What’s going to happen to Silver Street?
August 30, 2005
Living in a historic district often means that your home’s appearance will be at least partially dictated by past residents.
And sometimes, actions from the past come back to haunt the present.
That’s what is going on in Old Town Dayton, as a proposed change to the official boundary of the Comstock Historic District may leave out six old homes on Silver Street.
According to Comstock Historic District Administrator Bert Bedeau, the homes were left out of the district administratively, and have not been reviewed for 15 years.
“The houses on the south end of Silver Street have not been administered as historic for 15 years,” Bedeau said at a recent meeting of the Dayton Historical Society. “People have altered their homes on the outside and didn’t have to go through the review. Some aspects of these homes don’t meet the standards for historical integrity.”
Bedeau said the problem came from some confusing language when the boundaries were drawn in 1990, when, during a change in the district’s boundaries, a map indicated that all of Silver Street was part of the historic district. But the newspapers indicated the boundary was down the middle of Silver Street, thereby leaving out the homes on its south side.
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That anomaly has caused the Comstock Historic District Commission to take another look at the boundary and redraw it to be consistent with the verbal description of the boundary line.
The proposed changes have rankled some longtime residents of the Dayton area.
“We’re going to be left with just commercial (in the historic district), and in the old towns, they did not have just commercial,” said Ruby McFarland, a member of the Dayton Historical Society. “They had places to live, too. We’ve got to hang on to everything we have, or we’re going to lose everything.”
But Terri Wagoner, who with her husband, Jerry, lives in one of the Silver Street homes, said she’d rather be out of the district boundaries.
“When you’re in the district, you have to have approval on everything you do to your home,” she said.
Wagoner’s husband’s grandparents bought the home in 1938, she said, and he lived in it for part of his childhood. She said they intended to maintain the home as close as possible to its original construction, but don’t like a government entity having control over what they do.
“What it comes down to is when you want to paint your house, you don’t want to have to ask somebody else,” she said.
Bedeau, in arguing for proposed changes regarding Silver Street, said it would be historically inaccurate to include the south-side houses since they have been altered.
“It is important from a purely historical point of view that the historical integrity of buildings not be compromised,” he said.
Bedeau said he believes the intent of the Comstock Historic Commission District at the time the decision on the Silver Street boundary was made was to leave the six homes out of the district.
But the homes are obviously old and represent the lifestyle of past residents, according to McFarland.
“If we start nibbling away at the historic district, we may as well not have a historic district,” she said. “You may as well forget Silver City, Gold Hill and Virginia City, too, because Dayton was the meeting place for the whole area.”
The Dayton section of the Comstock Historic District stretches from Fourth Street to Pike Street and loops north to Walmsley Estates, a low-income development that, save for one old Queen Anne-style property in Pike Street, has been left out of the district administratively and is also in line for permanent removal.
Bedeau said that since the street has not been administered as a historic district, it would not be appropriate to keep it in the district.
“If it came down to it, if we go back and re-impose on this issue, we have a whole new kettle of fish,” he said. “There’s no real reason for us to have those houses in the historic district.”
The Comstock Historic District will make a decision on the final boundaries on Oct. 10 in Virginia City.
The Dayton Historical Society members are not convinced, and voted to continue to oppose any reduction of the district.
– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.