Obscure marker had many stumped
August 30, 2008
The obelisk at the northwest corner of West Telegraph and North Minnesota streets had many people on a mission to find out what its purpose was and who placed it there.
It even had Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha stumped.
“I don’t know what it represents,” Rocha said. “I’m curious now. It’s not on my radar screen.”
An obelisk is a tapered, four-sided shaft of stone, often used as a historic monument or grave marker.
The curiosity began with Carson City resident Terry Knight, who via e-mail asked the Nevada Historical Society if they knew what it once was.
“I go that way a lot for my morning jog or a walk, and it got my curiosity up,” Knight said.
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Rich Moreno, a former columnist (Backyard Traveler) with the Nevada Appeal, wrote an article about highway markers along the Lincoln Highway (Highway 50). When contacted about the marker, he said he wasn’t sure what it was, but was pretty sure what it was not.
“I don’t think the marker is for the Lincoln Highway because the association that promoted the highway and put up Lincoln markers dissolved in about 1927,” Moreno said.
“Apparently, there were concrete markers with the distinctive Lincoln Highway colors and a small bronze disk of Abraham Lincoln’s face produced in 1928, which were erected by chapters of the Boy Scouts of America. However, I doubt there would have been any Lincoln Highway activity by 1936.”
The state archivist agreed.
“Nineteen-thirty-six is past the Lincoln Highway period, and that corner is off the Lincoln Highway,” Rocha said. “The highway did go up King Street and through King’s Canyon, then changed in 1928 to Clear Creek Canyon and in 1957 to the route it is today.”
Sue Ballew, co-author of Past Pages in the Nevada Appeal, did not know either and checked the marker out for herself. She noted it is next to 402 N. Minnesota St., former home of Dominique Laxalt, father of former Governor Paul Laxalt.
“That home was purchased by Dominique Laxalt in 1935,” Ballew said. “Which may be the reason the obelisk is dated 1936.
“I don’t know for sure, but I did run into Guy Rocha who was hot on the trail on this same subject.”
After hearing Rocha was putting out feelers for information, Burt Berdeau, who manages the historic preservation program for Virginia City, gave Rocha a call.
“I told Guy I may be able to shed some light on what this thing is,” Berdeau said.
“What they are is a concrete base for mailboxes ” the old-fashioned metal box with the arch top. I’d say the size is no more than a foot-and-a-half wide, by two or two-and-one-half feet tall. A general-purpose drop box.”
Berdeau said the boxes were placed by the postal service as part of the New Deal Program during the Depression.
“They were put in urban environments during the Depression so people wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the post office. You occasionally find them (now) in antique shops.”
“This was brand new to me,” Rocha said. “What struck me is that I was clueless. I had no idea what that obelisk served.
“I was skeptical about a highway marker, but what Burt told me makes a lot of sense. Burt said what makes him feel good is he knew something I didn’t.
“But he informed me and educated me. Even in your hometown a task can be a foreign land.”
Berdeau said he has an interest in history and when he first saw an obelisk, thought they were markers for a highway.
“Lots of highway associations used them,” Berdeau said. “I got interested in them while working in South Dakota. But I don’t know when the postal service started using them.
“I believe there’s another one on Division Street, a block or so north, and also has the date of 1936. I’m not sure when they were officially phased out.”
– Contact Rhonda Costa at email@example.com or 881-1223.