The first ever courthouse built in Nevada is loud and proud in Genoa.

(elev. 4,951)

N39° 40′ 963"    W119° 51′ 779"

An unincorporated town in central Douglas County, 10 miles south of Carson City.

Genoa needs no introduction. It only needs a title and so it's been given, time and time again! Of course, typical in the ways of Nevada, nothing is set in stone. "Nevada's oldest settlement," ideally located fifteen minutes from the state capitol and thirty minutes from Lake Tahoe, is something of a republic here in Nevada. Genoa is just Genoa; it's only fair; Genoa has earned this.

The Sierra Nevada was a fearful barrier for travelers between Placerville, California on the west side and a small settlement on the east side. Before there was "Nevada" there was the Utah Territory, a sparsely populated and largely unexplored portion of the newly-acquired American West. During 1850, Mormon followers, once seeking the guidance of a determined Brigham Young, sought refuge away from the Mormon Temple -- a new beginning in an undiscovered region of extreme western Utah. In 1851, they founded “Mormon’s Station,” a true haven nestled at the foot of the Carson Range and seemingly worlds away from Mormon doctrine. The settlement originated as a trading post which having also served as a respite for travelers on the California Trail, became a safe haven from the Mormon Temple. One of these newcomers was a man named Orson Hyde, who changed the name of the community to "Genoa," after the Italian city of Genoa. It is here at the edge of the Great Basin in this small "haven" where Nevada began its great heritage. As expected, Genoa quickly became a trading post for passers-by traveling through this greatly (at the time) remote area. Travelers stayed at a hotel, built just south of town. Genoa's fine location was likely the envy of Utah; the town was perfectly positioned for farming and raising livestock thanks to rigorous runoff from the well-watered Carson Range. And people took advantage! The lively community was the home to Nevada's first hotel, newspaper and courthouse. Nevada's first newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, was founded in Genoa in 1858, but moved to Virginia City in 1860. Another first for the state, the Genoa Bar, billed "Nevada's oldest thirst parlor", was patronized by Mark Twain. Genoa was so successful that later the town even briefly served as a re-staging point along the Pony Express Trail in 1860. Much of Genoa, including the original fort, actual station, and hotel, was destroyed in a fire in 1910, but a replica of the fort was built in 1947.

Will the Oldest Community Please Stand Up?
Genoa has refused to change much in the past 160 years. Although the town claims to be “Nevada’s Oldest Settlement,” the debate for the “oldest community” sparks some notoriety with nearby Dayton, some thirty miles to the east. See, many historians believe that Dayton is Nevada’s earliest settlement. The earliest permanent residents settled at the mouth of Gold Canyon from the spring of 1851 at least two weeks earlier than the first person who arrived at Mormon Station. Granted, “Day-Town” at the time, was more or less a conglomeration of tents and makeshift shelters. Hence, this notion competes with Genoa's clearly constructed brick and wooden structures along its well-defined main street. The debate is so touch-and-go that even life-long Nevadans cannot quite settle on an answer! Of course, each town has its own opinion, and rest be assured ... the debate will likely carry on for decades more! Even so, the question shouldn't lie in which town is older, but rather, “what should define a true community?” Should a community be solely based as structures built from wood or stone, or can the definition be loosened by adding in a town comprised of pitched canvas tents? Were both communities were active commercially? Yes. Was each community living out opposite trades? Yes. Do we go with a bucolic farming community nestled at the mountain’s base, or a dusty desert gold mining outpost along the Carson River? Whatever the case, why not battle out the debate with a Dayton fellow inside Nevada’s oldest saloon. Yes. Genoa does have one staked victory -- the Genoa Bar, officially confirmed to be Nevada's oldest watering hole. Established in 1851, the Genoa Bar has been serving drinks for over a century and a half ... so why waste any more time here? Bottoms up.

Main Street America in Genoa, Nevada!

Fun Facts:

  • The Genoa Bar & Saloon has hosted a great number of Hollywood celebrities and western faces throughout its lifetime. Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Johnny Cash are among three of these people. The bar was also used in several John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films.
  • In 1983, Coors Beer wanted to film a commercial inside the Genoa Bar. The problem was, none of the patrons were fond of Coors Beer, so to keep the show going, Coors allowed everybody to drink whatever beverage they wanted in exchange for the filming.
  • Scenes from the 1973 movie Charley Varrick were filmed in Genoa.
  • The main street scene of Genoa was the set for the 1990 movie Misery, starring Kathy Bates. The town doubled in size when producers added buildings and then removed them after filming.
  • Unlike the city of Genoa in Italy (pronounced GEN-owa), the Nevada community's name is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, juh-NO-uh. This pronunciation mistake first occurred in the 1930s and has stuck ever since.
  • Every year since 1919, Genoa has held a festival called the Candy Dance, where candy, food and crafts are sold to support its town government. The Candy Dance is usually held during the final weekend of September and hosts over 50,000 visitors every year.
  • The first ever trans-Sierra mail route occurred here in Genoa thanks to John "Snowshoe Thompson" Tomleui in late 1862. Snowshoe Thompson ripped over the treacherous Sierra Nevada in the dead of winter beginning in Placerville, California and ending his route here in Genoa. He, his wife, and son, along with many pioneers of the 1850s rest in the Genoa cemetery.

Photos of Great Basin Nat'l Park

Genoa, NV. Founded: November 14, 1851
Zip Code: 89411
Population: 939 (2010)
Services: Sparse (no gas). Nearest MAJOR services are in Gardnerville (8 miles).

Notable Nooks (3):
Genoa Bar, Genoa Candy Shop, Genoa Courthouse Square

Visit Genoa Nevada
Genoa Bar & Saloon
Mormon Station State Historic Park


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Great Basin Wilds Photography
Copyright © Paul Sebesta