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CVIC Hall addition construction to begin

by Sheila Gardner

When the Carson Valley Improvement Club hall opened its doors on Nov. 15, 1912, the red brick building was the talk of the town.

“The hall was the scene of great gaiety and pleasure,” gushed that week’s issue of The Record-Courier. “… it was taxed to its fullest capacity to accommodate the unprecedented crowd.”

The inaugural event was a dance which the R-C called a “brilliant success.”

More than 177 couples – from as far away as Antelope Valley and Alpine County – danced across the brand-new hardwood floor in the building destined to be “the finest club building to be found in any rural community in the state.”

The CVIC Hall was to offer residents a gymnasium, reading rooms and billiards. Over the decades, it has been witness to almost every milestone in a Minden resident’s life, including parties, weddings and funerals. At one time, it housed a movie theater and school classrooms.

On Thursday, the Minden landmark secured its place in the history of the new millennium with a groundbreaking for an $800,000, two-story addition to the 86-year-old structure that graces Esmeralda Avenue in downtown Minden.

Many of the people who attended the ceremony have grown up knowing the CVIC Hall as the focal point of the Carson Valley.

“I could talk for hours about some of the memories of this building,” said Carson Valley Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen. “I get emotional about it.”

Etchegoyhen, who grew up and continues to live just a few blocks from the CVIC Hall, remembers learning to ride his bike up and down Esmeralda Avenue in front of the building.

“It was the only place in town where the sidewalk was wide enough,” Etchegoyhen said.

Minden Town Board Member Ross Chichester, who also grew up in Carson Valley, recalls when everybody would gather at the CVIC hall for parties, weddings and other social events.

n Under the piano. “I remember when I was a little boy, we’d all go to the CVIC Hall on New Year’s Eve for a dance,” Chichester said. “Nobody got a babysitter. The kids would fall asleep under the piano and the adults would cover them up with their coats.”

Chichester said one of his campaign pledges when he first ran for office 16 years ago was to upgrade the historic building.

That task falls to Carson City architect John Copoulos, who is ecstatic that the work is about to begin on the long-awaited project.

“We’ve been kicking this plan around for 15 years or so,” said Copoulos, who also worked on refurbishing the structure in the mid-1980s.

“The CVIC Hall always needed to do an ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) upgrade for the handicapped,” Copoulos said. “Accessibility is the main thing being done. We’re also going to upgrade the kitchen to a more commercial facility.”

The new, two-story addition will also include an elevator, which means the town board can move its meetings from the cavernous hall to more intimate quarters upstairs. The bathrooms also will be replaced.

“We’re doing very few things to the existing building,” Copoulos said.

He estimated the work, scheduled to begin next week, will take about nine months. The project will be paid for from town and county funds and a Community Development Block Grant from the state.

“What helps was doing the project many years ago,” he said. “We did what was called fire retrofitting and redid the heating. We upgraded the building from the 1900s to the 1980s. It was kind of my first introduction to the building. At that time, we did some pretty preliminary plans to do the addition in a couple of years. Who knew it would turn into this long?”

n Sidewalk superintendents. He knows that the townspeople will be watching to make sure the integrity of the structure isn’t compromised as the structure prepares for the 21st century.

“I usually rely on photos more than anything else to maintain the integrity. When you can’t find any photos, then you are in a jam,” he said.

Copoulos has been in Nevada nearly 20 years. He has an extensive background in working on historic buildings. Another current project is the Piper Opera House in Virginia City. He also worked on the addition to the Genoa Community Church and the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City.

The addition will add about 4,400 square feet to the structure, including offices on the second floor. The tenants will include the Town of Minden, which is now renting office space nearly at the Gardnerville border.

“From my perspective, this upgrades the hall to make it so much more usable and so much nicer,” said office manager Sheila Byington. “It’s something the board has wanted to do for years. It’s a very nice place to meet. People want to come here.”

Byington said adding on to the hall is part of an ongoing downtown beautification project for Minden.

“We’re going to end up redoing Esmeralda, replacing sidewalks, putting in streetlights, trees and adding benches,” Byington said. “It will make this much more of a walkable community. People can visit the town offices and the businesses and sit under the new lights. We want to let people know that Minden is a fun place to come visit and just wander around.”

Plans also include paving the parking lot adjacent to the hall.

n Squeak stays. There is nothing the architect can do, however, about the squeak in the CVIC Hall’s floor.

“The joists are shrinking underneath,” Copoulos explained. “One option would be to tear up the wood floor, but we’d probably make more of a mess trying to get rid of it (the squeak).”

Etchegoyhen described the squeak as a built-in timer for long-winded politicians.

“When you hear the floor squeaking because people are leaving, then you know it’s time to sit down and stop talking,” he said.

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