Historic Nenzel Mansion sold | RecordCourier.com
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Historic Nenzel Mansion sold

by Linda Hiller

From the spacious front porch of the Nenzel Mansion, you can almost hear the “clip-clop” of horses pulling wagons past this home, as they did when it was built in 1910.

“A. Jensen will erect palatial residence,” reported the Feb. 4, 1910 issue of The Record-Courier. Jensen was president of the Arendt Jensen Company and founder of the Douglas County Farmers Bank.

“The palatial residence of Mr. Jensen will occupy the center of a 5-acre tract of land in the southern portion of town and will surpass any private residence (in) Carson and vie with the best in Reno,” the article said. “The residence will be two stories and built on the colonial style of architecture. The interior will be finished in hard wood and modern in every respect. The building will be steam heated throughout.”

The grounds of the house were to be “parked and planted to lawn,” and a fountain in front was proposed.

“In most instances where men acquire great wealth in small villages, the desire also grows within them to forsake their country life and join the social whirl in some large city,” the article said. “Such is not the case with Mr. Jensen and family, however, and the announcement of their intentions to build a magnificent new home here truly signifies that the little town in which they became so successful is still good enough for them and that the fruits of their labor can better be enjoyed here than any other place on earth.”

In that same Feb. 4, 1910 newspaper, Halley’s Comet was forecast to arrive May 18 and advertisements included “blacksmithing and wagon work,” “cream separators,” for dairies and the Wm. Kruse Livery Stable offered “first class rigs, horses fed and cared for at very reasonable rates.”

– A privilege to live here. Standing on the front porch at 1431 Ezell St., where Arendt Jensen must have stood many times, current owner Chris Nenzel reflects on the privilege of owning a house such as this for the past nine years.

“We’ll never have another house like this – we couldn’t afford it,” he said. “I know that someday after we’ve been away for a while we’ll come to look at it and say, ‘Can you believe we lived there?'”

Chris and Virginia Nenzel bought the home, already established as a bed and breakfast, in 1990 from Bob and Emma Reid, who’d run the business for approximately five years, Nenzel said.

After what could be described as a roller coaster stewardship of this 8,000 square-foot historic home, the Nenzels have sold it, and will be turning the (buggy) reins over to a family from Mountain View Calif., Dave and Peggy Canderle, in June. Maybe it will become the Canderle Mansion, maybe not. Historically, residents of this impressive home have named it in honor of their ownership.

– Historically significant. Arendt Jensen was a prominent Carson Valley banker and merchant at the time. In addition to opening the Douglas County Farmer’s Bank in 1902, he owned the General Mercantile, where NAPA Auto Parts is located now, at the corner of Highway 395 and Eddy Street. From there, Jensen could have walked the few blocks home to Ezell Street, one imagines.

During the dwelling’s 89 years, the Arendt Jensen House has been a private home, a boarding house, a proposed boys home through the dreams of Father Ryan of the Catholic Church, a home for female schoolteachers (like the old hospital, now the Glenn Logan building, down the street), abandoned, and most recently, a bed and breakfast.

The late 19th and 20th century colonial revival-style dwelling and its garage has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989.

At the time, the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service and the Nevada Historic Preservation Office deemed the home as an “architecturally significant dwel-ling, locally important for the quality of its design.” It was identified as one of Gardnerville’s “most outstanding buildings” in a comprehensive architectural study conducted by the Douglas County Planning Commission in 1981.

n Fighting the fight. The Nenzels are continuing to operate the mansion as a bed and breakfast establishment. Their decision to sell actually came four years ago, during some heated zoning clashes with neighbors and county officials.

For 2-1/2 years beginning in 1993, the Nenzels were involved in a fight to keep their home solvent and successfully in business. They had been operating the bed and breakfast and supplementing this business with what Nenzel said is standard operating procedure among most B&B’s – hosting weddings and seminars.

“The neighbors complained of traffic and noise problems, and suddenly we were told we couldn’t do what we’d been doing,” he said.

The Nenzels met with neighbors and proposed plans to alleviate their concerns and complaints, Nenzel said, but still the fight continued.

After years of “brutal” county commission meetings and what sometimes sank to personal attacks, the final ruling was to continue to allow the B&B operation, but to limit wedding parties to 25 people, Nenzel said, which, in a building that could easily handle 200 guests, seemed “small,” at best.

It is not this bitter fight – which cost the Nenzels an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in legal and miscellaneous fees – which made them decide to sell.

“We are just ready for a break,” said Nenzel, 60. “We want to travel and spend time with our grandchildren, Michelle and Trevor. We’ll stay in the Valley, though.”

Michelle attends JVES, where her Grampa served his last year with the Douglas County School District. He continues to stay involved in the school system, substitute teaching these days. Virginia works at Bently Nevada in the risk management department.

n The delightful side. Meeting people from all over the world has been one of the highlights of owning and operating a bed and breakfast, Nenzel said.

“It’s been a delight to meet the guests we’ve had – people from Germany, England, France, Japan, Australia – all over the world,” he said.

Chris has been the chief breakfast cook, and he looks right at home in the mansion’s large kitchen as he describes getting up at 5 a.m. every morning to make coffee and then have a big breakfast on the table by 9 a.m.

“I have about four successful menus that I repeat,” he said. “I have an egg dish – savory eggs – that I make and I also do Dutch babies with fruit, Belgian waffles and a french toast that I soak overnight, and I also do bacon and eggs and biscuits. I’ve never missed a 9 o’clock breakfast. Sometimes, when we don’t have guests in the house, I’ll just get up and call everyone on the phone and tell them to come for breakfast.”

The Nenzels have two children who live in town, Joe, 32, in Jacks Valley and Valerie, 30, who works for Douglas County Animal Control. Son Franz, 36, is a high school teacher in Reno and the oldest son, Mike, died 14 years ago of cancer at the age of 27.

– Friendly ghost? The special use permit for the bed and breakfast will transfer with the new owners, Nenzel said. Realtors handling the transaction, M. Scott Properties, indicated that the new owners will not immediately be running the home as a B&B.

“It is a very time- consuming endeavor,” Nenzel said. “Virginia and I haven’t had a vacation in eight years. We’ll enjoy the break.”

In addition to stories from a recent Jensen reunion held at the house – where stories of the old days once again echoed in the huge rooms of the old house – Nenzel has additional information for the new owners when they take over this piece of Carson Valley history in six months.

“From time to time, we’ve all smelled the essence of lavender in the house,” he said. “One evening, Virginia , Valerie and I were all in the great room watching television, when we all – at the same time – turned our heads to smell the strong scent of lavender.

“‘What was that?’ we all said to each other. It has happened a few times, and it was always a friendly feeling,” Nenzel said.

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