Annual Victorian Christmas Tour is Sunday |

Annual Victorian Christmas Tour is Sunday

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal

Now up for auction, one historic frontier home, replete with cottonwood trees planted when Abe Lincoln was president; home of Nevada’s first Secretary of State, Chauncy Noteware; and the starting bid is …

“I really didn’t care,” said Carson resident Joi Davis, recalling how she came to be owner/caretaker of one of Carson City’s most historic sites. “I just remember wanting this old house so bad -then suddenly, it was mine.”

Well, maybe it wasn’t that easy – she admitted in the next breath – but two years ago, Davis’ mother saw the Noteware House was being auctioned off by a San Jose, Calif., couple who seemingly spent a good chunk on refurbishing the modest-sized family home and erstwhile boarding house and restaurant.

The home was built in 1865 in the 700 block of South Minnesota Street and kept in the family for the next 120 years.

“I’d been in the market for such a home for awhile,” Davis said. “From the first time I set foot in it – I felt a warm, comfortable feeling.”

But it wasn’t meant to be. Davis was outbid by two other interested parties.

“I wouldn’t say I was heartbroken,” she said. “But it was a disappointment. I really wanted that house.”

So it came to be in the summer of 2006 that the Noteware House fell out of escrow twice, eventually being sold to the third bidder, Davis.

“I did not know a lot about it when I first put in the bid,” she said. “But you look at the house, you look at the grounds, you look at the trees and say ‘wow look at this.'”

“As the transaction closed, they sent me information about the house. I work for the Legislature. (Noteware) was a senator. I haven’t done as much research as I’d like, but I’ve learned little bits and pieces and am eager to find out more.”

This weekend may be the perfect opportunity for an exchange of information, as the Carson City Historical Society hosts its annual Victorian Christmas Tour.

The tour of nine historic Carson homes and public buildings will take place noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Organizers from the nonprofit expect more than 300 participants, everyone from “lookey-loos to serious historians from the region.”

“We get a lot of calls from people from all over the West,” said volunteer/organizer Sue Ballew, noting the Noteware home is the newest on the tour.

“We’re excited to have (Joi) participate,” she said. “We have a pretty loyal following on the (home) tour – when we add a property, it gets attention.”

Other highlights this year include the Chartz House, on the 400 block of West Robinson Street, which was recently featured on PBS’s series “House with a History.”

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which is celebrating its 140th anniversary with an open house, will host live entertainment. Singer Christina Bourne will perform songs as world-renowned opera singer, born in a frontier mining camp, Emma Nevada. Volunteer docents will lead small groups through the downtown homes in period garb, with stories and factoids to spare.

“Most (of) our guides have been doing this for years,” said Ballew, herself a volunteer since 1988. “Even though there’s interest, we try to keep group numbers small. We spend about 20 to 30 minutes at each location.

“People can pick and choose to go where they want. It’s become tradition.”

Indeed, the tour is closing in on its 40th anniversary, (the first Christmas tour was in 1970) – with co-organizer Dorothy Dolan, Ballew’s mother, still leading the charge.

“Every year there’s something new that’s exciting,” Dolan said. “The Noteware (home) has quite a history. I’m excited to see the Bliss Mansion – which is being converted by a couple back into a home (from a bed and breakfast).

“There are great stories from each home – and I learn new things every year.”

As do the homeowners.

Still “relatively new” to her historic home, Noteware House resident Davis said she’s yet to experience the strange creeks and otherworldly occurrences so oft-told of Carson’s most famed historic buildings.

“No, no ghosts yet,” she said. “But I’ve heard things about the home. Either way – it’s a good place to be.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

If you go

What: Victorian Christmas Tour

When: noon-5 p.m. Sunday

What it is: Visitors can tour and learn about nine historic downtown buildings, decorated for the holidays on tours led by volunteer docents dressed in period costume; some locales will feature special performances

Cost: $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $6 for children ages 6-12, those 5 and under tour for free

Benefits: The Carriage House Project; Carson City Historical Society and Carson City Redevelopment are co-sponsors

For information/advance tickets: Call Sue Ballew at 882-5694