Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I posted a bunch of old photos of Carson City last night to the Western Nevada Historic Photo Collection. The pictures came from the You are probably from Carson city if…. group on Facebook. There’s a very active discussion going on there about Carson City’s history and people’s remembrances. You should definitely go check it out.
Here are some of the pictures. Most of these were posted by Michael Rabe.
Carson City from the air. Look at how small the town is in these photos. Only about ten blocks wide; the rest of the valley is sagebrush and ranch land.
King Street, looking at the Capitol. Carson Middle School would be on the left.
Winnie Lane, looking west from Carson Street.
Approaching Carson City from the south. The Railroad Museum would be on the left here; the trees on the right mark where Office Depot is today.
Downtown Carson. Look at how tall the curbs are!
Carson City has changed greatly, yet there are still a few recognizable landmarks in these photos.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
This very sleepy view of Carson City in the 1940s or 50s looks north along Carson Street, at the Frontier Motel. The cross street in the foreground is Adaline. North Carson during this time was made up mostly of houses and motels, and you can see the Frontier Motel on the left. Across the street are a couple of outbuildings, and beyond that are empty fields. Large trees line the front of the Frontier Motel, giving it a peaceful, shady look.
The Frontier Motel was one of the earliest motels in Carson City. I don’t have a date that it was built, but it has sat at 1718 North Carson Street for decades. Early postcards advertised the motel as being “on the edge of town”, and as you can see from the first picture, it really was true. There were other motels along this stretch of road, like Dorothy’s Auto Court, the El Ranch-Otel, Carson Motor Lodge, and the DeLuxe Motel. All of them catered to travellers who were on their way to or from Reno, or just passing through Nevada on the Three Flags Highway.
The Frontier was a very distinctive motel because of its sign. The lighted neon sign not only the has the name of the motel, it also has a buckaroo swinging a lasso. At night the animated neon flickers to show the lasso actually spinning.
The motel has survived and thrived over the years. A two-story section was added, with an indoor pool. The trees were removed, the parking lot paved over, stone walls upgraded to brick. But through it all, the Frontier has endured.
Today this part of Carson City has changed entirely. Gone is the bucolic countryside. Now Carson and Adaline is firmly in the urban core of the city. A Safeway was built across the street from the Frontier Motel in the 1960s. Now it has been turned into an auto parts store. Restaurants and gas stations and shopping centers have sprung up. Carson Street went from a two-lane road to a four-lane highway.
The Frontier has changed too. The indoor pool was filled in and turned into a liquor store. The clientele stopped being middle class folks on a drive through the American West and started being low-income people who needed a room. The Frontier now prominently advertises their weekly rentals. One thing has remained unchanged, though. The buckaroo still swings his lasso, the neon lighting up Carson Street every night. The Frontier Motel sign has become one of Carson City’s enduring landmarks, even if the motel it advertises has largely been forgotten.
Tags: carsoncity frontiermotel thenandnow
Saturday, June 15, 2013
There’s no shortage of sandwich shops in Carson City. And there’s no particular evidence that we need more of them. In fact one of them, Steamer’s Subs, just closed down after only being open for a month or two.
Steamers Subs is now closed
But franchises always do better than locally owned places, right? That’s why a franchisee is opening not one, but two Jimmy John’s locations in Carson City. If they do good business, that’s good for Carson. If they don’t, then it’s just another in the line of dead businesses. My wife is really excited about this, I’m kind of underwhelmed. I don’t mean to sound down, it’s just another example of the chains winning over the local guys. New business in Carson is always good, and at least it’s a franchise so there’s a local business owner who will be winning here.
There are two Jimmy John’s locations that are going to open in Carson City. Both of them are under construction now, at different stages. The first one is in the old Local’s BBQ location, in the Eagle Valley shopping center.
I’ve been watching this construction for a few weeks now. They have the whole building under scaffolding, and I first I thought it was the start of a major remodel of the building, or even the whole shopping center. They started tearing out the roof, and I thought they were going for a brand new look: out wite the red tile, in with the 21st century. But they stopped tearing out the roof; they only removed it in the one corner, over Local’s. The scaffolding on the rest of the building looks like it’s nothing more than a minor touchup to the roof line. Only the Jimmy John’s storefront is getting the whole deal.
Local’s BBQ was always good food. But it closed soon after the shooting at the IHOP across the parking lot. I never found out if the closing was related to the shooting, but for the past year and a half the storefront has sat empty. It’ll be good to get another business in here.
The other location is described in this article as being “near the Denny’s at North Carson Street and Hot Springs Road.” Coincidientally, this week a chain link fence has gone up around the old Godfather’s Pizza right next to the Denny’s. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the two are related.
The article also calls this a “build to suit”, as opposed to the Local’s location which is a remodel. Does that mean that the old Godfather’s building isn’t right for what Jimmy John’s needs, and will be torn down? That’s very possible. Ever since Godfather’s closed years ago, there have been a couple of Indian food restaurants in this space, but they didn’t make much of a splash. The building has been abandoned for a couple of years at least. Something new will revitalize this space, and if they feel that new construction is the way to go, it just might be the best idea.
Tags: carsoncity construction jimmyjohns
Friday, June 7, 2013
There’s a rumor going around on Facebook that this house, at 808 N. Curry St, is in danger of being demolished. It’s not a surprise. Every other house on the block has already been torn down, leaving nothing but a sea of parking lots. And the last tenant of the house, Capitol Jewelers, left a couple of years ago. The house has sat seemingly empty ever since.
The owners apparently have plans for the lot, and those plans don’t involve keeping the house around. I don’t know much more about it, and plans like these have a way of falling through. So it may be that this house will stay around. But it could be that time is running short for this house, and another piece of history will be lost.
I don’t know much about the history of this house. It’s outside of the historic district, and it’s not notable enough to be on any of the lists of historic buildings. Loopnet says it was built in 1918. One guy on Facebook says it’s older than that, and it has a connection to Abraham Curry. I kind of doubt that; Abe had a thing for stone buildings, not wood. And if the house really was that old (1870s) we’d certainly know more about it. I’m inclined to think it’s closer to the 1918 date.
There are a couple of pictures floating around of the house back in the day. This one shows the house back when it was on a nice residential street. It is positively dwarfed by the houses on each side. The darker house on the left belonged to the Supera family.
This one shows that Virginia and Truckee Railroad steaming down Washington Street, just one block away from its destination at the Carson Depot. The house is in the background on the right.
Later, the house housed a photo studio where the high schoolers had their senior portraits done.
Over the last decades, all of its neighbors have been destroyed. This house is now literally the only thing left on its block. The rest is overflow parking for the City Center Motel across the street. If it’s all wiped out for something new, it will be a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, it would be good for the parking lot to give way to some kind of useful development. On the other hand, it will be sad to see this house go. The best option would be for the house to be included in whatever redevelopment plans lie in store for this block, but sometimes adaptive reuse proves to be too much trouble. So we might be about to lose another old house. Just in case we are, here’s one last look around the property.
Tags: carsoncity currystreet
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Once upon a time, Carson City was a sleepy town with little traffic. For most of the 20th century, the population hovered under 10,000. As we saw in our big post about the state of downtown parking in Carson City, it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that traffic started to pick up. The road went from two lanes to four lanes, and from diagonal parking to parallel parking to no on-street parking at all. Carson Street was changing from a street to a thoroughfare. And it didn’t help that Carson Street was also Highway 395, so all traffic between Reno and points south was travelling through downtown.
Carson Street increasingly became a dangerous place, especially with the rise of huge semi trucks. For this reason, sometime in the early 1990s, the city decided that pedestrians downtown were no longer safe. The decision was made to fence off the sidewalks downtown, creating a physical barrier between pedestrians and traffic. A black iron fence was built, meant to ape the appearance of the historic fence around the Capitol. The point of the fence was very clear: to keep cars off the sidewalk and pedestrians out of the street. This picture from around 1993 shows downtown just before the fence went in.
The fence went in, and it did its job well. People stumbling out of the casinos downtown after having a few were now crashing into the fence instead of stumbling into the street. I don’t have any stats about traffic deaths downtown before and after the fence, but I bet you would see a sharp decline. For 20 years the fence did its job well. But it also hurt the attractiveness of downtown. Carson has never had the most walkable downtown. The narrow sidewalks, the heavy traffic, and the fence combine to give a sense of claustrophobia downtown. You get the sense when you are walking in downtown Carson City that you don’t belong. Downtown is made for cars, and if you’re walking it’s only because you’re hurrying between your car and your destination. The fence kept people safe, but it also kept them squeezed in close to the buildings, mechanically flowing in artificial channels. Downtown Carson City has been without a soul for a long time, and the fence, although not the only reason, was definitely a part of that.
The reason I’m writing about the fence now is that it’s recently been removed. A crew from the city moved in, cut it into bits, and sent it off to the scrap heap. I’ll talk about the reasons why in the next post, but first I wanted to put up this photo gallery memorializing the fence. I took these pictures just before city crews came in to chop it up and haul it away. This marks the last days of the Carson City fence.
The fence was pretty weather-worn, and falling apart in some spots. If it wasn’t torn down it would have needed some TLC soon.
The fence was a visual barrier as well, blocking a view of the sidewalk from the street.
Especially here at Musser it was a problem. It blocked the view of oncoming traffic to people who were trying to turn.
Various layers of rust and paint.
The fence stretched for a total of three blocks on each side of the street, just in the downtown core between Musser and Robinson.
There was even a stretch of fence down in front of Comma Coffee at Fourth Street. This fence looked different than the rest; it must have been added later.
Next time we’ll take a look at what downtown looks like now that the fence is down and all this space has been opened up.
Tags: carsoncity downtowncc downtownfence