Preserving Reno’s historic barns
Photographer and graphic designer Jack Hursh has a thing about barns. In fact, he’s spent much of the past several decades trying to chronicle the stories related to barns throughout western Nevada and in other communities.
Hursh has photographed dozens of barns over the years, with many of his images displayed in local art galleries and in various art shows.
About a decade ago, Hursh even produced a small book entitled, “Truckee Meadows Remembered: Barns of the Truckee Meadows, Nevada,” devoted to preserving in photos, words and drawings the picturesque barns of the Reno area, many of which have been threatened by development, age or neglect.
For Hursh, the loss of the Truckee Meadows’ barns will mean a disconnect from the region’s past as an agricultural community and, in his words, “the loss of the quaintness of the Truckee Meadows by so called progress.”
Hursh also helped to found a non-profit group devoted to permanently preserving or restoring pioneer Nevada artifacts, including barns, called Truckee Meadows Remembered.
Hursh’s book is filled with his evocative color and black and white photos of lost barns—those that have been torn down in recent years—as well as those that have been preserved or, at the very least, remain standing in the region.
The publication is enhanced by detailed black and white line drawings of many of the barns by Reno artist Loren Jahn.
The book begins with atmospheric black and white photos of farm life—rows of cut hay, shadows on the window of an old chicken coop, and a close-up picture of a pitchfork.
Hursh also reminds readers to respect the private property rights of the barn owners and not trespass in order to view any of the structures he has photographed.
The book includes a brief essay by Hursh that compares old barns to a well-worn, comfortable but well-made pair of suspenders, noting, “old suspenders are like old ranches and old barns, they don’t make them anymore.”
Sadly, many of the majestic barns depicted in much of the book are gone. For instance, a gothic-style barn, built in the 1870s and once was part of the historic Winter’s Ranch in Washoe Valley, was demolished in the 1970s.
The same is true for the Steinberger barn at Doyle, California, built in 1879, which was torn down in 2002, and a cluster of barns on old Longley Lane, which had been erected in the 1880s, but torn down in October of 2001.
Fortunately, there are a handful of other, picturesque and historic barns that have managed to survive. Hursh describes several, including:
• The Quilici barn on Longley Lane in Southeast Reno.
• The Ferretto barn on South Virginia (Huffaker area, Southeast Reno).
• Holcomb barn on Holcomb Lane, built in about 1900 (Southwest Reno).
• Mayberry barn on Mayberry Lane, believed built before the 1880s, and one of the largest barns in the Truckee Meadows at 100 feet by 60 feet (West Reno).
The concluding pages of the book are devoted to describing efforts to save various farm-related buildings in the Reno area.
For instance, Hursh describes a small, stone house on South Virginia Street near West Huffaker, that is believed to date back to the late 1850s (making it one of the oldest buildings in the Truckee Meadows), which was recently dismantled, its stones carefully catalogued and marked, and saved for possible reconstruction at a new site.
Additionally, the Truckee Meadows Remembered group recently had success in gaining permission to relocate five historic farm structures that once stood on the Ferretto property on South Virginia to Bartley Ranch Park in Reno.
In the early 1990s, the buildings, which include an 1870s cookhouse, bunkhouse, chicken coop with pigeon loft, and a granary, were moved to the Boomtown Hotel-Casino in Verdi to serve as a backdrop for barbecues.
The Bartley Ranch site is appropriate because it is a former historic farm. Reno founder Myron Lake once owned the 59-acre site, which for many years was a dairy farm. In 1988, Washoe County purchased the site for use as a regional park devoted to preserving the area’s agricultural history.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.