Wander by Genoa’s historic buildings to find Nevada’s roots
Special to the Appeal
Nevada’s earliest years are recorded in the streets of Genoa.
Anyone who has ever studied the state’s history is aware of Genoa’s role in the state’s development. It was one of the state’s first towns, as well as home of the first printed newspaper and site of the first territorial government meetings.
The Mormon Station State Historical Monument in the center of town is the most prominent reminder of Genoa’s place in Nevada history. Here, you can find a replica of the original Mormon trading post and fort, which was built in 1851 to provide goods to travelers on the Emigrant Trail.
The Mormon Station is generally recognized as the first permanent building in Nevada. A temporary log enclosure, without a roof or floor, had been built a little to the north of the station in 1849, but it was soon abandoned.
The replica fort, constructed in 1947 on the site of the original, which burned in 1910, contains interpretive historic displays about the area and includes a beautiful, shaded picnic area.
The Mormon Station, however, is only the most obvious testimonial to Genoa’s rich past. If you wander the streets, you can find that nearly every house and lot has a story.
Sadly, the fire of 1910 that destroyed the original Mormon Station, also burned many of the town’s other pioneer buildings and, no doubt, signaled the end of Genoa as the seat for Douglas County. That authority was shifted to the larger town of Minden in 1916.
Still, plenty of pieces of the old town have survived, including the John S. Childs Building near the southwest corner of Nixon and Main streets. The first floor of this brick structure was erected in 1862, and served as a dry goods store for many years.
In 1874, the local Masons constructed a second floor to serve as a lodge.
Adjacent to the Childs/Mason building is a one-story stone structure, now an antique shop, which was constructed in the 1870s as a dry-goods store.
Next door is the Genoa Bar, in a building that is said to have been built in the 1850s. The bar, which boasts uneven wooden floors and a hodgepodge of historic political posters on its walls, claims to be the “oldest thirst parlor” in the state.
At the corner of Carson and Main streets is a brick Victorian home built in the mid-1850s by William J. “Lucky Bill” Thorington, a gambler, shrewd businessman and, allegedly, a polygamist.
Thorington was hanged in Genoa in 1858 for aiding a horse thief, although some historians believe he was killed by those jealous of his success and unconventional lifestyle. The house was later owned by Judge D.W. Virgin, the county’s first district attorney.
The Raycroft/Depot House, near the Thorington home, can trace its pedigree to the 1850s. The original building, which has been covered up by later additions, was the law offices for Sen. William Stewart, one of Nevada’s first U.S. senators, and Judge Virgin. It was later used as a newspaper printing plant, butcher shop and stagecoach depot.
The Pratt House, on Nixon Street adjacent to the Genoa Community Church, was built in 1872 by newspaper publishers A.C. and Alice Pratt. Now known as the Genoa House Inn bed-and-breakfast, the two-story Victorian is one of the most photogenic homes in town.
The Pink House, south of the Mormon Station Park, is one of the most historic homes in town. It was constructed in 1853 by John Reese, one of the founders of the Mormon Station trading post. In 1870, it was moved to its present location by a prominent merchant, J.R. Johnson and later was home of Judge Virgin and his family.
The magnificent Kinsey House, northeast of the Pink House, was built in 1856 by Stephen A. Kinsey, one of the original Mormon Station settlers and the first postmaster in Carson Valley.
Strangely, while the Kinsey home appears to be constructed of wood because of its classic white balconies and columns, it is actually a brick building. Like many of Genoa’s historic houses, it is a private residence so be careful not to disturb the residents.
The Genoa Courthouse Museum, at Main and Fifth streets, is a two-story, brick structure built in 1865. It was the Douglas County Courthouse until 1916, when the county seat was moved.
For the next 40 years, the building was used as a school. since 1969, it has been a museum. The courthouse, which has been restored, contains dozens of exhibits describing the community’s rich history.
For more information about Genoa, contact the town of Genoa, (775) 782-8696, the Genoa Genoa Courthouse Museum, (775) 782-4325, or go to http://www.genoanv.com/courthouse.html.
• Richard Moreno is the author of “Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada” and “The Roadside History of Nevada.”