In observation of National Historical Preservation Month in May, the Douglas County Historical Society announced that the first Recognition Award of Excellence for Historical Preservation has been awarded to Marie, J.B. and Lisa Lekumberry for their preservation of the historic J.T. Basque Bar and Dining Room.
This is the first of an annual award by the historical society to the owners of a Douglas County residence, business or organization. For the May 2014 Recognition Award, the community will be invited to nominate a building to meet the requirements of renovation or continual preservation of historic significance.
Back in the mid 1890s, this two story building settled in Gardnerville after a short stop in Genoa, having come from the Comstock. It was moved to its present location more than a century ago. The building was pulled by horses using logs as rollers.
On April 1, 1960, Jean Lekumberry, his wife, Shirley, and his brother Pete bought the business and property from the Juansaras and Trounday families, hence the sign “J.T.” Jean had emigrated from the Basque Pyrenees Country to the United States in 1947, and worked as a camp tender and sheepherder in Carson Valley. After Pete joined him, the family migrated into the hotel and restaurant business. While “Uncle Pete” cooked lamb stew, Jean tended bar, serving Picons, and Shirley ran the dining room. The couple raised three children, Robert, Marie Louise and Jean Baptise (J B), in their living quarters upstairs, or at the end of the bar.
In 1993, it took eight 25-ton jacks to carefully raise the building so the foundation could be replaced. As the Lekumberrys undertook the renovation of the building in advance of federal mandates for ADA accommodations, they expanded the original outside balcony and touched up the interior, finishing up a century’s worth of improvement in a matter of months.
From that time on, Marie, JB and Lisa have been consistent in preserving the historic significance of the J.T. Basque Bar and Dining Room.
The J.T. was nominated by former Carson Valley resident Bill Whaley of Taos, N.M., who grew up in here and bartended briefly at the J.T.