Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Construction has been going on at the Carson Mall all fall and winter. The old Gottschalks space is finally getting some new permanent tenants. Sportsman’s Warehouse is moving in here (after pulling out of Southgate a few years ago). Also, since the space is way too big just for that, we are getting a Bealls, a store from back east that doesn’t have much of a presence out west.
It’s a big push for a mall that’s kind of been a ghost town lately. It should be popular, being right at the heart of town, but every time I go in it’s so empty. Maybe being downtown is what’s hurting it, since there’s been a definite shift south in the center of gravity in the past couple of decades. Nearly every big store in town is south of Koontz, and the ones north of that line always seem to struggle. The Carson Mall keeps holding on and keeps trying new things, it just seems like they can never win. Maybe this will be the comeback for them.
It’s also funny that they keep adding new signs for the mall.
Last fall a new sign went up. That makes four signs along Carson Street now, each one architecturally different, and each one advertising different stores.
The new sign no doubt will advertise Bealls and Sportsman’s Warehouse, but there’s plenty of space beyond that. I wonder if they’ll ever take down any of the signs, or just keep adding more?
A new restaurant is coming to the mall too. Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant, which already has a location in downtown Minden, is opening up in the old Paradise Cove space. This Carson Cove area, with the restaurants and fast food, was an exciting addition a couple of years ago, but it’s struggled to keep tenants as well. Hopefully this place will succeed here and provide a solid anchor for the mall.
There’s also some construction going on out in front of the mall in the parking lot. A foundation is going in place. It looks like it’s for a little kiosk, maybe a drive-up coffee stand like Dutch Bros. at the other end of the mall. Dutch Bros. always seems busy, so perhaps a little competition will be good. Or maybe they’ll serve something else, though I can’t imagine what else you’d serve out of a little kiosk like this.
Update: Commenters on Facebook say that Dutch Bros is moving here and tearing down their old location. Then Carl’s Jr. will also be moving, to the parking lot area at the south end of the mall. Sounds like there are even more big changes coming!
And speaking of Southgate, the construction on the new Ross store has wrapped up, and it looks like it’s just about ready to open. The old Ross next to Target has closed and been emptied out, and this new location is getting all set for customers. It’s a rare case of a business moving from Douglas County to Carson City, the reverse of the trend for the last 10 years.
Tags: bealls carsonctiy carsonmall construction ross southgate sportsmanswarehouse
Friday, January 31, 2014
For the election of 1896, it was William McKinley versus William Jennings Bryan. Mostly forgotten now, it was a hot contest in its day, and the supporters of one side or another resorted to all kinds of advertising techniques to get the word out about their candidate.
Carson City shop owner Fred Willis Day didn’t want to alienate any of his clientele, though. In that day, businessmen had plenty of advertising techniques of their own to use, and rock ads were one popular one. Find a rock outcropping somewhere, preferably close to a well-traveled road, and paint an advertisement for your business on it. No wood or nails required. So when F.W. Day set out to make a sign, he found this rock outcropping in Clear Creek Canyon, along one of the popular wagon roads between Carson City and Lake Tahoe. it was a great spot because it was right at a bend in the road, so every traveler that passed by couldn’t help but see it.
But what to put on his sign? With election fever in full swing, he decided to tap into that with a political-themed ad. “Bryan or McKinley for President,” he said. “F.W. Day for Drygoods, Clothing, Carpets.” It don’t matter to me who you vote for, he was telling people, as long as you come into my shop. It’s hard to tell how successful he was. There’s not much mention of F.W. Day in Carson City history, just one in a long line of forgotten shops downtown. Bryan lost the election, but presumably Day won a few extra customers at his dry goods shop.
A forgotten sign for a forgotten shop, it wouldn’t be a very remarkable story if that’s all there was to it. But here’s the shocking twist to the story. F.W. Day’s rock ad in Clear Creek Canyon still survives to this day, 117 years after the election of 1896. It’s hard to tell why. Presumably the ad’s effectiveness waned after the election was over. So the logical thing would have been for Day to go out and paint over it with a more timely reference. Or, if he neglected the sign, for someone else to come along and put up their own sign on this prime piece of real estate. If you’re going to put up a rock ad in Clear Creek Canyon, this really is an ideal spot. But, unaccountably, Day’s sign, with its reference to Bryan and McKinley, is still there.
Also unclear is the date of the historic photo of the sign. The road in front of it is strewn with weeds and rock, and doesn’t look like it has been traveled in a long time. It doesn’t exactly look like one of the main roads to Tahoe. However, when Clear Creek Highway was improved and paved in 1927, they straightened out a few of the more hair-raising turns. The new alignment of the road passed a hundred feet south of here, hugging the other side of the canyon. That left this bend in the road abandoned and forgotten. It seems that the picture was taken sometime after then, at which point the sign would have already been 30 years old.
Once the road was abandoned, there was no reason for the sign to be repainted. Over time it was forgotten, tucked away where it was difficult to see. It made it through the decades and into the present day, although not without feeling the touch of idle vandals and their spray paint. The bottom of the sign is completely obliterated, but the top half, which is hard to reach without a step stool, still remains. And for being over a century old, it still remains very vibrant. Most fading ghost signs like that are worn and hard to read. This looks as crisp as the day it was painted. It makes me wonder if it was touched up and restored at some point. If it was, that brings up a whole host of new questions. When? Why? By whom?
Whatever the reason, though, F.W. Day’s sign remains as a reminder of a bygone type of advertising. And it makes for a nice little treasure hunt. Even though I knew the sign was somewhere in Clear Creek Canyon, it still took me a couple of passes up and down the road before I saw it, tucked away to the side. Clear Creek Canyon itself is mostly forgotten, too. In the 1950s a modern superhighway was built upslope from here, bypassing the old road altogether. Cars now travel Hwy 50 at freeway speeds far above this rock wall. Old Clear Creek Road is a crumbling piece of pavement that serves the residents who live further up the canyon, and in fact near the sign there is a painted warning on the street that says “Private Road.” Not many people come by to disturb F.W. Day’s sign, so there’s a chance that it might survive another 100 years (or 25 presidential elections).
More info on this sign at www.fadingad.com/fadingadblog/?p=14368
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
As the only high school serving the Carson Valley, Douglas High School has constantly been pressed for capacity. This had led them to expand the school several times since it opened in the 1970s. The most recent expansion in the 90s brought new classrooms and a secondary gym, but it still wasn’t enough. For the past decade at least, 9th graders have been attending classes at the local middle schools, while still being considered “high school students” just because there wasn’t enough room. Well, a plan has been in the works to add enough space to the high school to bring 9th graders back, and construction is set to start in just a couple of months.
The blueprints for the renovations can be found here. This plan will add a brand new building in front of the school, completely changing the look of the school from the street. The new building will be two stories tall and contain science and math classrooms. The space between the new building and the old school will be reworked as a paved “Commons Plaza.” This means saying goodbye to the Tombstones, the concrete pillars that have graced DHS’ front yard for decades.
A new commons area is also in the works, remodeling it from an interesting tiered space into what essentially is a prison lunchroom. The commons was always a place that you had to be aware of while you were passing through. You had to step up, you had to step down. Everything was at angles to everything else. It was impossible to walk in a straight line; you had to zig zag through three dimensions to get anywhere. There was one triangle platform that served as a stage, for plays, music, or just somebody messing around trying to get attention at lunch. There was hardly a right angle in the whole room; everything was acute or obtuse. It wasn’t a lunchroom, it was a Commons, a gathering spot, a public square. It was a place you couldn’t just ignore, it grabbed you and made you notice it. And everything unique about it will be going away during this remodel. Some existing walls and offices on the east side will also be knocked out to expand the lunchroom, providing a lot more space for seating. But there will be a lot less character over the old design. Just another rectangular room with straight rows of tables. Sit down, ingest food, get out. And die a little every time.
You want to know what’s wrong with kids today, this picture tells you about 60% of what you need to know.
The new kitchen area looks like ants marching in to carry away their food.
Other changes are in store, including an expansion to the secondary gym and some restructuring of classroom space here and there. The new school I’m sure will be more spacious and able to hold an increased student body, but it will take the school even further away from being the Douglas High School that I attended.
Tags: carsonvalley douglas douglashighschool minden
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Out for a nice Sunday joyride. This photo of a car full of folks comes from 1950, when there was massive flooding along the Eastern Slope of the Sierra. The fields are completely inundated, and only the line of telephone poles marks where the road is and keeps them from driving into a watery ditch.
Nevada does not get a lot of precipitation, but every once in a while a major storm comes barreling over the mountains and takes everyone by surprise. The Flood of 1997 is still in recent memory of many people around here, where several feet of snow fell in the mountains and then immediately were melted by a warm rain. The resulting deluge overflowed rivers all over Northern Nevada and wiped out roads and bridges in every town. But that was not the first mega flood. Mother Nature has a way of reminding us humans who really holds all the power. Back as far as 1861, floods nearly washed away the few people hardy enough to have settled in the area. Again in 1867 a flood rushed down from the mountains that destroyed every bridge in the Eagle and Carson Valleys. A flood in 1955 buried much of downtown Reno under a wall of water, and flooding in 1986 turned the grassy valleys into tranquil lakes.
But the Flood of 1950 was perhaps the worst, because it came at a time of huge population growth, but before any kind of flood mitigation had been put in place. What few reservoirs there were in the mountains quickly overflowed. Highways were washed out, bridges collapsed under the push of so much water. One person died and $6 million in damage was done. This flood prompted massive work to be undertaken to improve flood control in the mountains and in the cities, and many reservoirs were built immediately after the flood to contain water up in the mountains rather than let it cascade down into the valleys.
The location of this photo used to be a mystery. NDOT has it labelled as a scene from the flooding in Reno, and the landscape looks nondescript enough that it could have been somewhere in an undeveloped part of the Truckee Meadows. Turns out, it’s not Reno at all.
Thanks to the eagle-eyed research of Dan Zampirro, we know that this stretch of road is a couple of hours southeast of Reno, right near Fort Churchill. The mountains in the background are a dead giveaway. The road is US Hwy 95 Alt. The water is coming from the Carson River, which has seriously overflowed its banks thanks to the flooding. Right behind the photographer is the Buckland Station, one of the oldest stagecoach stops still left in the state. Off to the left are the adobe ruins of Fort Churchill, the remnants of an Army fort from the Civil War days. This stretch of road connects Silver Springs to Yerington, and anyone travelling from Carson/Reno to Vegas is likely to have driven through here on the way.
Nowadays the land is dry, thanks to several dry winters in a row that have left us on the verge of the dreaded D-word, drought. Precipitation in the Great Basin definitely comes in waves, with several very wet years all clumped together, followed by several dry years. All of the water we use in Carson City and Reno comes from these winter storms, so if we hardly get any storms, we’re in bad shape in the winter. I don’t think we’ll be seeing another large flood like this anytime soon, if our dry patterns hold.
Tags: fortchurchill thenandnow
Sunday, January 12, 2014
This view looks west on Musser from Stewart Street in the 1940s. The railroad tracks of the V&T can be seen running in the foreground. The Minden branch of the V&T ran down Stewart Street back then, bringing a kinetic energy to what was otherwise a sleepy residential street. One block away is the Capitol grounds; the iron fence can be seen in the distance on the left corner.
No longer a sleepy street, Stewart is now a major north-south thoroughfare. The only street downtown with a speed limit above 25, Stewart is the street you take when you want to get somewhere quick. The street has been completely urbanized. Once lined with houses, they were all removed for offices, motels, and parking lots. The last house on Stewart was removed in 2011.
The Capitol Plaza has also seen major expansion since the first picture was taken. Before, the iron fence surrounded a four-square-block area, and that was the seat of Nevada’s government. Through the 20th century it expanded to the south and east, so that now the Capitol, Legislature, Supreme Court and Library cover 15 full blocks at the heart of town. On the left of the new photo the corner of the massive Nevada State Library and Archives can be seen, a hulking edifice that was built in the early 1990s. The houses and trees on this corner are long gone, along with many other blocks in the neighborhood. Preservation has kept many of the historic buildings around, but at the expense of smaller ones like the houses along Stewart Street.
Tags: carsoncity thenandnow