Ghosts of Carson: Children’s Home Cottages

You’ve probably driven by them dozens of times, or even hundreds, without giving them much of a thought. They are close to the heart of town yet easy to overlook. Right there along Fifth Street is a cluster of houses in a park-like setting. Wide expanses of grass, ancient cottonwood trees, with meandering paths between them. The houses themselves have been boarded up for years and have a general look of decay about them. Yet this land, and these houses, are an important part of the historic fabric of Carson City. These are the old Nevada State Children’s Home Cottages.

The cottages were used by the State Division of Child & Family Services as group homes for children who were wards of the state. Some of the children were orphans, others were in the foster system, and others came from unstable homes. Wherever they came from, they came together here as a family. Each building housed 10 children and two “house parents”, a couple who was employed to live on site and care for the children. While living here the children attended school, went on field trips, made friends with other children in town, and got jobs if they were old enough. The Children’s Home provided them with a place to have a home and a relatively normal childhood.

The cottages were built in the 1960s to replace a large stone orphanage that used to sit on this land. The orphanage was a grand stone building; it was constructed in 1903 to replace a wooden building that had been the previous orphanage. That one had been built in 1870 and lost in a fire.

The original wooden orphanage.
The new stone orphanage in 1910.
The orphanage in 1940.
The orphanage in the 1950s, after a remodel that included demolishing the cupola.

1870 was only a decade after the founding of Carson City and 6 years after statehood. So that means that this land has always been dedicated to the care of children.

In 1992 the cottages were closed for good. The concept of state-run group homes had fallen out of favor and the move was made to place children in foster homes instead. After the children moved out, State employees moved in. Since the cottages were still in decent shape they were converted to office space for the Division of Child & Family Services. Some of the buildings were also used as the Carson City Boys and Girls Club. This complex was the headquarters for both organizations until the mid 2000s, when the age of the buildings finally caught up with them.

Citing the deteriorating conditions of the buildings, the State vacated the cottages in 2006 and moved to office space elsewhere. The Boys and Girls Club remained here until 2009, when their new facility was finished on Russell Way. As the buildings were vacated they were boarded up, and to this day they remain vacant and abandoned. It has been the wish of the State to demolish the buildings, but they haven’t been able to come up with the funds for demolition. So the buildings sit here in limbo, unused and doomed, but still standing.

The cottages are not completely derelict, though. They are kept free of graffiti and weeds, though the landscaping is a little overgrown on some of them. The grounds are tended to and open to the public as a park. People come here to jog or walk their dogs, or stroll underneath the cottonwoods. One day the money will be found in the budget to remove the cottages, and in the long term the State has plans to use this land for more office buildings. But for now, despite its proximity to downtown and the Capitol, this is a forgotten corner of town.

This article is going to take you on a photo tour of the cottages as they exist today. At any point the State could decide to allocate the money to demolish these buildings, and this history will be gone forever. This is my effort to preserve them in their last days.

I have written about the home before, in 2006 as part of a Then and Now article about the stone orphanage. I didn’t expect that post to get much traction, but it has become one of the most visited and most commented upon on the whole website. People who grew up at the orphanage and cottages came to leave comments about their memories and their experiences. Some of them were good memories, some of them were bad, but all of them were very heartfelt. I will sprinkle some of these memories throughout this article to give some context to the images. They may be little more than abandoned buildings now, but lives were lived here, and those memories should be preserved.

I have also created a map of the grounds. I was unclear at first about which cottage was which. All the cottages used to have numbers, from #1 to #7. When they were converted to State offices, the buildings were given names instead, named after Pony Express stations. Some of the buildings still have these numbers affixed to them today, some right in the open, some hidden and fading. Other buildings no longer have their cottage number marked on them. With the help of former residents on Facebook I was able to create this map which details what the function of each building was while the cottages were in use. I also marked the Pony Express name, if it has one.

This article is broken up into multiple pages. The first page looks at Cottage #1.

Cottage #1
Cottage #2
Cottage #3
Cottage #4
Cottage #5
Cottage #6
Cottage #7
Administration/Boys and Girls Club
Other Buildings


  1. I think it is a horrible idea to demolish part of Carson City’s history. So many buildings have been lost to demolition and fire. I can’t believe something can’t be done to renovate these buildings back to some sort of useful purpose for our community. How about asking your readers what they would suggest if we could save them?

  2. Have you seen the book..”my life as a home kid: Nevada State Orphan/Children”s Home” ?The author Bonnie Boice Nichkawa lived there from the age of 3 till she was 18.

  3. This is a much needed home again for children can’t we keep it for children in need again. No matter how but it should be kept for kids. The foster care system in this city needs to be expanded there is so much need how can we use this property to help somebody.

  4. I grew up in Carson City, I had a lot of friends from the home. I Loved them all. we all need a little love and friendship from time to time. I wish I could find some of them Like Kenny Medeiros he was a great friend, who taught me how to walk again after falling off a horse, he got me through a really hard time and I would love to say thank you after all this time. Great People came from this place. I think is should still be open for the children.

  5. I would love it if they could restore them, but the cost is so high to remove the asbestos. It is hard to see them rot and will be sad if they tear them down. So many of us in the community are connected to these cottages. Mine was cottage #4 and am so thankful for the love and care I received!

  6. I agree that these homes should again go towards troubled youth in Carson City!! I grew up here, and I still live here now and i see homeless people with young children all over! Can’t we maybe use these homes for those families if not for the kids in general?? Why do they insist on destroying everything around here?? We dont need more office spaces…there are buildings with space open for rent all over town we need to fill those first!!

  7. The last stop in my time as a ward of the state was cottage 6, with Mom and Dad Gay. They were really good people, who did right by me. I wish I had given them the thanks they deserve.

  8. I’ve got so many memories from here. Met a lot of friends living at the homes when I lived in Carson City. I wish I could reconnect with everyone.

  9. I was in Cottage 5 from 1965-1978. My first cottage parents were the Lennox’s but not for very long. We then were blessed with Ad & Stew Osborne, what amazing people. My sister, Kay, was in cottage 5 as well and my brothers, Dale, Carl & Jay were in cottage e2with the Rex’s then the Smith’s. We had Hattie Becker loved her, hated that vacuum. I remember the Christmas dinner that the Harold’s Club employees did every year, Jack Kogen & Wilber May’s generosity. Two weeks at the 4-H camp every summer. Vacations in August,going to Europe. But mostly I remember the kids. Katy, Peggy, Diane , Gayle, Sandy, Debbie, Chris, Erin, Sarah & Cheryl, Rusty, Eugene, Jimmy, Zephas, and so many others. And some not so fond, Pat Reddick, but mostly I have great memories. I hope when some start to think only bad thoughts that they remember what their lives were like before they ended up at NSCH. Find the good stuff and let the rest go. ( well, except for Pat Reddick😉).

    • Hello sue. I rember you and your brothers and sisters. I rember Kay wedding. I was there from 1971-1974. This was a good on place. First time I stayed in one place for more then a couple months. The Osbourne really helped me a lot. I rember Vicky toby sandy Sarah and the reddicks. Christmas was pretty cool. Rember getting blue luggage from the Wilbur MAY. REMBER GOING TO his ranch lots of memories. Vicky Schliem Conaway

    • Hello Sue. I was there from 1971-1974. Rember Kay,Sarah,Sandy, Diana and lots more. First time stayed in one place. Helped me to graduate .They had a tutor there after school. Rember the trips pretty cool lots of memories.

  10. The long building in section 11was the original commissary. The wood building was the new commissary. The old commissary has a side door where we took all our sheets on Saturday to be sent to the prison for cleaning.

  11. My sister worked there when 1 house was used for an emergency shelter for kids thru Volunteers of America. I agree they should not be destroyed wish they could be used for the homeless or someone in need. I wish they could remodel them and use them for a service for people. Not for office building.

  12. The seetest thing in the world to me at that time lived in cottage 7. My father a very predjudiced man even to this day says horrible things about the Native American indians in particular the Piaute Indian. But i really love one her name “Jennifer Zuniga” she was beautiful and soft spoken. There were a few times I tried to let her know , but this blond haired blue eyed kid well just wasnt her type lol. I have told my father about her in the most possitive way I could , but he is old and set in his ways.

    • Me and my little brother was there in 77 to 80 he was in 7 I was in 2 he was very little blonde hair and blue eyes

  13. I lived in this cottage for 2 years 1972 -1974 directly accross from cottage 7. We used to store our bikes on the patio, and I also remember the year they put in that stinky tennis court. Used to play every hour imaginable in the basketball courts up near the main office, and remember the commissary, the special suckers on the sticks that we used to be treated to. My trips to my best friend Rico james’s home down the road. jumping kids with our bikes and make shift ramps. I believe jumping 6 was the limit for me. the baseball field, and the little playground is gone. I had my first french kiss on that baseball field lol. I forgot her name she was sweet but myself a little scared of the whole thing. Going to the public pool in the summer where I learned how to swim after almost drowning in the Carson City River with the guys looking on stunned because i didnt come back up after falling into a fish hole lol. The trip to San Diego, the Worlds fair in Spokane Wa. The trip I took with Mom and Dad Head to san francisco with their two grand daughters. I missed my brothers and sisters at home but I didnt miss the abuses. If i had had it my way . I have pictures of me outside of Cottage one back in the day. A blonde haired blue eyed kid with leathery skin from all the time spent outside. I have a good memory and i can recall many things about being there, just as if it happened yesterday. Like the time I got caught by motorists fro throwing snowballs at traffic. I in my big old snow boots just couldnt run fast enough to get away lol. But i never told who was with me when we were diing these kid things lol !!!

  14. My heart breaks to know the cottages will be destroyed. Although they are old and it is not cost effective to restore or remodel them…the children’s home was my safe place growing up. I lived in Cottage 4 with all my cottage sisters and Mom and Dad Rowton. So many good memories. I hope they make a park there so us NNCH kids can still revisit our childhood stomping grounds.

  15. I enjoy coming back to this site to see who has commented and had to laugh at Susan Manning’s comment about Pat Reddick. I think he was the one who was beating me up the day a giant crow swooped down from the trees next to Cottage Two and bird-pooped his head. It dripped right down his forehead all over his face, and he hit me harder and harder – I was pinned to the ground – but I couldn’t stop laughing. Some people! I’ve never really known who that meanie was, but I am guessing now that it was Pat.

    But all said, I am still grateful for having had a home. As others have said, for many of us this was a big step up from where we came from.

    I If anybody from NSCH wants to contact me I can be reached at michael dot corrieri at gmail dot com.

    Peace & Love – Mike

  16. I almost forgot to mention these jewels:

    “Ruby Station” is an interesting name for Cottage Two now. Because Mrs. Rex’s real name, was Ruby Golding Rex. Her and William Jay Rex (aka Bud), were Mom and Dad Rex. They were both from ranch families in Southeastern Arizona. After they were married they spent some time as pack guides in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Bud Rex ran a ranch in California during WWII, and Ruby was loved by the townspeople as a socialite, artist, and pianist. They had foster children then on their ranch, raised with their own son, and they even rescued miners from a collapsed vanadium mine. All of that before “retiring” to be cottage parents at NSCH.

    There are articles about both of them online, including a great write up about Ruby in the Los Angeles Times during the war, and their remains can be visited at the Yerrington Cemetary.


  17. Hi everybody I really love reading your story about the children’s home I miss all of you guys this is Tanya hooks Frida z e p h a s hooks little sister me myself I think we should all get together and just buy the children song it’s very heartbreaking to see where we grew up as one big family go to hell like that anyway if anybody remembers us you can call me at 916 470 six zero four five much love Tanya hooks and Frida z e p h a s

  18. I am one of the ghosts. Cottage 2 was my home from 74-75 until I graduated from CHS.
    I don’t know how I got to this site. Devine intervention, I suppose. I have visited this place several times since leaving, tho I have carried these memories my entire life. A lovely lady greeted me when my plane landed from Las Vegas. With her were two boys I later learned, my cottage brothers.
    I arrived at cottage 2 as the boys were getting home from school. I remember sitting in the living room and thinking were the hell am I, but something strange was about to happen. I heard loud voices as two HUGE MEN stormed past me to a bedroom in the back of this house. I had no idea as to what was happening, I sat watching as they soon left. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Funny how things stay in your head. I’m just this 5ft6 little Italian kid.
    Out come these 2 boys, Danny and Tim I believe. The men, a Mr. Carter and the other I can’t recall. They had just taken these boys and beat them like they were men. To this day… I’m still sorry to you, Danny and Tim
    So, welcome Bob. Cottage 2, Home.
    One of the many memories I have of NNCH. All of you, sharing your stories, I Thank You.

  19. Was in 7, if I remember right. With mom and dad Brooks. Loved that place. Sucks it wont be there

  20. I guess some wind up feeling like we should give something back. My life has taken me into the field of Early Child Education and am presently employed with the Head Start program in the county in which I now live. It is my privilege to work for one of the agencies that serves underprivileged children in my area. Guess it takes one to know one.

  21. I lived in cottage #5 with my little sister, Kevan Opatz is my brother. We were moved there from Child Haven,Las Vegas back in the 70s My name is Kandy and my sis name is Desiree. I remember being scared too death. Wondering what was gonna happen to us. But as time went on the feeling left me and I excepted it as my home. My cottage parents were the Osbournes. When I look back now I believe that they both had geniune love for all of us girls..considering there was 10 of us and I am sure we were a handful. They were not a young couple and they still did an awesome job! Especially when some us started sneaking out at night…me, Jessie, Erin, Vicki.. crazy but fun times! The worst part was getting caught and the duties lined out for us to do. I remember having to do all the windows inside and out and scrub and polish all the pans in the kitchen and getting grounded. But I deserved it! Today I am married to my awesome husband 33yrs raised 4 kids and have 3 gran-kids..I am greatful for the friends [sisters] there with love and the important life lessons I learned from living at NNCH I am also a registered care giver and daycare I do believe you can become a blessing no matter what your circumstances were, its a choice we can all make..forever greatful for the experience.

    • Hello Kandy
      Your brother and I were good friends when we lived in cottage 1 with Mom and Dad Head. They were strict with us but they had alot of compassion. Kevin and I talked for many hours about your life when you all lived with with your parents.
      And many of the children who lived in the childrens home were quite the handful, and reasonably so, a lot of us came from very disturbing and difficult situations that no child shouldve never gone through. I remember all of you Opatzs’ All of that blonde hair LOL
      It makes my heart happy to know that you have had a very wonderful life after all the things you and your siblings endured. Through out my life i have often wondered whatn had become of you and your brother and little sister. I remember Kevin always talking about joining the Military , and when I saw him again , once as an adult, that is exactly what he had done. I was in NNCH for only two years and I had alot of friends in and out of the home , and that was a new experience for me !!!! I excelled in my grades and also learned how to write poetry with the English teacher Miss Smith at Carson Middle school in the seventh grade. I never thought that would lead me anywhere at that time , but it has with myself becoming not ony a musician but a song writer :). Kandy I am very happy for you and how blessed your life has become. All of my best regards to you , your Husband and all of your children and grandchildren.

      Sincerely: Steven Doherty

  22. I too am very saddened with prospect of the NNCH being torn down. There must be something that could be done. I visited there in the
    90’s and found the people working there to be very accommodating by letting me look around the cottage. It was like that sort of thing happened all the time. I believe it is important to have a childhood home to go back to sometimes, since most of us lost that through circumstances beyond our control.

  23. Such a long time ago ………… I believe I took a young girl named Misty out a couple times. Once to Lake Tahoe. It was there that I realized she was only going there with me because she had a crush on Bob Dagget. ( this could totally be a figment of my blurred memories ) It was ……………a very long time ago but I was friends with several of the kids there. Just seemed like houses full of life with kids everywhere.

  24. It’s so strange to see the cottages now abandoned and neglected. In 1961, most of them were state of the art brand-new. My sister and I were among the first to occupy it: 10 girls and and a house mother to move into the brand new cottage on Stewart Street. It was beautiful with, if I remember correctly, 5 bedrooms, the largest being occupied by three residents, three double occupancy, and one single. I had the single my senior year as the student with the best grades. There was an apartment for the house parents. We had a housemother, which I thought great. Since all of us were girls, a man in the house would have been awkward. As it was, we could watch TV and do homework in nightgowns or p-js. There was a fully equipped kitchen with state of the art appliances, a dining room with a nice big table to eat at and to do homework, A big living room, a sitting room for visits with family or friends. and outside a patio where we could barbecue. Each of us took a day of the week to prepare dinner.
    What a shame they have been neglected and allowed to be boarded up. I saw that for a time they were used by the Boys and Girls Club. The state should renovate them and open them up as affordable housing or temporary shelter for children awaiting permanent. placement.

  25. Been a while since my last entry on this can really keep you busy [as everyone knows]. Have 3 more grand-babies to add to our family oxox and now I have been taking care of my mother in her golden years..this has been challenging at times mostly because she never raised me and left to drink and party..never had any relationship with me or my siblings. But later as I became an adult raising a family of my own she started to try [still drinking though] So not so good at first, finally after waking up with blood coming out her mouth in the mornings..she went to the doc, he told stop drinking or you will die [wake up call] She wasted her whole life such a shame. To really get to the lighter side of all that I have the opportunity to so her grace and forgiveness and love..God gave me more than one chance to better my life so why wouldn’t I do the same..better late then never, right? I feel that God and NNCH was where my life was blessed to become the better person and forgive others mistakes since none of us are perfect. Although I agree with my brother Kevan about feeling sad that the children home will be gone it was our only solid home we sad, nothing to return to.. the love of your childhood home.. wishing everyone love and health and lots of second chances!! God Bless you all!! Kandy

    • Bless you Kandy. I know how you feel. I was there from 71-74 in cottage 5. Messed up Mother. Finally have peace. Nice to think back .

  26. You are missing part of the history of cottage 3. Cottage 3 housed the Volunteers of America Children’s Shelter for several years up to the time when the state required them to vacate the building due to impending demolishion

  27. Just reading all of these comments. I was at the home from 69to75 in cottage 4 after my mother passed from cancer. My sister cherish wackerly was also there. We had mom and dad hennenthen after they left the morals. I had many wonderful Christmas and vacation memories. I now live in Ohio but come to visit family and the home every chance I get. I had my own horse that I worked to take care of. Ride her all over town. In parades and sometimes at Stewart Indian school. I dated a guy named Luke Williams for years till I turned 18 and left the home. I will cry when they tear down the buildings but I will always have the pictures and memories. Anyone would like to get ahold of me, my email is

  28. My name is Patrick nevins and cottage 7 was the only place in my childhood that I considered home. Ma and pa Richards were probably the only two people in my childhood that
    Could control me.i had been a ward of the state since I was three three years old. I’d been in 12 foster homes boys itc group home couple of juvenile halls and had just been taken from some people that had adopted me and could not control me. I hope I’m not the Patrick some spoke about. Although it wouldn’t suprize me if it was. I was a very troubled very sorry if i had did anything to anyone that made their life difficult.danny j. John w. Steve mc.mike d. Mitch t. And so many more. The children’s home is forever burned into my memory freda h. Just so many of us.As I sit here typing these words I can here the laughter from all.wasnt always laughter but those are what I choose to remember. Trips to lahontan where they had speed boats and barbques set up for us summer trips down the coast that one seems like yesterday and I could go on forever….
    And can’t forget Mr. abbersary. And so many of the staff that had been residents themself.i know it wasn’t easy but you all are forever in our hearts.
    Anyone remember the gym. The out of bounds line was on the walls because the gym wasn’t wide enough. Lmao. We called it wall ????.nobody liked to play with us ….
    And can’t forget about the bowling ???? ally south side of the property not shown on the map. Two lanes that had to be manually set. And the rec. Room next to cottage 5.pool table and universal weight set up.

  29. I’m stunned to have stumbled upon this article about the NSCH in Carson City. I was made a ward of the state in 1972 by my mother after my stepfather James E Woods Jr killed himself because I had turned him into Reno PD after being molested by him for two years. She thought it was not true and refused to allow me to return home after being booked under protective custody in Whittenberg juvenile hall in Reno. So she signed me over to the state. I was 15 and terrified. My name then was Susan Woods, legally adopted by James Woods at the age of 4 or 5. I remember the cottage and floor layout but I am not sure which cottage it was or who the cottage mother was? I don’t remember the other girls there with me and I was in a very dark mental place at that time, and I also felt like I didn’t belong in what I felt was an orphanage as I had siblings, I don’t know if anybody there would remember me or not but if anyone does by chance, please feel free to contact me at my email address! Maybe somebody could fill in some missing pieces for me. I do remember being enrolled in Carson City high school, but I only attended for a short period because I didn’t stay very long in the cottage before I ran away. Maybe 4 months. I do wish they had places like that for kids in need today because the concept was good and most foster homes today don’t seem to work long term.

  30. Hello
    My name then was Joe Wissbeck. I lived in cottage 1 with the Wilhelms as cottage parents. I was placed there after my adoptive mother died of brain cancer. I went to CHS, some of the students wouldn’t speak to us because we were from “The Home” some students thought we were troubled and stayed away or shunned us. Mom Peggy not only lived there as a child but also became a working cottage parent. It brings back both happy times and terrible memories of being lonely and vulnerable.

  31. I lived at the cottages in the late 90’s when it was part of Volunteers of America. I really wish I could remember more names or friends I had made. If anyone remembers a Shaun Clifton please reach out!

  32. Hello Freda my name is Barbara Winward. I lived in cottage 3 with mom and dad Denison. I remember I had lots of fun living there and going on trips, going to camp . Laying on the grass by the bowling alley chillin gazing at the sars With Patrik nevins and a couple other kids. I don’t remember a lot of names but the ones I do remember are Joann pretzel, Angie from cottage 4 cause I was moved to 4,than I ran away with one of the older girls I think her name was Debbie. Any I lived there from 78-80 I have great memories . I think we should do another reunion so we all can have a great time reminiscing our days together. thanks for allowing all of us to share some of our story with the world.

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