Wungnema House opens in good form

It seemed a fitting tribute.

The children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews of Burton and Pearl Wungnema stood with Carson City officials on a quiet Sunday afternoon for the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Wungnema House.

There was cake and coffee, and the Washoe Tribe's Red Hoop Drum Group offered a chant to bless the house as the cameras clicked.

Newly restored after being vacant for about 18 years, the old stone structure had fallen victim to vandals and graffiti artists. But in its new roll it will serve as a museum, meeting place, and headquarters for the Foundation for the Betterment of Carson City Parks and Recreation.

The house stands just off Saliman Road near the east entrance of Mills Park. Built around 1945 by Burton and Pearl Wungnema. They raised 8 children here, and watched their family grow as the town pushed in around them.

Originally from Arizona, their parents were Hopi by birth and builders by trade. (The face of the fireplace is stone cut in the shape of clouds and lighting. It is the emblem of the water clan of the Hopi nation.) Ernest Wungnema, (Burton's father) was a stone mason, Homer Talas (Pearl's father) a carpenter.

This home is representative of the kind of work they did at the Stewart Indian School, as well as many other structures around Lake Tahoe from 1925 to 1955.

And beyond today's fanfare, there were the memories of growing up in Carson City for the cousins, aunts, uncles and friends that attended today.

"It was a second home, not just for us but for the whole family," niece Pam Thompson, said, noting Aunt Pearl always kept everyone well fed and comfortable, no matter how many showed up. "Everyone would come here to play, and it was always a good place to be."

Son Vern remembers how he loved the solitude of the place.

"There was a lot of peace and quiet. No one was out here," he said, noting the house was the site of many family gatherings, and the children spent hours playing outside and in nearby Tillie Creek.

Burton Wungnema died in 1956, and Pearl moved to a new four bedroom house in the early 1980s, when she needed more room for kids and grand kids.

The Foundation for the Betterment of Carson City Parks and Recreation is a non-profit corporation formed by a group of citizens concerned for the future of Carson City. Dedicated to enhancing the quality of life, education, and preservation of Carson City's natural resources, it seeks to disburse any conveyances of real and personal property for the betterment of Carson City Parks and Recreation.

The $168,000 project was funded through Question 18, the 1996 quarter-cent sales tax increase. It is the culmination of the efforts of the Foundation, as well as the selfless efforts of architect John Copoulos, E-Z Construction, Advance Installations Inc, and Pat Walker of Environmental Science Services, Jo Saulisberry, Carson City Parks and Recreation Director Stephen D. Kastens, and many more.

City Supervisor Pete Livermore also credited the efforts of May French and Mimi Roden, two citizens who have been active in the community.

"Question 18 included plans to renovate the east end of Mills Park, and also called for demolition of the house," Livermore said. "It probably would have been torn down had it not been for the efforts of May French and Mimi Roden."


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