“The Mark Twain Room” is now the name of the banquet room at the Fox Brew Pub in downtown Carson City.
It was in Carson City that Samuel L. Clemens first used the pen name Mark Twain in a column, written in the form of a letter and printed February 2nd, 1863, in the Territorial Enterprise newspaper of Virginia City.
A bust of the 1800s writer, and an enlarged Twain autograph poster mark the change.The Fox Restaurant is located in the Saint Charles Hotel, which was built in 1862. The locally-fired brick north wall of the Twain Room was, at the time of construction, the outside of the south wall of the 1862 hotel. It soon became a common wall with the Muller House, which was later incorporated into the Saint Charles. Twain mentions the hotel in one of his later “tall tale” articles. The bust is a plaster cast of the 1979 Ron Tunison (1946-2018) sculpture. Widely-praised for his detailed work, Tunison sculpted busts and full statues of numerous Civil War era personages.
The hotel has housed a restaurant since its opening days. In 2007 Jim Phalan II and his wife Gab\y opened it as a British-style pub, under franchise of the Firkin Group. In keeping with that British Pub theme, the room was called the Queen’s Room, and a large portrait of the Queen graced the wall. But in 2017 the Phalans established a brewery in the hotel storeroom, and dropped the Firkin franchise to become an American brew pub. The Queen’s portrait was removed at that time.
The wall stand for the bust has a tie directly to Sam Clemens and Mark Twain. The semi-autobiographical novel “Roughing It” is Twain’s classic tale of life in 1860s Nevada Territory. In it he relates his September 1861 hike from Carson City to Lake Tahoe. He wrote of the first night’s camp: “Three miles away was a sawmill and some workmen….” A few weeks later U.S. General Land Office surveyor Butler Ives recorded the Lake Tahoe Sawmill of Augustus Pray and company at today’s Glenbrook as “just built.” Workmen Nelson E. Murdock, a New York millwright, and G. W. Warren had been constructing the mill at Glenbrook since May, 1859. It went into operation in 1862, and during the 1870s cut lumber which was used for storage shelving in the then-new State Capitol. The shelf holding the Tunison bust was fabricated from a piece of that lumber, salvaged during the late 1970s rehabilitation of the building.
Phalan said the Mark Twain Room is an appropriate name for the downtown Carson City brew-pub’s banquet room. Twain favored lager style beer, which is what is most often brewed there today. “The bust and stand were given to the room by a loose-knit group of friends of Nevada History who meet there most months, and we thank them most sincerely for the idea and execution of the change.”
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