is the only remaining building constructed for the Exposition, reminding Nevadans of their role in early transcontinental highway development. It is currently owned by the City of Reno as a recreational facility and has undergone exterior refurbishment partially funded through the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office.
The California Building is located at 1000 Crown Dr., in Idlewild Park, 1.5 miles west of downtown Reno. It is open to the public. Call 775-334-2262 for park events and activities.
In 1859, placer miners and prospectors in the western Great Basin made two remarkable strikes of gold and silver ore breaching a mountain's slope near Virginia City. The Comstock Lode, as people soon called the ore body, generated a spectacular amount of wealth and established Virginia City as a place on the map. Unlike the small settlements throughout California's Gold Country, Nevada's Comstock District was a highly urbanized, industrial setting, and established a model that all future mining developments generally followed. By the early 1870s, the mining district's capital, Virginia City, together with its smaller neighbor, Gold Hill, reached a population of nearly 25,000, becoming one of the nation's larger communities. Virginia City was decimated by the Great Fire of October 25, 1875, which swept through the city and left nearly 10,000 homeless, but residents were quick to rebuild in the booming economy.
However, by the 1890s, it was becoming clear that the good times were over. It had been years since miners had discovered any new bonanzas, and thousands of people were leaving for better opportunities. By the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Virginia City had declined, shrinking into a town of only several hundred people. The town today is a remarkable collection of 19th-century buildings, abandoned shafts and adits (an almost horizontal entrance to a mine), and thousands of historic archeological sites that convey the rich heritage of this remarkable mining district, recognized as one of just six National Historic Landmarks in the state of Nevada.
Learn more about the historic district's history in our essay about Virginia City.
The Virginia City Historic District includes the populated settlements of Virginia City, Gold Hill, Silver City and Dayton, as well as open land dotted with historic and archeological features associated with mining activities. The district includes almost 400 buildings and covers 14,750 acres. For information on sites that are open to the public, visit the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority website for further information.
The Silver Terrace Cemeteries are a series of terraces dramatically located on the steep, windswept hillside of Virginia City. As this booming mining camp became a more permanent settlement, the need arose to establish a cemetery. Beginning in the 1860s, a wide variety of fraternal, civic and religious groups established burial yards on the hillside including the Masons, Pacific Coast Pioneers, Knights of Pythias, Firemen, Wilson and Brown, Improved Order of Redmen, Roman Catholic, and the city and county. Nearly every plot is fenced or bordered, a typical practice of the Victorian period. The characteristic features of this burial place reflect the breadth of styles and designs popular during its long history.
Grave markers range in materials from wood to metal to cut stone. The inscriptions on the markers give silent testimony to the social and economic fabric of Virginia City. The majority date to before 1920. Very few of the adults buried in these cemeteries were born in Nevada. The birthplaces noted throughout the grounds provide a glimpse of the scope of immigration and the makeup of the settlement that supported the Comstock mining industry. The historic significance of the cemeteries enabled them to qualify for a Save America's Treasures grant through the National Park Service. Restoration is under way.
The Silver Terrace Cemeteries are located at the end of North E St., northeast of the C St. business district in Virginia City. The cemeteries are open to the public daily, but close at dusk.
During the last 20 years of the 19th century, Piper's Opera House served as one of the centers of cultural activity in the Comstock and the West. It was an important stopping point for theatrical tours of North America throughout the last half of the 19th and early 20th century. In 1863, John Piper purchased the brick office block that already stood at this location, now the entrance portion of the opera house, and established a saloon. Piper became one of the most influential theater owners in the West and ran numerous theaters in Reno, Truckee, Carson City and San Francisco, and maintained his own traveling troop. After the great fire of 1875 destroyed his first Virginia City theater (at another location), Piper built a second theater here, to the rear of the saloon. This theater also burned in 1883 after which Piper rebuilt the current opera house in 1885. The auditorium is a large rectangular room with a floor mounted on springs, a suspended horseshoe-shaped balcony and two-story box seats on either side of the stage. John Mackay, wealthy mining magnate and one of the Comstock's "kings," was an honored guest at Piper's Opera House, with a private box and staircase for his exclusive use. The hallmark of late 19th-century stage performances was variety. A typical season at Piper's included performances of Shakespeare starring prominent American and British touring actors, in addition to acts by popular chanteuses, minstrel shows and other performers.
On-going restoration work on the opera house began in the 1960s by John Piper's great granddaughter. Much of the interior furnishings and stage equipment remains intact, including the beautiful hand-painted back-drop scenery. An archeological excavation was conducted in 1998 at Piper's Old Corner Bar, a business located at the southeast corner of the building. Nearly 100,000 artifacts related to the saloon business were uncovered. Rehabilitation work continues, thanks to a Save America's Treasures grant and other funding from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund and the Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs.
Piper's Opera House is located at 1 North B St. in Virginia City. Call 775-847-0433 for tour appointments or a current schedule of shows.
The Henry Piper House
The Henry Piper House was built immediately after Virginia City’s Great Fire of 1875 on a lot previously occupied by the smaller home of local businessman and politician Henry Piper. It is a one and one-half story Italianate row house with no doors or windows on the south side. The front façade is dominated by a five-window bay topped with a terne steel half dome. Originally located immediately adjacent to another similar “row” house, the Henry Piper house is a rare example of a mid-range dwelling in Virginia City, where many similar examples have been lost to attrition.
The Piper-Beebe House is a large two-story Italianate residence constructed
in 1876 by pioneer Virginia City architect-builder, A. F. Mackay. Mackay
designed and built several buildings in Virginia City, but the Piper-Beebe
House is the only one that remains. Built after the Great Fire of 1875,
this house is representative of the elaborate homes built for mine superintendents
and wealthy businessmen. The Italianate style found strong favor following
the fire, as Virginia City sought to rebuild and present itself in a
grand fashion. The Italianate style, exemplified by a vertical design
orientation, heavy cornice brackets and elaborate turned wooden decorative
treatments, was the height of fashion on the west coast during the 1870s
and the Piper-Beebe house would feel quite at home on a fashionable
Victorian street in San Francisco.
The home was occupied by Mackay and his family until the mid-1880s. It was later owned by Edward Piper, operator of the nearby Piper's Opera House and son of its founder John Piper. After Edward Piper's death in 1907, his widow Lavinia married Dan Connors, a bare-fisted prizefighter who came to Nevada as a sportswriter in 1897 to cover the famous Fitzsimmons-Corbett fight which took place in Carson City. After his marriage to Lavinia, Connors took over the management of the opera house, and in 1911 he introduced silent films to Virginia City. In 1949, the house was purchased by Charles Clegg and Lucius Beebe, revivers of the Territorial Enterprise, the original newspaper of the Comstock. Beebe and Clegg were two of the leading figures in the artistic community that established itself in Virginia City during the Second World War. Together they operated the Enterprise as a weekly paper and published numerous books on the Comstock and railroad history.
The Piper-Beebe House is located at 2 South A St. in Virginia City. It is privately owned and not open to the public.
The Storey County Courthouse was built in the high Italianate style that embodies 19th-century ideals of decorative opulence as well as law and order. The first county courthouse was destroyed in the Great Fire of October 1875. Reconstruction began in 1876 and the present building, designed by the San Francisco architectural firm of Kenitzer and Raun and built by contractor Peter Burke, was completed in February 1877. The total cost of construction, including fixtures and the jail, was $117,000, a remarkable sum even for the Comstock boom years. A life-sized figure of Justice stands as sentry at the entrance, but she is not blindfolded, a rare occurrence in our national symbology. The façade of the building was decorated with elaborate ironwork, painted contrasting colors, and a pediment that included the date of construction, 1876, also the national centennial.
This courthouse is the most opulent of those built in Nevada in the late 19th century. Far exceeding the cost of its counterparts, the building served the state's richest community. Ironically, the county built the courthouse at a time when the boom economy of Virginia City was on the verge of collapse. Perhaps due to the inevitability of a downturn, local leaders rebuilt their town following the devastating 1875 fire in grand style. The Storey County Courthouse remains a vivid example of this community's rebirth in the face of economic decline. A portion of its restoration was funded through a grant from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund.
The Storey County Courthouse is located 12 South B St., two doors south of Piper's Opera House. Today the courthouse still serves in its official capacity and is open to the public 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday.
This brick building was built in 1876 as the third and final office of Nevada's first newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. The Enterprise was established as a weekly paper in Genoa, Nevada, in 1858 and published in Virginia City beginning in 1860. An example of vernacular 19th-century commercial style, the building was constructed with a high decorative parapet and a cast-iron storefront with fluted Tuscan pilasters. The first steam-activated press in Nevada was installed in the building at the time of its construction.
The Enterprise was known for the flamboyant style of journalism developed in its earlier years by such writers as Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille. While reporting on the Nevada constitutional convention for the Enterprise, Samuel Clemens began using his penname Mark Twain. During his time with the paper, Twain gathered material for his stories and books from the colorful characters and activities of the Comstock. William Sharon of the Bank of California purchased the paper in 1874 for an estimated $500,000 in order to silence the paper's criticism of him. The paper suspended publication in 1893, but was revived in 1895 when the first Linotype west of the Mississippi was installed. It shut down again in 1916, only to be revived again in 1952 by Charles Clegg and Lucius Beebe, both New York journalists and prominent historians of the West. The present porch was constructed by Beebe and Clegg using cast iron pillars from an adjacent derelict building.
The Territorial Enterprise Building is located at 23 South C St. in Virginia City. The Mark Twain Museum is housed here; call 775-847-0525 for museum hours.
The Parish House is an elaborate Italianate style residence sporting numerous decorative moldings and brackets. The sturdy house reflects its association with mining through the mine timbers that were used in the foundation. The rooms are unusually large for the Victorian period, and consist of a living and dining room, kitchen, three large bedrooms and a few other small rooms. While the exterior walls are redwood, the original woodwork throughout the interior, including sliding wooden pocket doors, is white pine with faux-graining. The Italianate style was popular following the Great Fire of October 1875 that devastated much of Virginia City. This elaborate, decorative architectural style became the Comstock's physical manifestation of its economic success.
The residents of the Parish House during its history are representative of the successful business people who lived in Virginia City and whose existence depended on the monetary health of the Comstock. The house was originally built by mining engineer, Goodwin Jones, for his family in 1876. The land where the house stands was a Christmas present for Jones's wife Martha from her brother W. S. Hobart, a prominent figure on the Comstock. Goodwin Jones was an engineer for Caledonia Mines, the smallest of the official Comstock Lode mines. The home was sold by the Jones family in 1884. Several Comstock entrepreneurs were successive owners during the next 50 years including Robert Patterson, proprietor of the International Saloon; Dr. Thomas McDonald, a Virginia City physician; and successful grocer and merchant John McGrath who lived here 28 years--longer than any other owner. In the 1930s, the house was purchased by St. Mary's of the Mountains Roman Catholic Church. It served as the Parish House for St. Mary's from the late 1930s until 1970.
The Parish House is located at 109 South F St. in Virginia City. It is privately owned and not open to the public.
This home was constructed in 1875 in a working-class neighborhood in the eastern portion of Virginia City. At the time the house was built, the Comstock Lode was at its zenith. The house is a vernacular or "Folk Victorian" one-and-a-half story, wood-framed building with a steeply-pitched, gabled roof that combines simple elements of the Italianate and Greek Revival styles. The building's facade sports matching bay windows on either side of the entry. Timothy Francis McCarthy, a blacksmith from County Cork, Ireland, brought his nephew over from Ireland to assist him with the construction of his home. The McCarthy family included Timothy, his second wife, Frances, their two children, two children from a previous marriage, his brother James, and nephew Robert Dwyer. The McCarthy House provided just over 700 square feet of living space for this large family; the building included a parlor, kitchen, and one large and two small bedrooms on the first floor. The second floor was not finished as living space but was used as a sleeping area by the McCarthys. The 19th-century outhouse and an adjoining woodshed still stand on the property.
The McCarthy family has retained ownership of the house since its construction. The home stood vacant from 1915, when Timothy moved to Arizona to live with one of his sons, until 1986, when his grandson John McCarthy moved into the house and oversaw its restoration, including the installation of electricity and indoor plumbing, finishing the second story and a rear addition.
The McCarthy House is located at 50 South I St. in Virginia City. It is privately owned by the McCarthy family and not open to the public.
The King--McBride mansion is an excellent example of High Italianate architecture, replete with bay windows and a widow's walk. The King--McBride mansion was built about 1870 by George Anson King, a banker who established the Nevada Bank of San Francisco in Virginia City, and served as director of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. It is believed to have been designed by architect Charles H. Jones, who designed a nearly identical house, the Rinckel Mansion, in Carson City. The three-story wood-framed building incorporates two bays flanking the central portico and an irregular floorplan, elaborate walnut staircase, marble fireplaces and 19th-century clear glass skylight.
Several famous and wealthy Comstock residents owned homes near George King's mansion, including Bonanza king John Mackay, banker J. P. Martin, Judge Richard Rising and mine superintendent Charles Forman. King's home was spared in the Great Fire of 1875, while these others burned to the ground. Judge Rising rented the King mansion in the 1880s (the King family returned to San Francisco), and in 1890 it was deeded to the Catholic Church. The Church leased the mansion to a series of renters, including silent screen actress Bobbette Simpson. In 1944, it was leased to Halvor and Virginia Smedesrude, who operated it as the Bonanza Inn, which served as an elegant retreat for eastern socialites waiting their six-week residency period for a Nevada divorce. In 1953, the property was sold to Versal McBride, owner of Virginia City's Bucket of Blood Saloon on C Street.
The King--McBride Mansion is located at 26/28 Howard St. in Virginia City. Still in the McBride family, it is a private residence and is not open to the public.
The Gould and Curry Mining Company Office is one of several imposing buildings constructed in Virginia City by the capitalists who made their fortunes on Comstock silver and gold. Built in 1860 in a simplified brick Italianate style, it served as the office of the Gould and Curry Mining Company. In addition to company office space, the building also provided accommodations for the Company Mine Superintendent. The three-story house was surrounded by a wood veranda and deck, with a colonnade of square posts. It was also equipped with a 500-gallon, gravity-flow water tank for running water and an early water heater installed in 1874. The house was first occupied by a young mine superintendent named George Hearst, who began the Hearst fortune on the Comstock starting with just $400 in borrowed funds. As was the habit of so many miners, Hearst stayed in Virginia City for only a short time but made several million dollars.
The building survived the Great Fire of 1875, after which it became the local business headquarters, and brief residence, for one of the most powerful and wealthy characters on the Comstock, John Mackay. Mackay was one of the Comstock's "silver kings," who along with his partners Flood, Fair, and O'Brien discovered the Consolidated Virginia's "Big Bonanza" in 1873. Later in his life Mackay contributed millions of dollars to the School of Mines at the University of Nevada, which bears his name. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the transatlantic cable.
The Gould and Curry Mining Company Office/Mackay Mansion is located at 129 South D St. in Virginia City and is privately owned. Today, it is available for weddings and tours and can be reserved by calling the proprietors at 775-847-0173.
This magnificent 21-room Second Empire style building was constructed by the Savage Mining Company in 1861. The ornate building is an excellent example of the architectural elegance associated with the offices and residences of the mining elite. The top two floors of the building served as the mine superintendent's residence, while the ground floor was the mine office. The building has been restored with attention to its distinctive architectural features, such as the mansard roof, dormer windows and delicate gingerbread trim. The interior boasts 14-foot-high ceilings, a seven-foot copper bathtub, a Lincrista frieze in the main hallway and early Victorian furnishings. Ulysses S. Grant is said to have stayed in the house in 1879 and addressed crowds in a speech from the porch. During this time, a Mrs. Monoghan, whose husband had been killed in one of the mines, served as a housekeeper to the superintendent. When the mines closed down in 1918, the Savage Mining Company deeded the land, house and furnishings to Mrs. Monoghan.
The term "mansion" has been liberally applied in the Comstock to include any large and vaguely residential building. This has been done for promotional purposes and is far from being an accurate characterization. Even the most elaborate dwellings in Virginia City would be considered no more than ordinary houses in any urban setting. In the case of the Savage, Gould & Curry and Chollar properties, all referred to as mansions, the term is a complete misnomer, having been applied to buildings that served primarily as offices for major mining companies.
The Savage Mining Company Office is located at 146 South D St. in Virginia City. The building currently serves as office space and is privately owned.
The C. J. Prescott house is a vernacular or "Folk Victorian" residence, and was built in 1864, the first year of Nevada's statehood. The original owner and builder, prominent businessman C. J. Prescott, was the proprietor of one of the first lumber companies on the Comstock. Prescott's home, and several others built during Virginia City's initial settlement, were embellished with elements of several styles popular at the time--including Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and Italianate. The Great Fire of 1875 destroyed much of the town's building stock and when it was rebuilt the following year, Italianate became the predominant architectural style. The earlier Greek and Gothic Revival examples like the Prescott house are therefore rare survivors in Virginia City.
The home's Greek Revival style details include side lights and transom around the front door and the raking molding on the gables of the roof, whereas the form of the room and entrance to the house from the gable end are typical Gothic Revival style elements. Italianate influence is evident in the tall first story windows and chamfered porch posts. The picket fence surrounding the yard is original, as are many interior features including the marble fireplace surround, plank flooring and tongue-and-groove paneling in the kitchen. Some of the original furnishings remain as well, such as the kitchen cabinets, flour bin, coal-burning stove and the bathtub on the first floor.
The Prescott House is located at 12 Page St. (previously Hickey St.) in Virginia City. The home is privately owned and not open to the public.
Fourth Ward School, a prominent landmark, sits at the southern entrance to Virginia City. It was built in 1876, in the "fourth ward" district in town, near the Gold Hill-Virginia City boundary. Architect S. M. Bennet designed the building and supervised the construction. Bennet based his design on a plan originally drawn by architect Theodore F. Ladue of Lincoln, Illinois, and published in A. J. Bicknell's Village Builder in 1872. Knight & McKay were the general contractors. Built in the Second Empire architectural style, the cost of the building was $100,000, in part financed by contributions from mining companies and businesses, later by individuals and school benefits. Fourth Ward was a combination grammar and high school, designed to accommodate 1,025 students. Innovations included a "modern" central heating system, water that was piped to all four floors and the latest Philadelphia style patented spring-loaded self-flushing toilets.
The school was continuously used until the last class graduated in 1936. It was closed when a new school, located across from St. Mary's church and constructed by the Works Progress Administration was completed. The building remained closed and unused for 50 years until a broad coalition of community and preservation groups came together to rehabilitate and reopen this architectural and historical treasure. Today the Fourth Ward School houses museum exhibits and interpretive displays showing the history of the Comstock. A Save America's Treasures grant and other funding from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund have assisted in the restoration of this important building.
The Chollar mansion was built between 1861 and 1863 as the head office of the Chollar Mine and the residence of the mine superintendent. The building was designed by N. J. Colman in an Italianate style, and constructed by H. S. Hill. It was discovered in 1870 that the building was sinking due to the settling of the terrain above the mine. At that time, the three-story building was dismantled and rebuilt at its present location. It is anchored to its foundation with steel tie rods and contains a three-story cantilevered staircase.
The mansion was originally commissioned by Billy Chollar, the discoverer of the Chollar Silver Lode in 1861. Shortly thereafter, he lost both his mine and his home to the newly established Bank of California, and left Virginia City in 1862. A special feature of the mansion is the 164-square-foot arched vault that once stored millions in gold and silver bullion. Another is the paymaster's booth, where each month the miners came to draw their pay. Prior to the construction of the highway bypass there were formal gardens in front of this building which ran uphill to C Street. The gardens featured two curved driveways leading down to the building and a small fountain.
The Chollar Office building was only a small part of the total Chollar (later Chollar-Potosi) mine works. The main mine complex was located to the south east of the office building and featured large pumps and hoisting machinery, massive water storage tanks, a machine shop, a carpentry shop, a blacksmith shop, a buggy and wagon shop, livery, assay and other offices, a changing room for the miners and storage. All of these facilities are long since demolished. A spur of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad approached from the south east and ran north between South D and South E streets. This branch also served the Hale & Norcross and Savage mine works.
The Chollar Mine Office/Mansion is located at 565 South D St. in Virginia City. The building has most recently served as a bed-and-breakfast, but is currently for sale.
By the late 1860s, it had become apparent to Comstock mine owners that a more efficient means to transport ore from the mines to the mills along the Carson River (as far as 15 miles away) was needed. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad (V&T) was built under the direction of William Sharon, manager of the Bank of California, owner of many mines and most of the mills on the Comstock. The V&T has been called the most famous of the American shortline railroads. The Gold Hill Station on the V&T was completed in September 1869, and the first locomotive passed through American Flat Tunnel on November 3 of that year. That day the engine Lyon, covered in garlands of flowers, pulled into Gold Hill Station, where the mayor and other dignitaries were gathered to celebrate the completion of the railroad.
The Gold Hill station was located on a sharp curve in the railroad line--one of the few flat places available in Gold Hill. As a result the passenger section of the building is trapezoidal thereby accommodating the limited amount of space available. Indeed this depot was intended as a temporary building to be replaced at a later date. The station served passengers and freight, and was also a telegraph station. Gold Hill was a regular stop on the V&T, along with Reno, Carson City and Virginia City. The station was decommissioned by July 19, 1938, when the Reno pulled the last V&T train out of Virginia City and Gold Hill. Service on the V&T line from Virginia City to Gold Hill was revived in the 1990s. More than 130 years after this "temporary" building was constructed it has been rehabilitated and once again serves a traveling public.
The Gold Hill Depot for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad is located at the north end of Gold Hill, one mile south of Virginia City on Hwy. 342. The depot is open to the public during special events in the summer, although visitors may park in the lot and examine the exterior of the building anytime.
By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular section:
Commission on Tourism
Nevada State Historic Preservation Office
State of Nevada Historical Society
State of Nevada Museums
National Parks and National Historic Trails in Nevada
Special Resource Study
Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau
Chamber of Commerce
City Convention and Tourism Authority
American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER/)
for Historic Preservation
National Park Service Office
of Sustainable Tourism
National Scenic Byways Program
State Railroad Museum (The Dayton, Inyo and Wabuska
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Bowers, Michael Wayne. The Sagebrush State: Nevada's History, Government, and Politics. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1996.
Carman, Dorothy Walworth. Reno Fever. New York: Ray Long and Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1932. One of the better Reno divorce novels of its time, full of local color.
Chambers, S. Allen, Jr., and Harley J. McKee. The Architecture of Carson City, Nevada. Selections from the Historic American Buildings Survey, Number 14. Washington: HABS/OAHP/NPS/DOI, 1973.
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Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1994.
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Three Historic Nevada Cities: Carson City, Reno, Virginia City was produced by the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, in partnership with the Historic Reno Preservation Society, Reno Historical Resources Commission, City of Reno, Comstock Historic District Commission, Carson City Planning and Community Development, Carson City Historic Review Commission and National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Manager, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Managing Editor. Three Historic Nevada Cities is based on information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These materials are kept at 1201 Eye St., NW, Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 9:00am to 12:00pm, Monday through Thursday.
Terri McBride, Historic Preservation Specialist with the Nevada State
Historic Preservation Office, worked with many local partners to conceptualize
and compile materials for the itinerary. National Register web production
team members included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin
Quaide, and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Maps were designed by Rustin
Quaide. Property descriptions were written by the local partners and
edited by Terri McBride and Shannon Bell. Essays were written by Terri
McBride (Carson City); Mella Rothwell Harmon, Historic Preservation
Specialist, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office (Reno);
and Ronald M. James, Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer (Virginia
City). Special thanks to the following for their photographic contributions:
Charles Miller; Mella Rothwell Harmon; Rebecca Ossa; Jim Ferris; Joe
Curtis, Mark Twain Books in Virginia City; Bob Blesee and Jim Bantin
with the Special Collections Department of the Library of the University
of Nevada, Reno; Joy Fisher, Penny Postcards from Nevada; and the Nevada