On Saturday the Silver City Schoolhouse bell rang for the first time in more than 3-1Ú2 years as residents of the historic town officially rededicated their Schoolhouse Community Center.
"Before you could hear the bell inside," said town board member Gayle Sherman. "Now it's so well built you can't hear it in here."
But you could still feel the history in the new building, built with many items salvaged from the one built in 1867 that burned to the ground on July 7, 2004, after a worker's torch ignited insulation while installing air conditioning.
Between that time Silver City residents and Lyon County officials fought on two fronts; the residents to save every possible scrap from the historic building that served as the town of about 200 residents' community center for many years and the officials who battled with insurance companies to rebuild the structure.
The insurance companies offered about $440,000; the county needed more than twice that, according to Lyon County Commissioner Bob Milz. So after more than two years of negotiating, the county funded the construction and decided to fight it out with the insurance companies later.
In the meantime, the residents of Silver City put together archaeology, architecture and other committees, cleared the rubble themselves, saved wood, records, even an old piano brought to town by the late San Francisco musician Lynn Hughes. They compiled a report on everything, providing a blueprint for other communities who may face a similar problem in the future.
Ron James, State Historic Preservation officer, dedicated a plaque from the state of Nevada on a rock post outside the Silver City Schoolhouse community center, the 26th marker in a series, and paid tribute to the town.
"I stand in awe of this community for what you did in putting this building back on the map," he said. "We lose these buildings, but we rarely get them back."
Art Plummer, who attended school in the building, was at the dedication.
"It's great to see what the people have done after seeing it destroyed," he said. "It near broke my heart. I'm real proud of them."
Several former students, now in their 70 or older, came to the dedication. One was Joy Longero Amodei, who graduated from the eighth grade at the old schoolhouse, who enjoyed reminiscing with her childhood classmates.
Amodei, mother of the state Sen. Mark Amodei, said she remembers going into the first grade with Ken McCray, whose own mother, Margaret, taught school at the Silver City Schoolhouse from 1945-50.
"My dad worked in the mines," he said. "The reason she didn't teach before was they had a standard policy that married women didn't teach. Then World War II came and they had a shortage of teachers, so they let them teach."
Aurelie Woolsley Sheen, her sister Mardelle Woolsley Yocom and Lois Pedlar Uhalde all went to school at the old Schoolhouse and said it was fun to go to school in a two-room schoolhouse.
State Sen. Mark Amodei remembered his grandmother's house being adjacent to the school and as an eight-year-old, shooting the windows with BB guns that belonged to his cousins.
Town board president Erich Obermayr said there was no other place in the world except Silver City where this would happen.
"This community pulled a world class archaeology operation that would have cost $250, 000," he said. "In July 2004, when the building burned down, our community was tested and we not only passed the test but we won."
In honoring the community, Obermayr singled out Ron and Mona Reno, who led the salvage and archaeological efforts.
"A community is just a word till individual members make it into something else, usually through hard work and dedication," he said. "And no couple did more than Ron and Mona Reno."
The couple were given a plaque made from salvaged wood, with an impression of the own on silver and a quote from the Lyon County Sentinel of Sept. 9, 1885. "What Silver City can't do is hardly worth doing. This was worth doing."
Four of the five Lyon County Commissioners were on hand for the dedication, with only LeRoy Goodman unable to attend. Commissioner Bob Milz paid tribute to the residents and called on the state Legislature to change how the public insurance system worked, so other communities would not have to face the same fight.
Another happy resident was 96-year-old Lula Kendall, who didn't think she would live to see the new building.
"I feel very good," she said. "It looks so much like the old building. I hope the rest of the people enjoy it."
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or call 881-7351.