Then and Now: Museum features 125 years of Gardnerville history |

Then and Now: Museum features 125 years of Gardnerville history

by Karel Ancona-Henry, Staff Writer

Thanks to big hearts, dedication, hard work from volunteers and donations from area businesses, the community will be treated to a comprehensive look back at Gardnerville’s past.

The exhibit opens Monday, following the town’s birthday celebration at Heritage Park which begins at 4 p.m.

The exhibit provides visitors with a look inside a general store, a school room, an old-style beauty parlor, a hotel and saloon.

A display of town churches includes artifacts from the United Methodists and the baptismal font from the old Lutheran Church.

Historic excerpts from the newspaper, old photos and documents tell Gardnerville’s story. And no category goes unaddressed. Everything from ball teams and local parades to organizations and disasters that shaped the community are recognized.

“People were really helpful in supplying us with old photographs and papers as well as old items,” said Irene Marshall, committee chair.

Many of the antiques came from the private collection of Laurie Hickey, lifelong Valley resident and historian. The old styling items were donated for the display by Shear Heaven and Jane’s Beauty salon.

Marshall made copies of articles, photos and papers which were mounted on foam core for the displays.

One vignette reads “In 1909, L. Springmeyer found some very disturbing things while making a plat map of the township of Gardnerville. Some of the lots east of Main Street overlapped each other. Boundaries were to be established and lots were to be resurveyed. Original properties boundaries were variously described as ‘the west side of a vegetable garden,’ ‘a pool of water’ and ‘a ditch running parallel to the country road.'”

“This was how Gardnerville was sold,” said lifelong Valley resident and historian, Laurie Hickey.

A map with a timeline and photos will correlate with a book that is being compiled by Cecile Brown and Billie Jean Rightmire.

Originally, John and Mary Gardner, natives of England and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owned the ranch which is now the town.

Eventually, Leander Ezell purchased everything east of what is now Highway 395 and the Gilman and VanSickle families purchased land to the west of the road. About a year later, Gilman sold his land to the VanSickles.

Gardnerville did not have a formal government in place until Jan. 6, 1934. Before that, the fire department ran the town.

Learn how the J.T. got its name and learn the story of the hats while you’re there:

“Will Hellwinkel, a regular at the J.T., forgot his hat one too many times. Seems Jean Lekumberry warned Will that the next time he forgot it, it would be stuck to the ceiling. Well, Will forgot, the hat got stuck and now there are at last 100 hats on the ceiling. (P.S. Jean never wore a hat!)

Refreshments featuring cheese-based recipes will be featured during the reception in honor of Carson Valley’s dairy history, according to Mary Jane Harding.

The museum display explores another one of the Valley’s most famous products:

“Illegal booze was a popular Carson Valley product during the Prohibition period of 1920 to 1933. The Carson Valley was one of the most flagrant bootlegging areas in the country. Every canyon had a still. Quite a lot was shipped to Carson City because it couldn’t all be consumed here!”

This comprehensive overview is presented with all seriousness and a sense of humor that would be found in daily living. It puts a face on the people and families that shaped the community.

“Schools are already asking about touring the display while they’re teaching town history,” marshall said.

The committee included, in addition to Marshall and Hickey, Ellen Caywood, Betty Cordes, Shirley Jones, E-Ann Logan, Lois Thran and Leola Anderson-Tucker.

Each of the women brought their unique talents to creating the display and have come out of pocket with a good portion of the funding needed to create the display.

She also acknowledged the great help the committee received from various sources.

Gardnerville Town Hall, for instance has been “denuded” lending an array of framed photos and old newspapers for the birthday display.

Thanks also go to Robert Oxoby AIA and staff; Sharon Mistack and Kathy Wines, architectural interns; Francesca Krane, professional display and set designer; Douglas County Building Industry Association and Carole Thompson, executive director; Hickey Homes and Development (Dan Hickey); Meeks Lumber and J&S Carpet for material donations; to bud Brown and the late Glenn and E-Ann Logan, and to Robin’s Frame House.

The Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395, Gardnerville, is open Tuesday Ð Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (775) 782-2555.