Tour raises appreciation for Valley’s agriculture history |

Tour raises appreciation for Valley’s agriculture history

by Caryn Haller

Sisters-in-law Nancy Stephenson and Yvonne Gandolfo now have a deeper appreciation for the workmanship that went in to raising the many historic barns around Carson Valley.

The ladies were part of the Douglas County Historical Society’s annual barn tour Saturday that drew more than 100 visitors.

“We’ve been trying to get on this for years. We love this. We are crazy about this,” Stephenson said. “The history of Carson Valley barns is wonderful. The experts in each barn make it so interesting, and we’ve seen owls in each one of them.”

Gandolfo actually lived in the cold room of a barn in Susanville, Calif., for a month when she was a child. Her family had purchased a dairy farm, and had to wait for the people they bought the farm from to move out of the main house.

“It was a very interesting barn,” she said. “I think they would have tried to save it.”

Gandolfo was referring to the newly formed California-Nevada Barn Alliance, dedicated to the preservation of historic rural structures.

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Co-director Paul Oatman said the diversity of Carson Valley barns is what sets them apart from others. Builders came from France, Germany, China and Georgia during the gold rush and helped raise most of the barns found here.

“It’s great for people to have an awareness of the history, value and heritage of the barns in California and Nevada,” he said. “They are the most outstanding architectural features that have been neglected. “

He also added that there is a high percentage of well-preserved timber-framed barns in the Valley. Timber-framed barns are different from stick built ones in that they are framed using wooden pins rather than nails. The nails rot out the frames causing them to fall apart.

“A lot of them are still in use. Hundreds of years from now I don’t think anyone is going to care about who built what steel building. These barns are all unique,” Oatman said. “There is so much diversity to their scarf joints (the connection between two timbers). You see all these different joints here that you don’t see anywhere else.”

Minden residents Ken and MaryAnn Crosby enjoyed their first barn tour experience. Both coming from farming backgrounds, they found the history of the barns very interesting.

The Lampe/Jacobs barn on Centerville Lane was their favorite.

“It seemed to be the best preserved and have the most knowledgeable speaker. There is more to the grounds there,” MaryAnn said. “It was really nice there was people there to talk about the barns.”

Reno resident Linda Goar also enjoyed learning about the history of the barns.

She particularly enjoyed hearing about the Sarman barn on Mottsville Lane.

“It was the most interesting because one of the descendants was the docent there. She remembers her grandpa running the cattle in the summer up to Tahoe,” Goar said. “I’m impressed they are still standing. Some of them were built in the mid-1800s.”

Other barns on the tour included the Hellwinkel, Heitman/Brunelle, Henningsen and Dangberg barns.

For more information about the California-Nevada Barn Alliance, visit

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