Ronni Hannaman: Historical Society serves as curator of local history
Special to the Nevada Appeal
The Carson City Historical Society has recently been thrust into the spotlight because of the proposed demolition of the 155-year-old building once occupied by Café @ Adele’s and preceding businesses through the years attracting hundreds of customers through those historic doors.
Born as the Landmarks Society in 1969 to save another old building, the Foreman-Roberts House, from being razed by the city’s Public Works Department, the non-profit society seems to be coming full circle in its efforts to save another of Carson’s architecturally historic buildings by championing the cause to “Save Adele’s,” though the circumstances surrounding the two are not at all similar.
The former restaurant is privately owned. The Foreman-Roberts House and land was never put up for sale, rather it was bequeathed to the “Children of Nevada,” by Thurman and Hattie Hale Roberts in 1969, thus becoming public property with the one-quarter acre maintained as a public park by the Carson City Parks Department.
After successfully lobbying to keep the Foreman-Roberts house from demolition, the society raised funds over these many years and enlisted many volunteers who spent countless hours to restore the home and to create a museum to showcase Carson’s early history and unique architecture. To purchase the land and building on which the former Café @ Adele’s now sits would cost in excess of $1 million to repair the damage caused by the March fire. Those kinds of funds are not within the reach of this small volunteer led society, though they are raising funds to subsidize the cost of moving the building to another site within Carson City should someone elect to do so.
Because there is such a hue and cry over the fate of the former restaurant and the interest in history, the society is using this opportunity to reevaluate its mission, grow its membership, and become more recognizable in the community. The board was recently reorganized with Jeff Loflin elected president. It is Loflin’s goal to have the society recognized as the “Curator of Carson’s history to tell the story of our unique place in Nevada’s history.” He is pleased some younger members have stepped up to the plate.
New board members were elected in December to invigorate the society, recently celebrating its 50th year. Loflin states, “It is our hope to be able to focus on our history through creating and participating in more events, not just in the downtown, but at all the various historic sites all over our city.”
Loftin is passionate about all kinds of history. In his day job, he serves as the unit chief for broadcast and production services at the Legislature and is in the forefront of recording history being made almost daily and more so when the Legislature is in full swing. In his spare time, he serves as a docent for the ghost town of Sutro, just outside of Dayton. He states, “If someone moves the former Adele’s out of Carson City, this will not be the first time for there were two houses moved from Carson to Sutro.” He cites the large Victorian house at the entrance to the Sutro property, once belonging to the Schulz family, was moved there in the 1970s. The home of prostitute Rosa May, once located in the area of the Carson Nugget parking lot, is today occupied by the Sutro caretaker.
An enthusiastic member of the Snowshoe Thompson Chapter of Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, the fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West, Loflin serves as the chapter historian and recently recruited his “brothers” to assist in installing acoustical ceiling in the Carriage House located behind the Foreman-Roberts House.
“We had a raucous good time while doing a good deed,” he said. As it seems to be the identifying trait of a Clamper, Loflin sports a beard and a handlebar moustache. He says, “I model my life after President Teddy Roosevelt who came to Carson City on May 19, 1903 to present a four-page speech on the Capitol steps.” Roosevelt, though, did not sport a beard, only a very distinguished moustache.
A life-long resident of Carson City (although he was born 1968 in Lake Tahoe because the fire at Carson Tahoe Hospital closed the hospital until the new hospital was finished), Loflin has seen much of Carson’s history destroyed over the years and wants to be an active participant in the preservation of what is left of our history, the history of Nevada.
How did he become involved in the Carson City Historical Society? As a more recent member of 18 months, he credits his wife Miyako, a teacher at Bordewich Bray Elementary, and her fifth-grade class for reopening his eyes to the incredible history of this city. As a class project, students were taken on a tour of the historic Kit Carson Trail with a student assigned to provide the history of each home. So impressed was he, he not only joined the society, he also decided to volunteer and bring in his network of “brothers.”
There continues to be some confusion between the society and the city’s Historic Resource Commission. The society is a volunteer membership organization and does not make decisions on what a property owner of a historic home can or cannot do. The commission, also voluntary, is appointed by the Board of Supervisors and creates the “rules.” Though the focus of both is to respect and preserve Carson’s history, Loflin states, “The society accomplishes this through education, fund-raising, volunteerism, and cooperation with the other entities.”
As the “curators of local history,” Loflin and his engaged board hope to encourage many new members to join the society to make the voice of the non-profit stronger and to assist in their preservation efforts. Membership Chair Andi Fant, owner of the Abraham Curry House, knows well how important it is to preserve history as she restores the outside of 1871 home that has seen many reincarnations after Curry died. Elected as Second Vice President is historian Sue Ballew who co-authors Past Pages for the Nevada Appeal.
Basic membership is $25 or $35 per family. To find out more about the Society and their future projects and events, go to the website at cchistorical.org. It is hoped many more citizens – old and new – join in the effort to learn about and preserve Carson City’s history for future generations.