Sould the old creamery be saved?
In communities across Nevada, decisions are being made about whether to take down historic buildings or preserve them.
Carson Valley is no different as the community weighs the pros and cons of where to locate the new county complex.
The debate is drawing the attention of county and state historic experts who see Minden’s turn-of-the-century buildings as unique.
“Every community has its moments of truth, when the people who live there have to decide what course they’re going to take,” said state historic preservation officer Ron James.
“Are they going to keep their historic buildings or not? What of their past are they going to preserve with pride, and what is expendable?”
Douglas County officials are wrestling with the hard choices of where to go to consolidate their administrative offices. They’ve been talking about it for years.
Either choice impacts one or more historical buildings.
Currently, the 410 county employees are housed in various locations. Officials believe that combining employees from the leased Minden Inn and the county courthouse – approximately 125 people, according to county management analyst, Michael Brown – will ultimately save money and enable personnel to provide better service.
In a process that Douglas County manager Dan Holler said began months ago, county officials began looking at myriad sites that might be appropriate.
“We want to consolidate county (administrative) functions and in the process we think we’ll be able to provide better services without having to add more bodies in the future,” he said.
At the Aug. 14 county commission meeting, nearly two hours of discussion was dedicated to the question of where the new county offices should go.
Currently, approximately 55 of the county’s administrative employees are housed at the County Courthouse, which was designed by renowned Nevada architect, Frederick DeLongchamps and built in 1915.
The rest of county administrative personnel – approximately 70 people – occupy the Minden Inn, another DeLongchamps building, remodeled in 1992-93 by the county for approximately $1.8 million, according to county purchasing agent Norm Starrett. The bulk of that cost was paid by building owner, Steven R. Winters, who now leases it to the county for approximately $300,000 per year.
After what Holler said was much discussion and research, the options to consolidate came down to two: vacate the county courthouse and Minden Inn and accept an offer by Bently Nevada to tear down the Minden Butter Manufacturing Co. building and construct a big, new county complex, or stay in the courthouse and expand it.
Bently will be vacating the former creamery site and moving to new headquarters at the Bently Science Park on Buckeye Road.
For option two, the block directly north of the courthouse would be needed, which would involve displacing the two occupants there – the Coventry Cross Episcopal church and dentist Dr. David Lund’s historical house that was moved to its site from Silver Springs in 1910.
Both projects will cost the county between $6 and $7 million.
Some residents were surprised that tearing down the creamery building was an option. It was a matter of money, according to Ray Case of Bently Nevada,
“We are fighting the size issue. If the county wants to keep the facade, we can do it,” he said. “It is a real icon for the Valley, but tearing down and building from scratch is the most cost effective.”
County officials will continue to investigate the Bently site vs. the courthouse site. Holler said the county would like to have a decision by mid-October.
“To the extent that you can retain historical structures within the budget, we will try to do that,” Holler said.
Some have questioned how a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places could be torn down.
James said that if a building is on the national or state historic register, it is designed more as a planning tool to give local governments a device to preserve these non-renewable resources.
“It is not a law that prevents a private owner from tearing down a registered building,” he said.
Minden historian and author, Wynne Maule, spoke at the Aug. 14 county commission meeting in favor of the Bently site.
“The future of a town can always be as important as the past,” he said in an interview. “The creamery building is special to me, but my point is that it’s not the original building. The original building was a wooden structure.”
James said the building is still historically significant.
“A lot of historic sites are compromised, it’s a fact of existence,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they’re not worth saving, though. Everyone likes Minden-Gardnerville because of its homey feel. If you remove the architectural elements that are characteristic here, what have you got?”
The Carson Valley Historical Society has no plans or means to save every historic building that might be threatened with demolition.
“We’re not really equipped either organizationally or monetarily,” said museum curator Cecile Brown.
The society does, however, preserve artifacts, documents and photographs, she said, in addition to running the Genoa courthouse museum and the museum in the old high school.
“We are vitally interested in preserving the history of Carson Valley, but we are very limited on funds,” she said.
Society president Glenn Logan has a design idea for the courthouse.
“I think they could put a fourth story on the courthouse and have covered parking and not have to buy any more land,” he said.
Many Valley residents, especially those who remember the creamery as a part of their childhood, expressed their sadness at the possibility it could be torn down.
“It would be a real loss to the community if we lost that building,” said Genoa native, Shirley Giovacchini.
“I would feel very sad to see it go,” said Valley native Howard Godecke. “The creamery was a very, very important and significant piece of the very fiber of the growth and vigor of the development of the Carson Valley. Everything we did as a family was directly linked to either the creamery or the mill.”
Godecke said he was grateful to one local businessman for his efforts to keep historical buildings intact.
“As a native son, and one who’s life was interwoven with the creamery and the mill, I am grateful to Don Bently for his efforts o keep the historic relics,” he said.
In addition to the creamery building, Bently owns the mill and wool warehouse buildings, all standing.
State architectural historian Scott Brooksmiller said much of the history in Nevada is unique because a large number of first generation old building stock is still in place.
“All along Highway 395 – through Carson City as well as Minden-Gardnerville – old historic buildings are being threatened,” he said. “People don’t understand the treasures they have right in their own back yards. In Minden-Gardnerville, we have five very significant buildings, all designed by the quintessential Nevada architect, Frederick DeLongchamps. These are first-generation structures. We have the Minden Inn, the old wool warehouse, the First Bank of Carson Valley building, the county courthouse and the Minden Butter Company building.”
The national register is basically honorific, he said.
“It identifies a building as historically important or architecturally significant, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be torn down. To let the creamery go oh, I wish we could save it.”