Cultural Affairs awards $2.1 million for Nevada restoration projects

Plans to rebuild the north tower at Virginia City's Fourth Ward School have received a $143,000 boost from Nevada's Commission for Cultural Affairs.

Officials at Piper's Opera House received a similar grant, $175,000 for their restoration project.

Established by state law to advise the Department of Museums, Library and Arts to promote and preserve Nevada's cultural resources, the commission doles out about $2.1 million annually. The money is used to protect and preserve historic buildings.

"We're so thankful," said Louise Gibberson, Piper's Opera House board member. "This money will allow us to complete the exterior restoration. I'm a long-time board member and it's been frustrating trying to plan with what little money we have."

She said most work, like stabilizing the building, building handicapped-access ramps and repairing the brick facade, are complete, but costs to finish the project, primarily interior restoration, are estimated at $5 million.

The money is awarded each year to governmental entities and nonprofit organizations for projects that preserve and protect historical building. The money comes from bond sales.

State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James said the sale of those bonds is expected to take several months, but recipients aren't complaining.

"We're so lucky to have a commission that's interested in preserving historic buildings for adaptive re-use," said Barbara Mackay, executive director of the Fourth Ward School museum. Constructed as part of the school in 1876, the original north tower was torn down in 1966 for safety reasons. The tower's new exterior is complete. Mackay said the money will be used for interior finishing.

"We're returning the tower to its original condition," she said. "We'll need another $100,000 to finish the project, so I'm knocking on the doors of more foundations."

Applications for the state awards are submitted in October. This time, 32 projects requested a total of $8.5 million. Most don't expect to get the full amount, but the Gold Hill Historical Society, dedicated to restoration of the Gold Hill Depot just south of Virginia City, got the sum it requested for a much-needed building foundation.

The depot has stood without a foundation since it was built in the 1800s.

"The depot was supposed to be temporary," said Kim Fegert, president of the Gold Hill Historic Society. "The whole building stands on wooden blocks 2 to 3 feet tall. You'd think a wind would knock it over, but the building is so heavy, that doesn't happen."

The money is to be used to rehabilitate historic buildings that can be used as cultural centers. The projects are located in every corner of the state.


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