Eastside tour turns back several pages of history
October 26, 2002
Following two tour guides, a band of 20 walkers set out Friday morning for a hike around the east side of Carson City, turning back several pages of history.
The trail started at the marker at the corner of Stewart and King streets. Bernie Allen and Eileen Cohen, both with the Carson City Preservation Coalition, led the tour.
The Charles W. Friend Trail is named in honor of Carson City’s first state weather service director. He built the state’s first observatory with a 6-inch refracting telescope. A stone with a plaque telling his story is in the grassy square, also is named for Friend.
Next stop was a look at the Nevada State Printing Office. It was completed in 1886 at a cost of $14,743.66 and built of sandstone from the prison quarry.
“The truncated roof is unusual,” said Cohen.
The tour continued to the Old Armory Building, which was built in 1882. It reflects classical Greek revival style with a jerkinhead roof gable of the era. No explanation of what a jerkinhead roof gable was, but two windows peer out of a wall under a kind of mansard roof.
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Then to one of the highlights of the tour, site of the old Chinatown at Third and Stewart streets. Nothing remains of the settlement, but in 1880 the U.S. Census figured about 800 Chinese, mostly men, lived there. It was an extensive area of several blocks with stores and homes, including Ye Bong’s Cafe.
Occupations were listed as everything from joss house owner to opium den operator, with many working as farmers.
There was even a Chinese Free Mason Hall, although it had no connection with the national organization where women or Chinese were not welcome.
“Chinese were called ‘throwaway’ people in those days,” said Allen. “They were called Celestials and faced prejudice.”
The Preservation Society is working toward building a monument to Chinatown on the parking lot that now covers the area.
Allen said there was a Chinese cemetery on Roop Street, “but it was leveled with bulldozers and office buildings put up on the site.”
One of the tour members, Katie Pollock, is of Chinese descent and suggested that after the Chinese exodus following the Exclusion Act of 1882, few Chinese remained in Carson City. Pollock, who is a school teacher, estimated about 100 Chinese live in Carson City today.
At Fifth and Stewart, the group paused at the site of the Nevada State Orphans Home, which closed in 1959 and cottages erected in its place.
At Pratt and Musser the group stopped at a sign recalling the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight of March 17, 1897, which took place in an arena erected in the old race course. Now, the Carson City law enforcement facility graces the area.
Other tour features included the Paul Laxalt Building in its many guises, the Railroad Car House at 708 N. Walsh St., the V&T Passenger Depot on Carson Street and the old Roundhouse site at 911 Plaza St.
The last is the site of the large shop facilities used by the V&T, which served many railroads in the West as a repair site.
There isn’t even a marker at the site, now a weedy empty lot between East Washington Street and East Williams Street. A rough stone is at one corner of the lot, but it’s blank and gives no hint of the elaborate facility once there.
Anyone wishing to repeat the tour can wait until next spring or, if anxious to make it, go to the Nevada State Museum or the Railroad Museum and pick up a copy of a booklet titled “The Charles W. Friend Trail” for $2.