Genoa Court House Museum hosts open house Saturday

The Genoa Court House Museum will open its 2006 season this Saturday with an invitation to the public to tour its exhibits free of charge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Refreshments will be served and classical guitarist Mike Maloney will perform during open-house hours. All exhibits will be open, as well as an expanded gift store featuring Nevada products and a large selection of Nevada-related books.

Beginning Sunday, the museum, located at 2304 Main St., will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week until early October, when it will close for the winter. Admission prices of $3 for adults and $2 for children will go into effect Sunday.

The museum is housed in the original, two-story Douglas County Court House erected in 1864 - the year Nevada gained statehood - and features numerous exhibits depicting early Nevada history. Among them are a collection of Washoe Indian basketry, a wall map tracing the "Fearful Crossing" emigrant route from the Midwest through Genoa to California, and rooms displaying a 19th-century schoolroom, frontier kitchen, Victorian parlor and Snowshoe Thompson's ski route carrying mail over the High Sierra from California to Genoa in the winters of 1856 to 1872.

The court house, along with most of Genoa, was destroyed in a devastating 1910 fire, leaving only the brick exterior standing; but within months the building was rebuilt and back in operation. Today, the spacious second-story courtroom, where many historic Nevada legal cases were adjudicated, contains its early furniture, including jurors chairs and a unique half-moon attorney and client table in front of the elevated judge's bench.

Also in the courtroom are two large display cases showing family memorabilia of the 19th century and an exhibit of paintings by Bob Tompkins, a well-known Carson Valley pastel artist. Along second-floor walls are several paintings by late Hans Meyer-Kassel, the acclaimed Genoa landscape and portrait artist.

After the 1910 fire and restoration of the courthouse building, it remained the county seat until 1916, when county offices were moved to Minden, which had become the focus of Valley commerce with the completion of a Virginia & Truckee Railroad spur line from Carson City.

The historic building was Genoa's school house until 1956, when the school district deeded it to the state and began bussing students to Minden and Gardnerville.

The building remained vacant until 1966, when the state legislature gave it to the Carson Valley Historical Society, which had been formed five years previously by a group of pioneer family descendants. Over the next 12 years, dedicated society members raised thousands of dollars in private donations to restore the building to its present appearance.

This year, the museum received a $27,000 grant from the Nevada Historical Preservation Commission, which was used to refurbish and repaint the exterior of the building, and to install paved parking and a disabled persons parking ramp, and to erect a retaining wall along the Main Street and Fifth Street sides of the property.

Two years ago, the Carson Valley Historical Society changed its name to Douglas County Historical Society to better reflect the historical interests of the entire county. The Genoa Court House Museum and the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395 north, Gardnerville, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all year, are owned and operated by the Douglas County Historical Society.

For further information, call the society at 782-2555.


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