Restored Virginia City house offers old West elegance
Appeal Staff Writer
Three years of hard work and a considerable financial investment have paid off for Carolyn and Chris Eichin.
They opened their new bed and breakfast on Sept. 14, in what was an old, rundown Virginia City house that in its heyday was home to some of the area’s more notable characters.
The 1876 home was once owned by Henry Piper, brother of John Piper, of opera house fame. In it lived, for awhile, Sam Davis, once an editor for the Nevada Morning Appeal.
Now it will host Virginia City visitors. What once was a gutted home without walls, doors and with a hole in the roof has now become a showpiece.
Much of the woodwork was done by Chris, a native of Switzerland and a retired mechanical engineer. The couple found old doors at yard sales and estate sales, and Chris sanded and restored them until they looked like they came with the house.
They found antiques and Victorian reproductions at yard shows, and after finding pieces of the original wallpaper, they had reproductions of it made for the parlor.
The Eichins have spent thousands of dollars and more than 3,000 hours working on the property.
While Chris did the woodwork, his wife did research on the home.
The house, or perhaps one like it, apparently burned in the great fire of 1875, which destroyed two-thirds of Virginia City.
“When we lifted it (the house) up to put in the foundation, there was rubble from the fire under it,” Chris said. They also found pieces of marble and ceramic that showed fire damage.
In researching the house, Carolyn found that four people had lived at the address in 1874.
They found old newspapers in the walls, a medicine bottle that was never opened and a ticket for the National Guard Armory Ball dated Feb. 22, 1876, admitting one gentleman and two ladies to the event.
Sam Davis lived in the B Street house from 1874 to 1878, probably working on the Daily Stage, a publication that focused on Virginia City entertainment. He later worked for the Morning Appeal, eventually becoming editor.
Carolyn said Henry Piper sold the house in 1894. A druggist named Lernhardt bought the property.
“We found labels with his name on them,” Carolyn said.
An Irene Cooper lived there from 1908 to 1912, she said, and in the 1930s it was owned by a Leonard Gallagher.
The last time the home had a resident was probably in the 1970s, she said, as one of the neighbors remember a man having died while living there.
“He was the last one, we think,” Carolyn said.
Except maybe, for a ghost.
Carolyn said she hired two of her nephews to do tile work in the bathrooms; the two staying at the house during the work. One reported hearing the sound of a piano coming from the parlor. The home does not have a piano.
She said neighbors told her while the house was empty ghosts inhabited it, but she said she has never heard or seen anything eerie.
A narrow, winding original staircase leads to the three bedrooms with private baths.
The bedrooms all have a queen-sized bed, private bath, television with DVD player and high-speed Internet.
In addition to the bedrooms, the library, parlor and dining room have been restored, with the library featuring books by and about Mark Twain, along with histories of Nevada and the West.
Though a few told the Eichins they were crazy for taking on the task, many local residents thanked them for restoring the home.
“People were afraid it would be lost,” Carolyn said.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.
If you go
WHAT: B Street House Bed and Breakfast Open House
WHEN: Noon-4 p.m. Oct. 20
WHERE: B Street House Bed and Breakfast, 58 North B St., Virginia City.
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