It's safe to assume that Nevada's greatest debate, and greatest superlative, lies with the sacred title of Oldest Community in Nevada. As you approach the town of Genoa, road signs line the highway with that oh-so famous branding of "Nevada's Oldest Settlement." Take a look. With its ornate brick courthouse and still-standing brick and wooden structures, Genoa would seem worthy of its proper title. Not all is fair in love and age, at least in Nevada.
Dayton bites back with signs of its own, solidly fastened to its main street, "Nevada's First Gold Discovery, 1849." It seems the debate is so touch-and-go that even life-long Nevadans cannot quite settle on an answer! Even though both communities were commercially active, each one living out opposite trades at the time in question ... 1849-1851 ... the issue now seems to be based completely on hometown pride and some very questionable facts.
This fashionable debate has rattled state residents for over seventy years.
In recent years, many historians have religiously concluded that Dayton wins this pride of prides as Nevada's earliest settlement. And, the records don't lie. Early state documents show that the earliest "permanent" residents of Dayton were gold-seekers who settled at the mouth of Gold Canyon from the spring of 1851, at least two weeks before settlers who set up shop at Mormon Station. Old "Day-Town" barely took up any room along the river and consisted of a mere conglomeration of tents, shacks, and makeshift shelters. Meanwhile, thirty three miles away (and two weeks later), residents of then "Mormon's Station" had already plotted land allotments and even renamed itself "Genoa" that same year. The town sported a well-defined main street and began construction of a courthouse, a post office, a general store, and several permanent ranches. This permanence could very well be the one-two punch that downs this fifty-year long debate for good.
Let's line up what's due. The friendly battle for "Oldest Community" shouldn't lie between which town is older, but rather based on the question: what should define a true community? Should a community be solely based on the presence of fully-built structures, or can the definition be loosened by adding in a town comprised of mostly pitched canvas tents? Can the definition be stretched even further by simply recognizing a collection of independent squatters, or does a community need to be defined as an interactive working social network? Do Nevadans crown its most honorable title to a bucolic farming community nestled at the mountain's base, or a dusty, gold mining outpost along the Carson River? Sound trivial? Perhaps not. Whatever the case, why not battle out the debate with a Dayton fellow inside Nevada's oldest saloon: which brings us to our next superlative!
While debates continue over the state's oldest community, the home of Nevada's oldest thirst parlor goes solidly to the Genoa Bar, built in the spring of 1853. The Genoa Bar was first open for business as "Livingston's Exchange," then renamed "Fettic's Exchange" in 1884. The bar was operated by Frank Fettic as a "gentleman's saloon" and "kept in first-class style in every particular way, serving fine wines, liquors, and cigars. According to one of Fettic's advertisements, a guest "would be pleased to have all my old friends call, and they would be treated in the most cordial manner."
The Genoa Bar has changed hands many times since 1963. Today, the bar is owned and operated by Willy and Cindy Webb. Given its long life, the Genoa Bar caters to a host of interesting facts and historical figures!
Ins and Outs at the Genoa Bar
- Clark Gable and Carole Lombard visited here to play high stakes poker with local cattle barons in the 1930s.
- Mark Twain made regular visits during his reporting for the Terretorial Enterprise.
- Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt came through Genoa specifically for the purpose of having a few cold-ones at the bar.
- A list of famous musicians purposefully visited the Genoa Bar for a bit of inspiration: Merle Haggard, John Denver, Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash.
- When Raquel Welch visited the Genoa Bar in the 1970s she was asked to leave her bra. She agreed but insisted that all the other bras be taken down! Today, Welsh's black leopard print bra is still hanging on a pair of antlers over the bar.
- Hollywood films filmed at the Genoa Bar include: "The Shootist," "Misery," "Til' the River Runs Dry," and "Honky Tonk Man."
- In the mid-1980s, the Coors Beer Company came here to film a commercial. Unfortunately, the local gentlemen hired to be extras didn't like Coors beer. To proceed with filming, Coors allowed them to empty their cans and fill them with their favorite suds.
The rough-hewn, stone-and-brick Gold Hill Hotel is situated on SR 342 between Virginia City and Silver City on a steep grade just below Greiner's Bend. This old building is crowned as the oldest extant hotel (and still-operating!) building in Nevada. The Gold Hill began its life as "The Riesen House" and constructed sometime before January 1862. The only uncertainty lies in the exact date to which it was built. See, despite popular concensus, the Gold Hill Hotel was in fact not built in 1859 -- an historical inaccuracy depicted by the hotel's letterhead and signage throughout the years. So what's the deal here?
It may be old, but not 1859 old! Nevada's oldest hotel still brims with many stories to tell.
(c) Fine Art America
A Few Years Never Hurt Anyone
The logic behind this particular year falls apart. It stands to reason that 1859 was too early for a substantial building of this sort. Records show that the first recorded Comstock Lode discovery took place in the early spring of that very year and in a frenzy to dig out as much gold as possible before the year's-end freezing temperatures and regular freezing of the ground, miners erected only tents, dugouts, shacks, and shanties for shelter. Very simply, the time, cost, and dedication of constructing such a substantial hotel seems very unlikely in the haste of things.
Whatever the case, the Gold Hill still holds the crown as the state's oldest hotel. Though it may seem just as old, the Crown Point Restaurant is actually a recent addition to the building, one that serves lunch and dinner every day of the year. For overnighters, the hotel offers guests a quiet stay in one of its immaculate, 19th-century rooms. Don't be surprised if the ghost of "Rose" decides to pay a visit. Her friendly presence is often accompanied by the scent of floral perfume and tends to be the most active in the spring!
(c) Christopher DeVargas
With over 80 years in operation, Henderson's Railroad Pass Casino takes the crown for Nevada's oldest casino and gaming establishment. This one began as a roadside bar & saloon during the construction of the Hoover (Boulder) Dam in 1931, ironically, right at the height of Prohibition. The town of Boulder City permanently outlawed gaming and alcohol and the Railroad Pass provided that bit of fix and nightlife for those lonely dam workers. We toast you to another great 80 years!
It's a Nevada Thing!
Wait! But what about the Gold Hill Hotel? What exactly separates a casino, a hotel, and a bar? Wouldn't the Gold Hill be the state's oldest casino? In this particular term, "casino" refers to an establishment built specifically for gaming in which a gaming license is required. Drinks are offered at casinos as an incentive for longer play and as a convenience for players. A bar is just that, a place built solely for the consumption of alcohol. And places like the Gold Hill Hotel, even though it has added all three, was primarily constructed for just that ... a hotel, or place of rest. In Nevada, the three are used almost synonymously statewide and telling them apart can be a little confusing! In this case, the Railroad Pass holds the state's longest active gaming license and yes ... was built solely for the purpose of gaming. *Whew*
The ornate Storey County Courthouse in Virginia City has served as a courthouse longer than any other building in Nevada ... for 135 years and going strong. Justice is not blind here in Storey County as the judicial statue shows on the front gables of the building.
This courthouse serves a small population centered in only two areas of the county -- the communities of Virginia City and Gold Hill and the town of Lockwood on the north bank of the Truckee River. The problem is, Lockwood and Virginia City are separated from each other by over thirty miles of uninhabited mountains making the daily travel for Storey sheriffs quite a feat!
Although it has acted courthouse longer any other in Nevada, this one isn't the oldest (aged) courthouse in the state. That title belongs to the Douglas County Courthouse in Genoa, built in 1865. Genoa lost its status as "longest running" when the seat of government was moved to Minden in 1916.
The Storey Courthouse is located on B Street directly above the Old Washoe Club. The building is open to visitors during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 8-5pm. The parking lot for the courthouse is strictly reserved for court purposes only (no tourist parking), except for a small window during the weekends. Sheriffs do watch this so don't tempt it. If C Street is full, use D or E Streets for tourist parking.
Despite its status as the driest state in the nation, Nevada has over 1,100 cattle ranches statewide, surprisingly, the most of any state in America. While this is impressive enough, only one wins the distinction of being the longest continually running cattle ranch in the state. The Cushman-Corkill Ranch just outside of Fallon was made when Josiah Cushman purchased the 1,700 acre ranch on the Carson Sink in 1861. According to a 2004 award narrative, Cushman was known for his "high-quality cattle and a fine-bearing orchard,' and eventually served as County Clerk, 1872-1874." Following the completion of the Newlands Reclamation Project, the Cushman family began raising alfalfa, corn, potatoes, Sudan grass, and small grains, leading the movement in bringing green to the desert.
Lewes R. Bradley, born in Orange County, Virginia and the second governor of Nevada, was the oldest person ever to be elected Nevada's governor. Bradley moved to Nevada in 1862 where he worked in the cattle business before entering politics. His background in rural life helped win the support of the state's majority, when at the time Nevada was still primarily a rural state.
Governor Bradley served two terms and moved to Elko shortly after his last term at the age of 70. He died in Elko on March 21, 1879 at the age of 74.
This coveted title belongs to the one and only Bristlecone Pine, a species native to the Great Basin and the world's oldest living thing. This hardy tree can be found at the top of a good number of mountain ranges in the Great Basin, usually in scattered groves. The White and Snake Ranges hold the best-known and greatest concentration of bristlecone pine, and the oldest trees at ages of more than 3,000 years.
The oldest bristlecone ever recorded was mistakingly cut down in Great Basin National Park -- a tree nicknamed "Prometheus" aged at 5,700 years. (Read below) Bristlecones live in scattered groves of the cold-arctic tundra above 11,000 feet in certain Great Basin ranges. These remarkable trees actually grow best when conditions are the most extreme - often among rocky, wind-facing slopes and snow-battered basins! Bristlecones simply don't die easy. Many have been found barely clinging to life via a single strand of bark, or a string of residual resin while others take on a more grotesquely picturesque display of gnarled trucks and naked limbs. Is it surprising then that this amazing, "never-say-die" form of life was designated as our state tree?
In 1964, researchers were given permission by the U.S. Forest Service to study bristlecone pines growing in a grove at the base of Wheeler Peak. The team began studying tree rings to determine the exact age of the trees led by a young geology doctoral student named Donald R. Currey from the University of North Carolina.
Currey's job was to pick out a specific tree that piqued his interest. The Forest Service not only permitted Currey to take core samples from several of the oldest-looking bristlecones, but allowed him to cut down one tree of his choosing. Due to the trees' extreme gnarling, locating a specific core sample to mark dating proved to be difficult. Instrad, he chose to remove one specific tree -- a tree that later became known as "Prometheus."
This particular tree was one of the largest and oldest-looking trees in the grove and would be a sure candidate of study with a potentially high number of growth rings. Upon locating the tree, the Forest Service immediately expressed concern, but eventually gave Currey the "go ahead" to chop it down. Within a minute, the world's oldest living thing was felled by a chainsaw. The total number of growth rings numbered about 4,900 with one ring representing a single year. This means that Prometheus was nearly 5,000 years old. Before having been cut down, this outstanding number made Prometheus the oldest living tree in the world.
Think about this:
- 5,600 BC: Prometheus was a young adolescent during the conquering of Babylon and Mesopotamia ...
- 2,000 BC: Prometheus was alive and well to hear news of the birth of Christ ...
- 1100 AD: Prometheus was barely in its "thirties" when Europe sailed west to explore the New World ...
- 1620 AD: Prometheus was in its mid-life when Colonists settled Jamestown
- 1870 AD: Prometheus witnessed the Old West from atop its 11,000 foot perch!
What did you think of these superlatives?