Clampers dedicate plaque at old hospital

VIRGINIA CITY -- A dozen members of the Julia C. Bulette chapter of E Clampus Vitus dedicated a brass plaque Saturday afternoon on the porch of St. Mary's Art Center outside of Virginia City.

The four-story brick building was finished in 1875 and served as St. Mary Louise Hospital until until the early 1940s. The building, owned by Storey County, has housed the art center since the mid sixties.

E Clampus Vitus installs one plaque every year, member Jim Lydon said.

"In recent years we've been rather lax. We haven't made a lot of progress. We're trying to turn that around," said the former "Nobel Grand Humbug" or group leader. Carson City's Nick Nicholson is the current Grand Humbug.

The Clampers' equivalent of a board of directors, called the "graybeards," decides what historical site to honor with a plaque each year, Lydon said.

The idea for placing a plaque on the front of Virginia City's old hospital came from Janene E. Ford, who was born in Silver City, Lydon said.

Ford, a library and archives assistant at the University of the Pacific, made the suggestion to Lydon and another former grand humbug, Marsh Fey.

"She had the idea and then we followed it through because we didn't want a year to go by without the dedication of a plaque," said Lydon.

The Clampers, whose costume consists of red shirts and black hats, are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, Fey said.

Mimi Patrick, the executive director of the art center, was there to celebrate with them Saturday on the porch of the historic hospital building.

She described ghost stories such as the sound of gurney wheels on the floor and the "ghost of the white nun" who has been seen up stairs in the chapel.

"The ghost hunters are coming out in October," she said.

Executive Director Emeritus Annabell Shelly described how prisoners were brought up from the capital city to help with the restoration of the building.

Today the refinished original wood floors in what was once a hospital ward reflect sunlight as the floor of a spacious, breezy painting studio.

Week-long art classes are offered in the building throughout the year with lodging provided in-house.

The Clampers wrapped up their dedication in traditional style.

"What say the brethren?" asked member Dail Turney who lived on the Comstock for 17 years and now lives in Reno.

The group responded in unison, "Satisfactory!"

For more information

For more information on the Julia C. Bulette chapter of E Clampus Vitus call Marsh Fey at 826-2607

For more information on classes at the St. Mary's Art Center call 847-7774


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