Historical specialist sought for Jack's Bar

A small tear in the pink wallpaper decorating the 140-year-old sitting room might have been overlooked by an untrained eye, but Mel Green notices things like that.

"Why is it ripping?" he said, removing his glasses to take a closer look into the corner. "It's part of what we're testing here."

Green walked into the historic rooms of Bower's Mansion, built in the 1860s by L.S. "Sandy" Bowers and his psychic wife, Eilley Orrum, measuring how many millimeters the walls have moved in the last few months.

As one of the areas best known architectural preservationists, Green was hired by Washoe County to assess the stability of the county-owned mansion. With most of the restoration work completed in the 1980s, Green is trying to figure out why small cracks and tears are now appearing.

If the building continues to shift when water from the mountain behind it sinks into the ground and causes the soil to settle and move the house, it may need additional structural work, he said.

Green is working on other projects in Nevada, including the county courthouse in Hawthorne and a mining park in Tonopah. He has also done engineering work for Piper's Opera House, the courthouse and Fourth Ward School in Virginia City and for the Nevada State Mint building and several other historic structures.

Carson City and the owners of Jack's Bar are looking to hire Green and use his expertise to find out what can be done to save the tavern on Carson Street.

Joe McCarthy, city redevelopment and economic development manager, said he received permission from the owners of the bar and is planning to contact Green about the work.

At a recent meeting with the city's Historical Commission, Jack's owner Don Lehr said he might be willing to partner with the city to have the building evaluated. Sandstone quarried more than 100 years ago at the State Prison makes up three walls. The historical significance of the stone and the bar itself has many preservationists in the city asking Lehr to save it, instead of tearing the structure down.

Green said he is sensitive to the significance of old Nevada and Carson City.

"In Nevada, the important thing here is the stone tradition," he said. "The maintenance of those building to repair the mortar and keep water out are the typical problems buildings here face."

After working in Carson, Green said he appreciated the way the city is trying to keep its older buildings viable.

"The buildings on Carson Street create the character of the city," Green said. "That's the character of the town."

With leaning walls and structural problems, Jack's Bar may be tested for structural distress, and Green could assist in designing strengthening forms. He would evaluate whether the cost of saving the building is feasible, he said.

"Anything can be saved, but it becomes a dollar issue," Green said.

Each building he has worked with is different, and some present unique problems, he said. In the county courthouse in Hawthorne, he and his assistant had to wear masks and protective suits as they trudged through 6 inches of pigeon droppings. Another historical building had bats living in it.

"Your first instinct is to run," he joked.

Based in Torrance, Calif., Green travels all over the Western states.

While walking through Bowers Mansion Wednesday, Green said the importance of preserving history has many meanings.

"It's the sense of history," he said. "It is very vital for communities to maintain some of the past. It allows us to share with those after us. It provides a continuity of life."


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