History comes alive Saturday for the pinnacle of the Carson City Historical Society’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration.
The public will be able to take in the CCHS’ “Heritage” event, including a chance to view the yellow Gothic-Revival Foreman-Roberts House and Carriage House and enjoy vintage arts on display from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1207 N. Carson St. There will be a food truck, and the society will offer free anniversary cake and lemonade.
Entertainment beginning at 10:30 a.m. will include musician and historian Chris Bayer, three historic Chautauqua performances personifying Carson City founder Abe Curry, his daughter and activist Hannah Clapp between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and a short program at noon will feature remarks from Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell and Lane regarding the society’s contributions to preserving Carson City’s heritage throughout the years.
The Foreman-Roberts House, now 155 years old, with its venerated history having moved from old Washoe City to Carson City, once was in the private hands of the Roberts family in the late 1800s. It is now city-owned and maintained. It has been established on the National Register of Historic Plates for Nevada and with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure it’s protected.
CCHS President Debbie Lane said the group seeking to preserve the house were “movers and shakers” of their day who formed the Nevada Landmarks Society.
“The group was able to raise money, do basic repairs … and it took years to do any renovation on the inside,” she said. “So we were founded in February 1969. So in 2019, we’re turning 50. We turned 50 technically in February.”
The celebration, however, includes the opening this year of the historic home’s museum after two incidents of arson in August 2016 caused smoke damage to the structure’s walls and furniture and one fire burned a 100-year-old door belonging to the house. Lane said the restoration process prompted the society to return many items within the Carriage House on loan from the Nevada State Museum so they could be cleaned.
“They smelled of smoke, and then it took two years for all of the repairs and we had to get approval from SHPO,” she said. “That was a big setback.”
Many of the details of the history and the precise move of the Foreman-Roberts house, where it originally was constructed by James Roberts in Washoe City in 1859, are difficult to corroborate. It once was thought the house was moved by train, but the train route would have contained tunnels. The house’s final residents, Thurman Roberts and Hattie Hale Roberts, bequeathed the house to the state of Nevada, but the state couldn’t receive the property. Ultimately, the house was transferred to Ormsby County, and the will provided that the house should be used as a park. A group interested in preserving the property protested and formed the Nevada Landmarks Society, and it eventually renamed itself the Carson City Historical Society in 2002 to narrow its scope, Lane said. The NLS originally set out to preserve important landmarks throughout the state, Lane said, but it became an overwhelming mission as similar projects occurred in Virginia City, Dayton and other nearby cities.
“There wasn’t a lot of appreciation for the history that was here at a time when the town was starting to grow, so saving this house was a big accomplishment,” she said.
Jean Cartier, a CCHS volunteer who has been assisting Lane with preparations for the upcoming Heritage event, said the house, while it’s no governor’s mansion, stands out as a “working man’s house,” a traditional family home that wasn’t fancy for its time but demonstrated the Victorian Era style.
CCHS has received grants throughout the years to address the Foreman-Roberts House, restoring the first floor then the second floor and grounds. The structure has had improvements and add-ons made for Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.
“It’s been a long, long process,” Lane said of all the work with few volunteers to maintain the house.
The organization has about 80 members but always needs more volunteers, Lane said, to help with essential tasks such as newsletters or special event assistance.
“We’re small,” she said. “It’s difficult to get people to volunteer. ... We are always looking for more members and volunteers who would like to get more involved. But this organization will continue because there will always be somebody who will make sure we survive.”
For information, contact the society via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or its mailing address, 112 N. Curry St., Carson City, Nev. 89703.