Guest Opinion: Dayton needs smaller historic district, bigger pride

It becomes a little frightening when a commission sanctioned by this state blatantly tells the local constituents "that this will be the last time you will be heard and we will not have this item on our agendas in the future." Such were the statements of a Lyon County commissioner at a recent Comstock historic meeting in Virginia City.

The local news media carried the story and quoted these words. Is not the Comstock Historic Commission a public meeting? Must they not listen to the people of the communities they forcibly oversee? Can they deny a petitioner the right to be heard whether the issue is redundant or not? If it is redundant, is there a reason for public outcry and can we not be heard? I find this almost impossible to believe.

If we were to go to Yerington to ask to be put on the commissioners agenda, can they say to us we have heard this enough and we will not allow you to get on our agenda in the future?

I believe we certainly have been a thorn on the commission because we have brought up inconsistencies on their decisions and yes, many of us believe that the Mia's Swiss Restaurant persecution was stirred up into a big "lesson" to the public that "we (the commission) mean business." Well, so do we!

We believe and can prove bias on the commission's part in not making the Union Hotel bring their sign up to its historic signage, and that two years ago it was overlooked. A group of "historic preservationists" decided to make an outcry and they are being heard. We make an outcry of our own and we are told we are a farce.

This kind of history is unbelievable if Dayton was anything like Virginia City. In Virginia City, the old buildings are prominent, well kept and interesting to the eye of the history lovers. They have a lot to offer and a lot to share in the historic picture of Nevada. However, let's have a look at Dayton. What does Dayton have in historic value? We do have the lovely Odeon Hall, now Mia's Swiss Restaurant. We have the decrepit old firehouse, we have a so-called camel barn that never housed camels and we have downtown main street. Yet even in this downtown area, every building has been remodeled and added to and much of the antiquity value has been lost. The End of the Trail is a mishmash of additions to where little of its originality is left, the Fox Hotel has a modern addition and a tin building circa 1950s, the Union Hotel is in sorry disrepair that would take more than $100,000 to even make it halfway habitable. The Sister's House is new in its entirety for at least one half of the building.

Now I could see us calling Dayton historic if someone had brought funds into Dayton to restore and bring back its old glory, if our Sheriff's Department were to clean up the junk cars being housed in most backyards and real order was to become enforced. I could see us being historic if facades of old buildings were repaired, if the group of "historic preservationists" had used funds that have been raised for years here in Dayton supposedly for the restoration and upgrade of the old firehouse as was its initial purpose, not used, not even evident in any reports to our knowledge, yet these were funds raised for the specific purpose of"restoration" of our so-called historic edifices.

Yes, I can see a neat historic town of Dayton. I can visualize half of Main Street being brought back to its mining days' glory, but who would fund this miraculous happening? Yes, I can see Pike Street up to Mia's as a historic district, and I would say more power to them for this preservation interest. But is it going to happen? No, I can't see it even in my wildest dreams. It's all too far gone. Even the old Haslips Place is a modern home.

Who are we kidding with our visions of a historic Dayton? As I see it , we need boucoup bucks and a real "dedicated" organization and some new Victorian edifices and again the restoration of the fire house, and overall cleanup of debris and old cars, a boardwalk, gas lights and new false fronts for the tin shop and the surveyors cottage and on and on I could go.

Where, oh where, are these thousands of dollars to come from? I never heard of a grant of this enormity even granted to make a town historic, have you?

It would best serve Dayton if these same "historic buffs" got off the persecution directive and put their efforts into a real celebration to put Dayton on a historic road.

We need a group that spells "action." It would behoove Dayton if energies were directed to a positive initiative where energy and efforts had a plan. A plan where we band together pooling finances and organizations within the community to a dedicated effort. Something concrete. Why not neighborly clean-up - old cars taken to the dump and then more clean up? Old time painting and carpentry parties with the idea of making a wood facade over the old tin edifice on Main Street? Sure it's privately owned, but I bet talking real nice to owners would really make a difference!

How about mixers at the old jail house to remedy its decline? Why not start a donation fund for boardwalks paid for by us, the complainers, or the writers of letters or even supplemented by the help of our commissioner through his input with county fates at county level?

Do we plan these things? No, we have fairs and vendors (who take our money out of town) and celebrations to bring people to our area where a beautiful historic district would have them coming on their own and spending dollars here in our community businesses.

Wake up, Dayton. If history is what we want, then let's get off our duffs and make history happen.

At this very moment, we have a new celebration in progress. Will we bring more of the same to Dayton? Well, the town of history, the town of Dayton, really needs you. We could use your organizational qualities and energies. We could use your expertise. Instead of personal aggrandizement we could diffuse the ego trips to a positive march on making Dayton a historic first!

We have the Dayton Chamber to put to work. Aren't they here to help the business community atmosphere? Well, we could have them band in with us to promote this dream. They too should have the interest of having a true historic district, only make it smaller and then we could handle it.

That is what our group is saying. Keep the district small and then do something with it. Don't have it spread all out like we are and think that your property owners are happy as larks to live in a rundown decrepit area.

We have pride. We would like to enhance our properties without Big Brother watching our every move and telling us we live in history. Put gas lights on Main and Pike along with the boardwalks and I will be the first to hoot and holler hurrah! But we can persecute and we can harass and we can complain but we can't get together to make a change!

Lenora Sommers is a 27-year Dayton resident and businesswoman. She owns Pink Lady Antiques.


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