Crumbling Stewart garage may get a second life

A small, stone garage - unused and deteriorating for years at the south end of the former Stewart Indian School - may not come down as easily as the State of Nevada wants.

The state Buildings and Grounds Division wants to demolish the modest, two-car garage this fall. And the State Historic Preservation Office has approved the demolition of the building dating back to early in the 20th century.

But the nearby Stewart Indian School Museum won't let the garage come down without a fight.

Sheila Abbe, the museum's director, on Monday proposed taking over the building, securing it within 48 hours and restoring the structure in four months. The museum's board of directors in an emergency meeting Monday approved the proposal, which would turn the garage into storage area for the museum.

Abbe said students from Seeliger Elementary School offered to sell lemonade on the museum porch Saturday to help raise money.

Abbe sent letters with the proposal to State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen and Mike Meizel, administrator at Buildings and Grounds.

Abbe learned Friday about plans to demolish the small building and immediately sounded the alarm because she had indications the building could come down this week. She did not believe state claims that the building was a safety concern and not worth saving.

"It's bogus," Abbe said. "The building's not falling down. It's not bothering anybody and it's not unsafe. There is no reason to spend that money to tear that building down."

Meizel said his division has looked at tearing down the garage for a year or so. The state still needs approval from Carson City Historic Architecture Review Commission but no application has been made to that commission.

The former Indian school, now called the Stewart State Complex and owned by the state, falls within the Carson City Historic District.

"The paperwork is not completed yet," said Larry Hale, maintenance supervisor at Stewart. "When we do something like this, we go through the proper channels."

Hale said he wants to demolish the building in fall with inmate labor.

"The building is slated to be demolished because it is unsafe," Hale said. "The walls are cracking and the roof is almost gone. The building is in bad shape."

Hale's boss, Meizel, said the building has no real value to the state.

"The whole thing is about ready to tumble down and the state's never going to do anything with the building," Meizel said. "It doesn't have any real value."

State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James said the poor condition of the structure and the state's disinterest in the building weighed in favor of not placing historical hurdles in the way.

"It's not reasonably feasible to fix it," James said. "There isn't any obvious use for it. It's reached a state where its future is questionable. It's a modest structure. The state inherited it in a condition very much deteriorated."

Abbe said she is concerned demolition of the garage would set a precedent to tear down more buildings at Stewart, which was the Indian school from 1890 to 1980.

Meizel said the state has no intention to tear down any more Stewart buildings. "We're actually planning to put on roofs," Meizel said.

He said his division this year submitted a plan to survey every roof at Stewart and do work on roofs even on unused buildings to keep them from deteriorating. Meizel said more than $3 million has been spent in recent years on paving, sewer and electrical work at Stewart.

"We're not out to tear buildings down," Meizel said.


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