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Historic preservation: Walk the walk

Kelli Du Fresne

Nearly every week I get a kink in my neck from looking back over my shoulder at the past.

There is a pile of papers on my desk. Big deal, you say. That’s what desks are for. It’s my memory pile. If I weren’t a muggle, I’d be like Neville Longbottom and carry a remebrall.

For those of you who aren’t Harry Potter fans, Neville is the kid no one wants to be. Though he is true of heart, he’s the butt of the joke, the one who gets hung on the chandelier by the Cornish pixies and tormented by the school bully.

My remebrall would be much neater than the stack of all those things I want to look up, but I’m not sure I’d get any more done than I do now.

With the demolition proceedings getting under way at Jack’s Bar I feel it’s important to remember those parts of town that give Carson City the character that it has.

Maybe one day, someone will fight to protect the oil derrick at the Beverly Hillbillies Casino.

Maybe not.

I haven’t made up my mind about the casino. I guess I’m still doubtful it will go forward. I have no hard facts to pin my doubt on, only some sort of lingering gut instincts.

But they are the same instincts I have regarding the preservation of Jack’s Bar at 418 S. Carson St.

My gut instincts aren’t tempered by anything but common sense.

Up the street from the bar are five buildings with origins in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

— The U.S. Mint, 600 N. Carson St., was completed in 1869 and has been used as the Nevada State Museum since 1941.

— The Capitol, 101 N. Carson St., finished in 1870, serves as offices for the governor, secretary of state and the treasurer. In 1978, the state paid $6 million to restore and retrofit the building.

— The Former State Printing Building, 301 S. Stewart St. was built in 1885-86, it is still in use by state printing today.

— The former U.S. Post Office, 401 N. Carson St. completed in 1891 is now the Paul Laxalt State Building and home to the Nevada Commission on Tourism and Nevada Magazine.

— The Heroes Memorial Building, 198 S. Carson St. was built in 1921, it now serves as offices for the Nevada Attorney General.

— The Ormsby County Courthouse, built in 1920 also serves as offices for the Nevada Attorney General.

This building, one of many in this long line of state-owned structures, was the latest to be renovated. The state spent $2.7 million to remodel the structure. Contractors gutted the building, added earthquake retrofits, brought it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, into compliance with fire codes and replaced historic elements such as the marble wainscoting, staircase and floors.

All are upright — held that way with taxpayer dollars — because we the people have made it a point to preserve our past. The character of our town is preserved, but at a cost.

There should be taxpayer dollars for Jack’s Bar too. After the demolition of the V&T shops in 1989, the state created a fund to help preserve historic buildings. The federal government has a tax incentive for historic preservation.

If you want to own an historic lighthouse on the east coast, it will cost you only what it costs to preserve it and maintain it. But, and here’s the kicker, most of the funding avenues are reserved for nonprofit entities. The options of private business owners are limited.

But there are ways of doing things where there is a will.

Let us hope that Don Lehr and Allan Fiegehen have the will and that the community has the will to support them in their efforts to preserve and long afterward for their efforts to preserve.

It is important that we don’t let our memories fade. That we continue to thank those who have restored the buildings in downtown Carson such as the St. Charles Hotel, the Roberts House, the Brewery Arts Center, and the original site of the Ormsby House the National Best Sellers Real Estate office to name but a few.

Some of these projects were done by nonprofit organizations, some by private businesses and most with some sort of governmental support either redevelopment incentive funding or grants from the Nevada Commission on Cultural Affairs.

Do we patronize the businesses downtown? Are we willing to put our money where our mouths are when it comes to helping private enterprise? We should be. It’s like voting, if you don’t bother, don’t gripe. I’m willing to bake brownies, wash cars, whatever to do my part.

But let’s be honest folks.

It’s the WILL that makes a difference here. We are willing to vilify the guy who wants to tear it down, but have we walked the neighborhood to thank the homeowners inside and outside of the historic district for their efforts to preserve our heritage and the character of our town. If we have not, we should.

We need to make it a point to put it in our remebralls.

Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal.