2006 – 2007 Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places

Sprawl-Free Landscape – Gilcrease Family Properties, Las Vegas
In North Las Vegas, rapid development is engulfing the once-rural landscape, most notably the Gilcrease family complex of properties. The historic orchard has been a northwest part of the valley for more than 80 years, but it could be turned over to housing developments. The National Trust for Historic Preservation identified urban sprawl as one of the most pressing threats to America’s historic communities and their built environment. Preserve Nevada is not opposed to development that meets market-driven housing demands. Like the National Trust, the organization advocates smart growth taking the historic fabric of a community into account.

Update: Urban Sprawl continues to be a constant threat in the Las Vegas valley.

 

Historic Austin
Austin, located on U.S. 50-the Loneliest Road in America-retains a number of historic structures from its 19th century mining boom. Neglect, “bottle diggers,” and vandalism, as well as a lack of economic support, threaten the character of this remnant of Nevada’s silver mining past. Several buildings in the commercial district were improved at the expense of their historical integrity. A proposal to improve the commercial core with inappropriate awnings, street trees and “period” fixtures is now threatening to commercialize one of our most distinctive historic communities.

Update: Despite these difficulties, there is a core of hearty preservationists are working to save this remarkably authentic historic mining town.

 

Historic Goldfield
Gold brought people to Goldfield in 1902, and by 1907, it was Nevada’s largest city, with three first-class railroads. Today the mines are played out and the railroads are gone, but the historic Goldfield Hotel, the Esmeralda Courthouse, the Goldfield School, and other historic buildings still exist. Of the old historic buildings remaining in Goldfield, the Goldfield School needs the most immediate assistance. This large two-story structure is an excellent example of school buildings from the period and could serve as a museum highlighting Goldfield’s early mining history.

Update: The town of Goldfield continues to be endangered because the majority of its buildings are privately owned. Private ownership has presented a number of obstacles to the owners because they are not eligible for grant funding and/or the owners have little knowledge about where to look for funding and need assistance.

Commercial Row, Wells
Once a vibrant cow town and railhead, Wells, Nevada is in need of immediate investment in order to preserve its historic main street. Founded on Christmas Day in 1869 by the Central Pacific Railroad, the town flourished for over a century. Currently, Wells retains an enthusiastic grassroots preservation community, including a nonprofit preservation corporation which manages the new California Trail Interpretive Center However, the storefront buildings that make up the town’s main street require immediate investment if this unique picture of the American West is to be saved.

Update: Since being listed on the “Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places” in Nevada for 2006, Wells retains an enthusiastic grassroots preservation community, including a nonprofit preservation corporation which manages the new California Trail Interpretive Center However, the storefront buildings that make up the town’s main street require immediate investment if this unique picture of the American West is to be saved.

First Presbyterian Church, Carson City
Built in the early 1860s, the First Presbyterian Church is located in Carson City’s historic west side and is an integral part of the local historic district. Faced with a building in need of significant rehabilitation, the congregation initially wished to demolish the historic portions of the building and build a new sanctuary. Subsequent discussions with the city and other interested parties have generated a plan to rehabilitate the historic portion of the church. The congregation, the city and the greater preservation community need to come together and secure funding for the new rehabilitation proposal.

Update: The congregation, working with the City of Carson City, has agreed not to demolish the historic portion of their building. Following extensive consultation it was agreed that a non-historic addition to the building would be demolished instead and that the new sanctuary be built on that location, leaving the historic building intact. As of May 2007, the non-historic addition has been demolished and the plans for the new construction are undergoing plan review. A nonprofit foundation has been formed to seek funding for the rehabilitation and reuse of the historic church building.

Hillside Cemetery, Reno
The Hillside Cemetery is Reno’s oldest cemetery. Among the 1,500 buried there are Frank Orr, George Peckham, and Edmund Plumb, men responsible for the development and shaping of Reno, and Johnson Sides, a Native American known nationally as “The Peacemaker.” Over the past forty years, the cemetery has been desecrated, damaged, and vandalized. A private party owns the “common space” between the graves and there has been no endowment established for maintenance. The owner has recently expressed intent to have those who are interred moved in order to develop the property as student housing for the University of Nevada, Reno.

Update: Following a neighborhood meeting, a nonprofit group was formed to support the protection of the Hillside Cemetery. This has effectively held the property owner at bay and he has not expressed any intentions for further developing the cemetery. The nonprofit is working on short-term needs such as documentation, cleanup, and safety. Progress is slow, but moving. The Comstock Cemetery Foundation has a standing offer for giving assistance.

The Huntridge Theatre, Las Vegas
Designed by renowned architect S. Charles Lee, the Huntridge Theatre was built during the early 1940s. For almost five decades, it provided the Las Vegas community with entertainment both “live” and on the silver screen. As one of few surviving examples of Art Moderne theater architecture in the United States, the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. While initially run by a private nonprofit organization, the Huntridge was maintained and open to the public. From the early 1990s to 2001, the Nevada Cultural Affairs Department awarded eight historic restoration grants ranging from $56,000 to $420,000. But when the theatre sold to a private party in 2002, its doors were closed. The future of the Huntridge Theatre remains unclear.

Update: The Huntridge Theatre continues to experience benign neglect. While informal conversations with the owner have been conducted, the future of the theatre is unclear.

Nevada Northern Railway East Ely Shops and Yard, Ely
The Nevada Northern Railway East Ely Shops and Yard is a 56-acre complex completed at the turn of the twentieth century located in the high desert town of Ely. A century’s worth of oil-based paint covers the dried wooden structures and the water system is failing. The major threat facing the complex is fire; the combination of spark-emitting steam locomotives, used in museum excursion trips, and the oil-based paint covering the old wooden structures could cause a catastrophic event. Due to current fire codes, the City of Ely will need to spend $1,000,000 to upgrade the water system.

Update: Even though the NNRY was listed a National Historic Landmark in 2006, it continues to experience the treat of fire as well as employing skilled individuals. Even so, the NNRY has worked to teach the next generation the skills to continue to run this national treasure. To date, the biggest challenge is upgrading the water system to ensure fire safety. Due to current fire codes, the City of Ely will need to spend $1,000,000 to upgrade the water system. Even though the NNRY approached the state legislature for assistance, the initiative failed.

Round Hill Pines Resort, Tahoe
The Round Hill Pines Resort overlooking the east shore of Lake Tahoe was built as a private summer retreat in the late 1920s. Acquired by the U. S. Forest Service approximately 30 years ago, the resort has deteriorated substantially due to a combination of minimal maintenance, vandalism, and lack of use. The complex is in need of immediate stabilization, increased security, and a comprehensive rehabilitation and development plan. It has a prime location just off Highway 50, and could be easily and profitably adapted for any number of public or private uses.

Update: Unfortunately, efforts to secure funding for maintenance and rehabilitation of the remaining buildings have been unsuccessful. The issues facing this site were discussed with some members of the Nevada congressional delegation during a recent visit to Washington DC.

 

Southern Nevada Adobe Structures – Kiel Ranch, Las Vegas
The Kiel Ranch, located in North Las Vegas, contains one of the oldest historic adobe buildings remaining in southern Nevada. One of two buildings still standing on the former divorce ranch, the adobe structure was purportedly built by the Kiel brothers around 1880. The property surrounding the ranch has been sold off, piece by piece, to development, and this long-neglected building is still under major threat. Along with other historic adobe buildings such as the El Sombrero Restaurant in Las Vegas, this structure is among the few examples that remain of adobe in Southern Nevada.

Update: Since receiving funds from the state, efforts have been made to restore the adobe of the structure and planning has begun as to what to do with the property. While the City of North Las Vegas has been working on preserving the structure, the site is still in danger.

Virginia Street Bridge, Reno
The Virginia Street Bridge, opened to traffic in 1905, spans the Truckee River in downtown Reno. The bridge combines traditional decorative design and modern electric light fixtures. According to local lore, divorcées, upon receiving their final decree from the judge at the Washoe County Courthouse proceeded to the Virginia Street Bridge, from which they cast their wedding rings into the Truckee River. Though listed on the National Register in 1980, the bridge is threatened with demolition as a result of the Truckee River Flood Control project. The Army Corps of Engineers plans to replace it and two other historic bridges in downtown Reno.

Update: Currently, the Virginia Street Bridge has been recommended for demolition. While some organizations have deemed the bridge not feasible for restoration, other proposals for removal also seem problematic. Nevertheless, Preserve Nevada believes demolition is not a forgone conclusion at this point.