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Historical personages on parade

by Nancy Hamlett

The 20th anniversary of the grand opening of the Genoa Courthouse Museum on May 15 marks a special occasion for all Carson Valley residents.

“The celebration is a tribute to the pioneers who formed the historical society and had the foresight to renovate the Genoa courthouse into a museum,” said Carson Valley Historical Society President Marlena Hellwinkel. “But it also is a good time for us to learn more about our past.”

The birthday celebration will be on Friday, May 15, from 6 to 8 p.m.with several “historical characters” available to answer your questions about their history.

“The authenticity of the costumes will breathe life into the displays at the museum,” said Cecile Brown, curator for the historical society that operates both the Genoa Courthouse Museum and the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center. “Also special to this event will be the unveiling of a photo retrospection documenting the history of the Genoa Courthouse Museum.”

The historical society’s scrapbooks will also be on display during the anniversary celebration. Compiled since the formation of the society in 1961, they have been maintained by society historian Eloise Kettenburg.

“When I first began as historian for the society, I was handed one scrapbook half full and a generous handful of clippings,” Kettenburg said. “There are now seven scrapbooks detailing the historical society and the development of the Genoa Courthouse Museum.”

The building started life in 1865 as the courthouse for Douglas County when Genoa was the county seat. A fire severely destroyed most of the building in 1910, but it was reconstructed using the original blueprints. However, the county seat moved to Minden in 1916, necessitating further remodeling to the building, as it served as a schoolhouse until 1956. It seemed as though the old building had outlived its usefulness until the Carson Valley Historical Society began a quest to transform the courthouse into a museum in 1967.

After the historical society first acquired the lease of the courthouse in 1969, various sections of the museum were open to the public during restoration. However, it wasn’t until 1978, after the second floor courtroom received the finishing touches, that the Genoa Courthouse Museum held its grand opening.

The museum is normally open during the summer months from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from May until October. Brown hopes that many Carson Valley residents will take advantage of the special evening hours of the anniversary celebration.

“The museum is constantly changing,” said Brown. “The exhibits are never static, they are constantly updated to introduce different aspects of our unique history. Visitors will be treated to a new facet about life in historical Carson Valley every time they come in.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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