Carson City is home to the largest collection of historic buildings in Nevada, a number of them dating to just a few years after the city was founded in 1858.
According to state Archivist Guy Rocha, that honor would have gone to Virginia City but the catastrophic fire of 1875 destroyed the heart of old Virginia City including all of the buildings constructed in the 1850s.
He says the oldest structure he has found in the capital is the Stewart-Nye house on Minnesota Street between King and Musser. The 3,000-square- foot building, now the law offices of Sonia and Paul Taggart, was constructed in the fall of 1860 by William Stewart, Nevada's first U.S. Senator. He sold it to James Nye, first governor of the Nevada territory and the state's second U.S. Senator, who later sold it to Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice George Talbot.
With that history, Paul Taggart said, converting it to a law office is completely appropriate.
Taggart said Twain is part of the house's history as well. Twain served as Stewart's secretary at one point.
"We're blessed we got the building from the church," she said. "We love it here."
The Talbot family sold the house to the Catholic Church in 1917 and it served as rectory for St. Teresa until the Taggarts bought it in 2003.
The church kept the building in excellent shape through the years. But its survival was certainly helped by the fact it was constructed out of the same sandstone quarried at the old state prison site and used to build the Capitol, the mint " now the state museum " as well as Nevada State Prison.
The Taggarts have been working to further restore the building since they opened the law practice five years ago.
The oldest commercial building in town is a bit less certain. Rocha says he believes it is the brick structure at 314 S. Carson St., now home to the Hooka lounge next door to Comma Coffee. A newspaper ad describing the building as "fire-proof brick" advertises the building as the home of the Cheek & Holland furniture Store was published in Silver Age of Carson City in May 1861. The adjacent building now occupied by the coffee house was added a year or two later.
While there are a number of structures listed by the Carson City Assessor as being build in the late 1850s, Rocha said none of those he has investigated were built before 314 S. Carson or Stewart-Nye.
They aren't, however, the oldest structures in the state. Surprisingly, the oldest is located in Las Vegas, which is famous more for tearing down anything over 25 years old than trying to preserve it. The old Mormon fort, now protected as an historic park, was built by Mormon missionaries along the Las Vegas Creek in 1855. The Pink House in Genoa is believed to date to the 1850s as well, and Fort Churchill was constructed after the war with the Paiute Tribe and operated from 1860 to 1869.
There were numerous homes and businesses in Carson City in the 1850s but, Rocha says, none appear to have survived to today.
Another structure many believe is a contender for Carson City's oldest is the Foreman-Roberts House, now the home of Carson City's historical society. But, while the building dates to 1863, it wasn't built in Carson City. James D. Roberts had it constructed in Washoe Valley where he lived until 1874. When he moved to Carson City, he had the house moved with him to its current location, 1217 N. Carson St.
According to Rocha, Carson City has "more vintage, historic structures dating to the 1860s than anywhere else in Nevada."
The state Capitol, built in 1871, and the museum, originally the Carson City Mint, Rocha says, "represent the next generation of buildings."
While far from a complete list, here are a few of the more prominent examples from the 1860s:
- Just down the street from the former furniture store is the St. Charles Hotel, which dates to October 1862.
- The Brewery Arts Center, at one time home to the Nevada Appeal but originally the Tahoe Beer brewery, was also built in 1862. It was originally two hotels: The St. Charles and the Muller.
- The Orion Clemens House at the corner of Division and Spear streets was built in 1864. Clemens moved to Nevada after being appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory, bringing with him his brother Sam " Mark Twain.
- St. Peter's Episcopal Church at 300 N. Division St. was completed in 1868. The clapboard sided structure is most notable for its tall steeple. The structure at the northwest corner of Division and Proctor streets was, for many years, the church rectory. Best evidence in the records indicates was built before the church, most likely in 1862.
- The First Presbyterian Church at 110 Nevada St. was completed in May 1864 after a "Third House" lecture lampooning state government and the Legislature by "Governor Mark Twain" raised the money to finish it.
- The first Methodist congregation is Carson City's first, organized in 1859. But they didn't get the church at Division and Musser streets completed until 1865. It too is constructed of stone from the prison quarry.
- The brick Sweeney Building across the street from the Nevada Press Association's offices on Curry Street " also an historic structure although not as old " was originally believed to be built "sometime between 1859 and 1860," which would make it the oldest in town. But assessor's record show it was purchased and assessed at $500 in January 1864, but reassessed a year later at $2,500. The difference, according to the records, the newly constructed brick building on the site.
- The building now occupied by Doppelganger's restaurant and brewpub across from the historic brick courthouse is also a part of the capital's early history.
Well, one wall of it is. Rocha said his research indicates the south brick wall facing Proctor Street is part of the original building constructed there. The boarding house, "Beds with Mrs. Murphy," opened in 1862. The wall is believed to be the only part of the structure which survived an 1878 fire.
- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.