Nevada history began in Carson City. No other city in this state can lay claim to this fact still evident today when touring the historic downtown.
The entire west side between Curry, Mountain, 5th and John streets is home to 43 unique one-of-a-kind residences or attractions built in the 1800s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Our history is important to the businesses in the downtown core that profit from history buffs.
Founder Abe Curry and his partners bought the Eagle Station and Ranch in 1858 from early settlers when Carson City was still a part of the Utah Territory. The visionary Curry bought land, built the Warm Springs Hotel (where the first territorial legislative session was conducted in 1861), and quarried sandstone from his own quarry to build many of the major public structures all over the city that have lasted the test of time.
It was Curry who donated over 10 acres now the site of our Capitol and the state buildings housing the legislative branches where history continues to be made that is located within our beautifully maintained Legislative Park right in the heart of the City.
The peaceful green park is a visual history of our past and filled with statues and memorials and a must-stroll when visiting the downtown. Take a selfie at the base of the Kit Carson statue.
As one would expect in any important historical city, ours is full of museums.
In our family-friendly city, currently there are four state museums every Nevadan should visit: The Nevada State Museum and former U.S. Mint located right in the heart of the city; the Nevada State Railroad Museum; the Stewart Indian School Museum; and the Capitol featuring a second-floor museum.
All museums are currently operating with the exception of the capitol, still closed due to COVID restrictions. When open, the capitol museum admission is free. The state museums admit children under 18 free.
The Stewart Indian School Museum admission is free also and a great place to hike to view the many historic stone buildings once attended by the Native American students who were forced to attend this school as decreed by the federal government.
A fifth important museum is soon to be open for tours to chronicle the seamier side of those who didn’t abide by Nevada law. Housed since 1862 in the Curry’s former Warm Springs Hotel, the maximum-security Nevada State Prison was shuttered in 2012 and is on track to offer fascinating tours this summer.
One could consider a ride on the V&T Railway between Carson City and Virginia City a journey back in time. Operating in summers, one learns about the once robust mining industry as the train chugs up the mountain past once viable mines to spend time in the National Historic Landmark District of Virginia City.
An outdoor museum of another kind, and a great place to quietly wander and reflect on Nevada history, is Lone Mountain Cemetery just to the east of the downtown. Many of our most famous state and local persons now rest there. Even Hank Monk, the stagecoach driver made famous by Mark Twain in “Roughing It,” is buried there. Twain’s niece lies in rest there as well.
Did you know author Mark Twain was born in Carson City? Arriving here in August 1861 to join his brother Orion Clements, Samuel Langhorne Clements wrote a letter to the editor of the Territorial Enterprise signing it with his pen name Mark Twain.
Thus, his new persona was born, and he came to be forever known as Mark Twain. The house in which he lived can be seen when touring the Kit Carson Trail. It is along this Trail one can view the Ferris Mansion, home to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. inventor of the Ferris Wheel.
So steeped are we in our history, even our freeway art depicts historic moments in time at every interchange giving us a glimpse into the evolution of this city.
For those who like a bit of wine with their history, the first Saturday of each month is a good reason to enjoy walking along the Kit Carson Trail while enjoying some of the downtown shops and restaurants. Check out the web page at www.downtowncarsoncity.org for full information.
Consider Carson City an outdoor Nevada history classroom at a time when we have all been shuttered for so long. Hiking or biking is safe and easy in the downtown area and most of the museums are easy to access by bicycle along one of the many bike paths now open. Plan to stay for lunch!
Ronni Hannaman is executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.