Several preservation groups offer to help Jack's Bar owner

Jack's Bar owner Don Lehr discusses the structural issues  of the bar with the Carson City Historic Resources Committee at the Carson Community Center Tuesday evening. photo by rick gunn

Jack's Bar owner Don Lehr discusses the structural issues of the bar with the Carson City Historic Resources Committee at the Carson Community Center Tuesday evening. photo by rick gunn

The plight of old Jack's Bar on the corner of Carson and Fifth streets garnered the attention of several city and state preservationists Tuesday who offered financial help, expertise and advice to owners of the historic tavern.

With a strong interest in preserving the building, owner Don Lehr explained his dilemma to the Historic Resources Commission, whose members offered help and advice on preserving the structure.

"I think there's a lot of public awareness of this building," said member Rob Darney. "I think if you put a keg outside, you'd have 85 people show up with a shovel to help rebuild it."

A small public uproar was sparked last month after the owners showed an interest in demolishing the building. The public interest prompted Lehr to approach the commission.

Lehr said Tuesday, after hearing ideas about preservation and financial assistance, he would consider bracing the unsafe structure against the elements and wait until the reopening of the Ormsby House next year to decide what to do with the building.

"We're not doing anything until we get the Ormsby House reopened," said Lehr, who with partner Allan Fiegehen also owns the hotel-casino being renovated just south of Jack's Bar.

The building was constructed in 1899 as the Bank Saloon and served many notables and residents for the better part of a century. It changed hands over the years, remaining a bar, and opened in 1966 as Jack's Bar. In 1980, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lehr and Fiegehen bought the bar and the Capital Motel behind it in April 2002. The bar hasn't reopened since.

Lehr said the idea to apply for a demolition permit for Jack's Bar started when plans to demolish the Capital Motel moved forward. The motel property will serve as a parking lot for the bar structure, he said.

Engineering reports confirmed the structure poses a public hazard as three walls are leaning outward and the roof appears not to be attached to the walls.

"We looked at it and we see (building) code issues everywhere," Lehr said. "Right now, virtually nothing would be up to code."

The sandstone bricks that make up three walls of the building and the foundation were reportedly quarried and chiseled at the state prison on Fifth Street in the 1890s. Lehr has taken extra care to preserve the sandstone at the Ormsby House, another structure he is renovating.

Discussion at the meeting centered on preserving the stone block and the outside appearance of the bar.

Joe McCarthy, Carson City redevelopment and economic development manager, said the city would like to find a way to work with Lehr to encourage preservation of the building.

"We would really like to work with you if we can prove to you the economics of saving this building can work for you," McCarthy said.

Using redevelopment funds, the city may be able to pay for hiring a historic preservation specialist to help Lehr evaluate options for the building, McCarthy said.

Many representatives from historical societies and preservation groups attended the meeting for a show of support and suggestions.

"It is unquestionably an historic resource," said Burt Bedeau, representative of Preserve Nevada Inc. "It is a very tasty structure and important not only to Carson City but statewide."

The Carson City Historical Society offered to help write grants to save the building, and Lehr received materials on how to "mothball" the structure and get insurance. It may be possible to seismically retrofit the building without removing all stones, it was suggested.

A city code specifically addressing historic structures may give Lehr some leeway with meeting requirements, said city community development director Walt Sullivan.


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