One of the first thing that many visitors to Carson City notice is the blue line painted on sidewalks throughout the west side of the city. Known as the Kit Carson Trail, the line passes many of the community’s oldest structures such as the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion.
It also happens to be one of the city’s most effective promotions. A visitor walking the 2.5 mile trail, and aided by an interpretive map available online (visitcarsoncity.com) can explore places associated with Carson City’s (and Nevada’s) earliest days.
A detailed walking tour map, sold at the Carson City Chamber of Commerce office and in most local gift shops, contains well-designed regional and citywide maps as well as a detailed grid map showing the location of 59 historic locations, with descriptive text, addresses and full color drawings of the buildings.
For example, the first 13 places listed include the city’s historic government buildings and landmarks. Beginning with the State Capitol, built between 1870-71, this section includes the former State Printing Building, built in 1885-86, the former U.S. Mint (now the State Museum), built in 1869, as well as the Governor’s Mansion, completed in 1909.
From the state government complex of buildings, the blue line leads to the city’s historic churches, largely clustered in the vicinity of Division Street, between King and Telegraph.
These include St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church (built from 1870-71), St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (1867-68), the First United Methodist Church (1865) and the First Presbyterian Church (1864). The latter is considered the oldest church building still in service in the state while the Methodist Church boasts of being the oldest congregation, operating since 1859.
From here, the tour heads into the city’s historic residential streets. The houses range from modest but intriguing, such as the Smail House (512 N. Curry), built in 1862 and considered a fine example of Greek revival architecture, to the elaborate, like the distinctly Victorian-style Henry M. Yerington home, built in 1863, and once home of the superintendent of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.
Other notable abodes include: the Chartz House (412 N. Nevada), built in 1876, and named for a renowned 19th century Nevada lawyer; the Abe Curry House, an unusual sandstone home built in 1871 by the city’s founder (using stone from the state prison quarry); and the majestic Frank Norcross House, built in 1906 by a former Nevada Supreme Court Justice (and later owned by former Senator Paul Laxalt).
One of the most intriguing buildings is the former Orion Clemens house (502 N. Division), built in 1863 by the first and only secretary of the Nevada Territorial. Clemens, of course, was brother of Samuel Clemens, better known as writer Mark Twain.
In the mid-1860s, the latter worked for Virginia City’s legendary “Territorial Enterprise” newspaper ad occasionally stayed in the house.
The William Stewart House (503 W Robinson) was the second house built in Carson City by the first U.S. Senator from Nevada. Constructed in 1887, it later served as a hospital.
A more recent structure that is, nonetheless, architecturally significant, is the Dr. William Cavell House (402 W. Robinson). Built in 1907 by a local dentist, the house was one of the first in the city to be piped for both gas and electricity.
Another particularly beautiful home is the Bender House (707 W. Robinson), a striking white, two-story structure with a wonderful round porch. The home was built between 1866-70 and is named for David A. Bender, a V & T official.
Adjacent is the Bliss Mansion (710 W. Robinson), magnificent 15-room home built in 1879 by lumber magnate Duane L. Bliss.
More about the Kit Carson Trail’s journey through the Capital City’s past in next week’s column.
(For more information about the Kit Carson Trail, contact the Carson City Visitors & Convention Authority, 1-800-NEVADA-1)
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.