Director fears Stewart building will be torn down

A Carson City woman charged with monitoring the historic buildings on the former Stewart Indian School campus is afraid one structure is about to be demolished despite its protected status.

Sheila Abbe, director of the Stewart Indian School museum, said she got a call Friday evening from a state building and grounds worker who mentioned an old two-stall garage would be torn down this week, perhaps as early as today.

"We're going to be out there with lawn chairs at 6 a.m. (today)," Abbe said. "I want to see a copy of the order that this can happen. We should have had some input for alternatives for the building.

"State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen named me to an ad hoc committee to oversee this facility and I only find out at the last minute that this is going to happen," Abbe said Saturday as she looked at the garage near the old dairy barns on the campus's south edge.

She said she has attempted to contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as Jacobsen, who was out of the state.

The garage, made like most of the Stewart structures of hand-mortared stone, shows some cracks and its sagging roof is bare of shingles and broken through in places.

"The building and grounds guys are saying its unsafe so they need to tear it down. They had Comstock Historic District administrator Bert Bedeau come down to look at it," she said. "I suggested it could be fenced off while it was repointed (the cracks filled with mortar) and its doors and windows boarded up, and Bedeau said that would be appropriate."

Abbe said the only recent activity apparent in the garage is from barrels of waste oil she believes have been stored their by building and grounds. She pointed to where one barrel had tipped over and a spill had been covered with cat litter.

The true danger at Stewart, she said, stems from the state's failure to properly protect many of the buildings by boarding over their windows. She pointed to a cottage next to the garage, where every one of the six-inch window panes has been broken. A chair stood outside one window, which had been opened apparently so someone could climb inside.

"They've had 20 years since the school closed to board the windows over. Even two and a half years ago, the windows on that cottage were not even cracked. Now look at it," Abbe said.

Abbe said training sessions involving cadets and instructors from nearby state law enforcement academies have also caused some damage.

She said at least one building has substantial interior damage from paint balls used in some training sessions. Abbe said she took photographs of the paint stains and recovered some of the paint pellets.

A memo from state building and grounds administrator Mike Meizel, dated April 10, is now tacked to the doors of Stewart's buildings. It reads:

"To all law enforcement agencies:

"Effective immediately, the buildings at the Stewart facility will no longer be used for raid, SWAT and all other law enforcement exercises. Law enforcement training will no longer be allowed in that facility due to the damage being done to the buildings."

The Nevada Appeal was unable to contact Meizel over the weekend to confirm the damage from training, or to plans to tear down the garage.

Abbe said she can imagine that people would wonder why she is concerned about the fate of the sagging garage, among the least impressive of Stewart's structures.

"What I am worried about is setting a precedent. Once they start with this, who knows what might come down?" she said.

She said she already has been fighting to prevent the removal of the old trees on the campus. "I've had a forester in to inventory the trees, because even the trees here are historic."

"It's ironic that this seems about to happen at a time when more has been started in the past few years to preserve Stewart," she said. Abbe said a $93,000 grant was received from the state historic preservation fund, while an application for a $350,000 grant has been submitted to the federal program, Save America's Treasures.


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