Entrepreneur saw treasure in junk
By Ruby McFarland
A lot of people who come to the Dayton Museum ask about the long metal building behind the chain-link fence alongside the museum building. It’s interesting to see, and I understand it when people ask if it’s a part of the museum, or if it is ever open to the public.
The answer to that question is “no.” The building was used as a shop and living quarters by Bill Anderson when he had a sand-and-gravel business at the location.
“Who is Bill Anderson?” you ask. Well, I would have trouble saying who Bill Anderson is: junk man, contractor, builder, entrepreneur, adventurer, dreamer, artist and a number of other occupations. He also owned The Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village, Lake Tahoe – that’s his ultimate claim to fame.
Bill bought several pieces of land in Dayton in 1959. One of the acquisitions was the Bluestone Building on Main and River streets. It is a historic old stone building built in 1862 to store bluestone, used to make cyanide.
It has been many things through the years, mostly used for storage before it was rehabilitated. It now serves as the sites of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Substation and Dayton Justice Court. Bill donated the land and building to the Comstock Historic District.
The parcel where Bill’s shop and living quarters sit was used in the filming of “The Misfits.” When the film was completed, buildings erected for use on the set were knocked down and burned. I’ve had people who watched the filming ask me what happened to the props. I didn’t know until I read Bill’s autobiography, “Bill’s Big Bonanza,” which I might add is good reading. The book is sold at the museum.
When I first came to Dayton, the piles of what I thought was junk turned out to be other men’s treasures. The vintage cars parked on Bill’s property then supplied parts for antique-car buffs. Bill has an interest in antique cars. One can be sure, Bill would not have had old auto parts there if he didn’t think he could make a buck or two. His philosophy is, according to his book: “Can it make money?”
There is less stuff in the fenced yard now because Bill has trouble getting around. There are a number of little buildings on wheels in his yard. People stop and take photos of the unusual buildings.
They ask, “What are they?”
I say, “What do you want them to be?”
Few people have the desire or time to play with such unique hobbies. Bill took the time to make unusual pieces from artifacts that pleased him.
Bill Anderson lives in Dayton with his wife, Sharon, the love of his life.
• Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.