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Jack’s Bar: Don’t do it

Kelli Du Fresne

We heard a rumor that someone has asked for the “how to” for a demolition permit to demolish the Capitol.

Needless to say we had some research to do and what we found shocked our collective socks off.

Then it just plain made me mad. And then I was sad.

To think those hallowed halls where Mark Twain reported, where governors Sparks, Laxalt, O’Callaghan passed the laws of our state would ring only once more with the boom of a wrecking ball turned my stomach.

I can see the sandstone walls crumble through my tears and I hope whomever signs the demolition order is haunted by all those who came to love the building.

So, now you know my nightmare, the terrors of my dreams. But they’re not so far from reality.

The owners of Jack’s Bar, 418 S. Carson St., this week sought, then unsought, paperwork for a demolition permit.

Rumor was enough to send me reeling. An actual permit would likely make me swoon. OK, so I normally just freeze up during nightmares and can’t move. But at least at this point I can still write.

All I can ask of Don Lehr and Al Fiegehen is “please don’t.”

Though Mark Twain was gone by the time the Bank Saloon building was built in 1899, it’s possible he drank at the site when it was known as the Frisbie Hotel in 1862. It is likely true also that governors Sparks, Laxalt and O’Callaghan had a bit of a nip there also. And I am certain many legislative debates and decisions occurred over the plank during the years since the sandstone building was built in 1899.

Ironically, the Bank Saloon built by John Meyer and Elizabeth Sanger arose out of the pair’s desire to build their own saloon. Until then, they had leased the Sacramento Saloon on the opposite corner, where the Ormsby House stands today.

On June 30, 1898, they decided to form a partnership. The bar opened Aug. 19, 1899, and though it’s been closed from time to time over the years, the site remains one of the earliest watering hole locations in the capital city — since 1859.

So, I propose we, the collective history buffs of Carson City, raise hell or money. The kind of hell or money necessary to save the building that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places (No. 80004483) since 1980.

The building and memories associated with the building are priceless. I remember sitting on the curb out front with my mom watching the Nevada Day Parade. Tossin’ back a few cold ones after work and listening to Virginia City attorney Virgil Bucchianeri tell stories of the times his family owned the bar.

Virgil admits his views on the bar’s possible demolition may be biased.

“I might be prejudiced,” he said. “I am pretty close to it familywise. My dad was there. Ran it during Prohibition. Made whiskey there. It goes back to the 1890s, Johnny Myers and Sanger.

“I’d hate to see it go, you know. Just another historic building disappear. I never like to see an old building being torn down. That’s why I moved to Virginia City.”

Virgil said he remembers bringing his dad lunches, trick or treating along the bar and collecting bottles for nickels in the summertime.

“I’d go in there all dressed up on Halloween and go up and down the bar. They’d give you money. I liked that. In the summer back then, you got a nickel for an empty soda pop bottle. My cousin and I would pick up bottles and my dad would give me a nickel apiece. Then we got lazy and started taking them from the back of the other bars. He couldn’t figure out where we kept getting all the bottles from. I guess it’s my first involvement with criminal law, you might say.

“Once in a while someone would break out of prison and that’d be the first place they’d hit. In those days we had great big windows. They’re smaller now. But they’d break the windows and try to get in. Dad was always having to get them fixed. And during the war we had to put up black curtains for blackouts.”

Virgil also remembers the Italian old-timers and the three-day poker games.

“They had these all-night poker games. Sometimes they’d go two, three days in a row. Dad would go to work on Friday night and wouldn’t come back until Sunday morning. At least he said he was watching the poker game. Mom always believed him. I’m sure that’s where he was.”

Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal.