Travelers racing across Northern Nevada on Interstate 80 sometimes miss places like Lovelock.
And that's a mistake.
About 90 miles east of Reno, Lovelock is not only a good place for a rest break but it's a quaint, quiet community containing a number of historic sites and buildings.
Lovelock traces its roots to the 1840s, when travelers on the Humboldt Trail (or Emigrant Trail) began stopping in the area for water and grass. Because of the great abundance of the latter, the region became known as Big Meadows.
It was an essential stop for those continuing south through the treacherous 40-Mile Desert.
In the 1850s and '60s, several significant mining discoveries were made in the area, including at Unionville and Rochester.
In the 1860s, Englishman George Lovelock established a large ranching operation in the valley. In 1868, he gave 85 acres to the railroad for a townsite, named in his honor. Originally called "Lovelock's," in the 1920s the name was shortened to simply Lovelock.
As mining dwindled, agriculture and ranching became more important. At the turn of the last century, Lovelock was the location of the ranch of John G. Taylor, owner of one of the West's great cattle empires. At one time, Taylor owned 60,000 head of sheep, 8,000 cattle and 130,000 acres, and leased another half million acres.
Additionally, the meadows proved ideal for growing crops such as barley, wheat, oats and alfalfa. The latter continues to be one of the region's main crops.
A handsome new color brochure describes 30 of the most historically significant structures still found in Lovelock.
Wandering around the streets of Lovelock with the brochure, you'll find a number of structures from the town's past, including:
n The Lovelock Depot, on the corner of Main Street and West Broadway Avenue, was constructed in 1880 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The building is the only remaining example of a series of residential No. 2-style two-story depots erected throughout Nevada by the railroad.
n The Bank Building (1905) and the Soroptimist Building (1890s) on Main Street are side-by-side classic early-20th century structures in the former heart of Lovelock's commercial district. The former was originally the home of the First National Bank and the Lovelock Tribune newspaper. Over the years, the latter has housed a five-and-dime store, the Soroptimist Outreach Center, the Senior Citizens Center and the Lovelock Review-Miner newspaper.
n The Lovelock Post Office on Dartmouth Avenue was built in 1937, and is considered a prime example of the Moderne architectural style. Inside, it boasts a large mural that the Smithsonian Institute has called one of the best representations of early Western art.
n The Pershing County Courthouse, at the intersection of Main Street, Western Avenue and Central Avenue, was constructed between 1919 and 1920. It has an unusual round design (apparently one of only handful of round courthouses ever built). Designed by prominent Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps, it incorporates the Classical Revival style and was patterned after the Pantheon in Rome.
n The Marzen House Museum, west of downtown off Cornell Avenue, was built in 1874, and is one of the area's oldest homes. It was constructed by Col. Joseph Marzen, owner of the Big Meadow Ranch, one of the region's largest cattle operations. Restored in the 1980s, it has been made into a fine local museum containing displays that tell the history of Lovelock.
For more information or a copy of the brochure, contact the Lovelock Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 821, Lovelock, NV 89419, (775) 273-7213.
n Richard Moreno is the author of "Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada" and "The Roadside History of Nevada."