Dayton’s historic Pike Street has many stories to tell
November 8, 2008
After Dayton was christened at a public meeting on Nov. 3, 1861, in honor of John Day, the man who surveyed the town, the trails into the pioneer settlement were laid out.
Pike Street was the main thoroughfare. It remained so until Highway 50 was moved to its present location. Pike Street has so many historical attributes it’s hard to name them all.
Let’s start with Pike being the pioneer trail into town. I can’t find out how it got its name, but the answer may be that the early miners were called “Pikes,” and the street was named for them. Following the footsteps of the pioneers were the Pony Express and Wells Fargo stages.
A lot of historical sites along Pike Street still standing are worth the trip to Dayton to experience. Remnants of the camel compound stand on Pike near Second Street. The stone building was the Leslie Hay Barn built in 1861. Today it is an antique store where you can see the unique stalls inside. Here is where you will find Nevada State Historical Marker No. 199.
A little further down Pike is the Dayton Valley Community Center, once the county seat of Lyon County until the building burned and county business was moved to Yerington. Later rebuilt in the early 1900s, it served as Dayton High School, home of the Dayton Haymakers until 1959 when the students were bused to Carson City. Then it became the 1st-8th grade elementary school. Nevada State Historical Marker No. 127 is here.
On both sides of Pike you will find old houses and businesses of importance. Across from the community center is a Mexican restaurant located in a building that was a local “Hurdy Gurdy House.”
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The 1860s Dayton firehouse and jail is a building of note. Inside the firehouse is a jail that was purchased through a catalog order. The cells were used until 1966. There is another jail like it in Coloma, Calif. At one time it had also been a Wells Fargo stage stop.
Then, go down the street to the Odeon Hall and Saloon building. It was built in 1862 by the Odd Fellows who met on the second floor. Today it houses a restaurant and bar and the inside hasn’t changed much since it was built. Stories that may be fact or fiction noted on the historical marker, placed on the building by E Clampus Vitus, indicate that Mark Twain threw back a few drinks at the bar in its early days. Another story is that President Grant spoke from the balcony; however, there have been doubts about that story’s validity, too ” some swear it is true, while others swear it is not. You be the judge. For sure, it was the site of the 1960s filming of “The Misfits,” when Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable created excitement in the tiny historic town.
Pike Street itself is famous as being part of the Lincoln Highway, the transcontinental highway that connected the east and the west coasts for auto travel. In the Dayton Museum, you will find signs and stories about the Lincoln Highway and photos of the filming of the “Misfits.” Come; travel down Pike Street and back into Nevada’s history.
The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at the Lyon County Library, Dayton Branch Conference Room; 321 Old Dayton Valley Road. All are welcome.
The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Historical lectures 11 a.m. Saturdays . The Web site is daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-8382 or 246-0441.
– Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton historical society and a docent at the museum.