Caretakers of Nevada treasures honored

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal Chris Eichin, right, co-owner of the B Street House Bed and Breakfast in Virginia City, accepts his Preservation Award from Ron James, left, state historic preservation officer, Sunday afternoon at the Fourth Ward Schoolhouse in Virginia City at the annual awards ceremony.

Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal Chris Eichin, right, co-owner of the B Street House Bed and Breakfast in Virginia City, accepts his Preservation Award from Ron James, left, state historic preservation officer, Sunday afternoon at the Fourth Ward Schoolhouse in Virginia City at the annual awards ceremony.

A ceremony to honor organizations and individuals who have helped preserve some of Nevada's most prized historic treasures went beyond the photo op, handshake and certificate hand-off Sunday in Virginia City.

The afternoon, part of the annual Comstock Historical Preservation Weekend, prompted a discussion on the tie between the ecology and historic value of the state's most cherished locales.

"We've seen a trend on two levels," said state historic preservation officer Ron James, who emceed the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon at Virginia City's Fourth Ward School. "First, we see places of ecological importance like the Fernley Swales and the Springs Preserve (Las Vegas) undergoing tremendous restoration efforts. Then, we're seeing the preservation of some of our most important buildings.

"I know it's a very 21st Century way to look at it, but if you look at the energy it takes to supply (new) building materials and every time something is torn down - all the building's (debris) going into landfill - what we're doing here, is essentially recycling buildings."

Self-effacing, James admitted that some may see the "recycled building" theory as hokum, but the proof the theory works, he said, is what the individuals who've taken on these projects bring to their respective communities.

"Just ask around," he said.

Chris and Carolyn Eichin, Bay area transplants, (Chris hails from Switzerland), said they looked for several years for a historic property to restore in the West.

Their search eventually narrowed to Northern Nevada. It met Chris' love for the desert and Carolyn's affinity for the Silver State where she was once a resident.

The pair eventually found a home to refurbish in Virginia City: The B Street House.

Originally built in 1876 by Henry Piper, the house was acquired by the Eichins in 2004. They spent three years rebuilding the home from the foundation up.

"The first time we visited it, there was eight-foot stacks of ... stuff - in every room," Chris said. "There were holes in the floor - everything about it needed work.

"But, we saw that it had a fine foundation, it gave us something to work with."

Taking the sentiment a step further, James said projects like the "B" Street House and the recently refurbished St. Charles Hotel in Carson City, which reopened this year as the Firkin & Fox pub, encourage others to look back into the area's downtowns.

"It's good for everyone," he said. "It's good for other businesses, it's good for commerce, it's good for attracting tourist dollars.

"We have so much to preserve (in Nevada)."

But there is a flip side.

James mentioned structures that are "too far gone" such as Sargent house (across from the Mackay Mansion), which is slated for demolition.

The home was reportedly built in the 1860s.

"Sometimes, it just is too far gone," James said. "...There's the pyramids and Stonehenge, that'll stay. But, you know - even Stonehenge hasn't been looking so great the last few years."

Reno resident Tom Fee, a spokesman from the Oregon-California Trail Association and organizer for clean-up work of the Fernley Swales (a treacherous seven-mile stretch of desert that original settlers crossed before reaching the Truckee River), said the area fell into disrepair as a dumping ground for old cars and major appliances.

Through an annual clean-up day and help from corporations, like Texas-based trash hauler giant Waste Management, Fee said the area is now "virtually trash free - for now."

"It's an on-going effort," Fee said as he collected a certificate of merit from James. "But all these projects are.

"Each of us has a responsibility to preserve the great great things we have here."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

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