Grant could bring boardwalks, gas-style street lamps to Old Town Dayton | NevadaAppeal.com

Grant could bring boardwalks, gas-style street lamps to Old Town Dayton

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Old Town Dayton could soon have boardwalks and gas-style street lamps a la Virginia City if the county receives a $150,000 grant from the Nevada Department of Transportation.

The project, called the Historic Dayton Streetscape Enhancement Project, would install boardwalks and gas lights on Main Street from the intersection of Highway 50 about 620 feet to the Bluestone Building, which houses the Dayton court and sheriff’s station.

Lyon County Commissioners have already approved applying for the grant, which is part of NDOT’s Transportation Enhancement Act grant program.

Mabel Masterman, of the Dayton Historical Society, said the project was part of an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office that the county would spend $70,000 on historic improvements in Dayton. In return, the county purchased three lots near the Bluestone Building for $100,000. The lots were valued at $170,000.

County engineer Dick Faber told the commissioners the $150,000 should cover the entire cost of the project.

The project still must be approved by the Comstock Historic District Commission, which includes Old Town Dayton, Virginia City and Silver City.

Though there is no evidence that Dayton ever had gas street lamps, Comstock Historic Commission administrator Bert Bedeau said that doesn’t preclude the town from having gas-style lamps now.

“We would want something that was compatible with the character of the area, and that style and period would be appropriate to the downtown,” he said.

As for the boardwalks, Bedeau said that in the 19th century it was common to build commercial buildings right up to the street, then have a boardwalk with some kind of covering. “So that area probably did have boardwalks. There was some kind of public walkways,” he said.

Lyon County Commission Bob Milz said whether Dayton had gas lamps and boardwalks shouldn’t matter. He alleged that Virginia City never really had gas lamps either.

However, Joe Curtis, Virginia City resident and historian, said Virginia City absolutely did have gas lamps.

“Virginia City had two gas manufacturing plants that powered the lights,” he said, adding that equipment for the first gas plant was arriving by ship from Europe, and was sunk by Confederates. The second ship made it through, Curtis said.

The only reference found of gas in Dayton comes from the Nevada Historical Society papers which quotes Fannie Hazlett as saying “gas company but no gas. One of the ambitious projects was in 1862 as the formation of a gas company under the direction of J.H. Jaqua, Judge Hayden and M.W. Starling. The gas never materialized. Kerosene and candles continue to illuminate the burgh.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.