Jack's Bar owners intent on preserving history

Jack's Bar owner Don Lehr said he is willing to take the walls of the 1899 building down stone by stone and replace it to look like it does today in order to preserve history.

"We're not just going in to knock it down," he said Thursday, standing in the gutted building.

"Tell me what part of this is historic? What part of this would you want me to keep?"

Lehr's comments were in response to the controversy that erupted Wednesday when the Nevada Appeal learned he and co-owner Allan Fiegehen had sought -- then unsought -- a demolition permit for the bar on the northwest corner of Carson and Fifth streets.

Lehr said he fears for the public's safety while the building stands.

"It's a liability," he said. "I can't get liability insurance for it. It's unoccupied."

Lehr and Fiegehen purchased the building in June 2002.

He said the building stands on a rubble foundation, and the wall along Fifth Street is leaning outward. The walls are constructed of Nevada State Prison-quarried sandstone and mortar. There are no steel or rebar reinforcements, and only the west wall of the building is load bearing.

Lehr said he fears the sandstone may crumble if workers try to jack up the building in order to build a foundation.

Lehr and Fiegehen are about half finished with the remodeling of the Ormsby House Hotel. Lehr said it may open by fall 2004, and that they would rather be concentrating efforts there than at Jack's, but are concerned the building would tumble in an earthquake.

"It should be condemned," he said.

Before work can begin on the building, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, Lehr will have to take up the issue with Carson City's Historic Resources Commission. Because of the historic listing, any demolition request must first go through the commission. Its next meeting is set for Sept. 9.

Lehr is concerned about the ongoing liability while the commission and he discuss his plans.

He said he be willing to cut the stones in half for the exterior of the building to maintain its appearance when rebuilt.

He said the restored building won't likely be used as a bar, but could become a cafe. The now-vacant Capitol Motel, just west of Jack's Bar, is planned for demolition.


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