I t is fitting that the first home built in Minden was for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad station agent, since the town was founded as a railroad destination in 1906. For one little boy who grew up in that house, life was a happy dream.
“We moved there when I was 41⁄2 years old because my dad, Walter, who’d been a freight agent in Carson City, accepted the position as station master,” said Hap Fisher, who still lives in Carson Valley. “For me, life there was fabulous, because the railroad always went past my front door.”
Built in 1906, this was a “typical station master house,” Fisher said, with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and pantry, living room, and porches in front and back. But it was the surroundings that made this first Minden home unique.
“Sometimes, we had three trains a day come in, and since it was the end of the line, I would often get to ride the engine around when they were switching,” Fisher said. “Also, at that time, the depot was the communication center of the whole area ” we didn’t have any outside newspapers, no daily publications, until the railroad brought them ” so it was a very important hub of the town. Everyone came there.”
When the railroad business ended in1950 and everything was up for sale, Fisher said, the house he grew up in was purchased, moved, and now resides in Gardnerville off Circle Drive.
In Minden resident Wynne Maule’s book, “Minden, Nevada: The Story of a Unique Town 1906-1992,” there is a photo of this first house and 29 other homes, in chronological order, that were built between 1906 and 1920.
Maule himself lives in the 16th home, at the corner of Sixth Street and Esmeralda Avenue. It is, he says, the only home on the list that extended all the way to Seventh Street, with several very large rocks in it for their two goats to romp around and climb
“I would talk to them and pet them when they trusted me enough to come to the edge of the fence, so my walk to grammar school a little over a block away was almost always a pleasant one,” Maule said
Across the park from Maule’s home, another Dangberg, William, who was H.F. Dangberg’s brother and sometimes called the unofficial “mayor of Minden,” built the third house in Minden, at 1610 Mono Avenue. Built in 1907, it is still a charmer with a delightful front porch and strong neoclassic rowhouse elements.
And perhaps just so there could be a Dangberg on all sides of the park, Clarence Oliver Dangberg, the youngest son of H.F. Dangberg, built a concrete block home at 1609 Esmeralda in 1910. Like many of these homes that have seen nearly a century, it, too has been remodeled, but of all the houses, this is the most unrecognizable from its original “vernacular with neoclassic rowhouse elements” architecture, as described in “The Architectural Heritage of Carson Valley,” published by the Douglas County Planning Commission in 1981.
In spite of remodels, one only has to stroll the streets around Minden Park, where most of the 30 original homes were clustered, to imagine what life was like there 100 years ago. In a state that has one of the nation’s fastest growing populations for the last few decades, finding places that haven’t completely morphed architecturally is something of a miracle, according to Ron James, Nevada’s state historic preservation officer.
“The thing I’ve always thought about Minden ” and Gardnerville, too ” is that it shows the effect of a stable agricultural environment on a community,” he said. “Most of Nevada’s population has been volatile, and in many ways the architecture reflects it, but the consistency and solid nature of this community is a nice example of how architecture reflects history.”
Part of the history of the times is still reflected in the deeds to many of these homes, granted by the H.F. Dangberg Land & Livestock Co. almost a century ago. There is a clause forbidding the manufacture or sale of “intoxicating liquors” from those residences, a throwback to the Temperance movement, perhaps?
So, if Wynne or Patsy Maule ever offer to sell you a beer in their home, well, let the buyer beware.