Gardnerville losses a landmark; building that held tavern and lunchcounter torn down
The building at 1409 Highway 395 in Gardnerville didn’t look like much by the time it was knocked down last week.
The nondescript structure had been vacant for several years, and according to several local sources, was unsound and needed major repairs.
But a few hours of thumbing through old issues of the The Record-Courier, a historian’s research and the memories of some longtime Carson Valley residents revealed a varied past for a fondly-remembered place.
Genoa resident Billie Jean Rightmire, historian for the Carson Valley Historical Society, provided background on the businesses that occupied 1409 Highway 395, also known as Main Street, through the years.
She has been compiling information for a book, and her notes show that the building at 1409 Highway 395 started life as a bank in 1900 and evolved into a drug store before hosting a series of bars and restaurants until it became vacant a decade ago.
The bank was an iron and brick structure 22 feet high by 20 feet wide and 44 feet deep that operated until 1931 before giving way to the drug store.
Over the years, the building’s facade was changed, but a 1981 inventory of properties in Minden and Gardnerville described the structure as one of the earlier buildings in downtown Gardnerville.
Gardnerville resident Glenn Logan said one of the best-known establishments in the building was Papa Starke’s, a bar that featured free lunches and was a prominent gathering place.
“I was in grammar school when Pop Starke was operating it, and I used to stop every day on the way home from school,” said Logan, who graduated high school in 1948. “He always had a treat for the kids, and he always had a joke to play on the kids.
“He was one of the best damn bakers in the world. He made cream puffs that were out of this world.”
Rightmire said Starke operated at several places in Gardnerville before he settled at the 1409 address. He and his wife also built a hotel.
Some of Starke’s other establishments were known as Papa’s Place, Starke’s Bar, the Germania, the Oberon and later, the Starke Hotel and Bar. Early advertisements boasted of good food and excellent service.
A March 1918 ad in the R-C claimed Starke’s Germania Hotel gave “better service” than elsewhere. By September 1935, Papa’s Place was advertising itself as the only source of Sierra Lager Beer and “De Lux” chicken dinners on Sundays.
In October 1935, the ads reflect a management change, with a Reno man named Joe Anselmo taking over but emphasizing the establishment was “formerly Papa Starke’s.” Anselmo was still advertising his Papa Starke affiliation in May 1938, along with “special weekend Italian dinners.”
The ads don’t say where the establishments were located, relying on the audience’s knowledge of the town, but Logan and Rightmire definitely remember Papa Starke’s at the 1409 address.
“I can remember the old slot machine as you came in the bar,” said Rightmire, who visited as a young girl. “It had a big wheel in the face, and I thought that was pretty neat.”
Logan recalled a new restaurant moving into the space in the mid-1940s. Rightmire’s notes show Starke sold the hotel, bar and an adjoining residence in 1945 to Alvina Hussman Kidman, who ran the Tarry Tavern.
The Tarry had called two other locations along Main Street home before settling at 1409 Main, a tendency Rightmire said was common for early businesses.
A 1945 R-C ad described the Tarry as a coffee shop and fountain with “subscriptions taken for all leading magazines and newspapers.”
Rightmire said the shop also stocked sheet music.
“The soda fountain was really neat,” she said. “When I was in school, I would save my lunch money and buy a sheet of music. You could get a bowl of soup for 35 cents, so I would get soup for lunch and save up my money that way.”
The Tarry lasted through 1955, closed for a year and then opened again.
Later occupants of the building, by Rightmire’s notes, were Johnny Ross’s Restaurant, a Schnitzel Haus, a Town House and The Academy Inn.
The current owners of the site say they’re not sure what they will do with it.