A trip back in time …
New Year’s Eve, bright lights, noise makers and lots of music, as revelers say a goodbye to the old and welcome the new. At Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor, Genoa Bar, a novel twist has been introduced – instead of lights and jukebox generated jive, the power will be unplugged from this aged establishment and returned to its roots, giving patrons an illusion of an illustrious past.
From the day the doors opened for the first time in 1853, before the Civil War, before Lincoln was president, 11 years before Nevada would achieve statehood, Al Livingston, the first proprietor, offered comfort to those who came through the doors. Known as Livingston’s Exchange, the solid brick and wood structure remained under that title until 1884, when it was sold to Frank Fettic, an employee of Livingston, and renamed Fettic’s Exchange. Fettic declared it a “gentleman’s saloon,” where patrons were treated to fine spirits and good cigars. No excessive drinking was allowed.
Genoa Bar has celebrated the turn of a century twice and the list of past owners has faded into the past for the most part. In 1963, it was purchased by Bob and Betty Carver and remained in their ownership until they retired in 2000, selling the famous bar to Willy and Cindy Webb, Shawn Hall and Roxanne Schade.
Owners have come and gone but, changes to the bar have been minimal through the years. The top of the bar is original from the front door to about halfway down where you’ll see a line is visible where the addition was made. The medallions in the ceiling above the lights are original as is the one red oil lamp which is always lit on New Year’s Eve. The electric lamps were also original to the bar, but were converted to electricity at the turn of the century. The massive diamond dust mirror behind the bar was shipped around the horn to San Francisco from Glasgow, Scotland and brought to Genoa over the Sierra by freight wagon. Originally there were two mirrors, but one was sold to a movie company in the 1930s. A flashlight shining on the reflective surface reveals the diamond dust used to make the mirror. The existing mirror has only been removed from the establishment three times in its history, the last time in 1910 during the Genoa Fire, which destroyed most of the town.
A trap door in the middle of the floor, now obscured by a pool table, leads down to the cold storage cellar. Ice, packed in burlap and straw, was transported down from two small lakes high in the mountains above Genoa Bar and placed in the cellar to keep things cold. It is rumored that there were other uses for the cellar, drunks were thrown down there to “sleep things off,” dancing girls would come out of there at night and the local children were taught that alligators and monsters live down there, according to Willy Webb.
The famous and infamous have entered the 8-foot-tall, half-glass paned, narrow front doors, entering a room with a high ceiling, tarnished with years of smoke, dust and a collection of cobwebs that have been left for decoration to attest to the room’s antiquity. Mark Twain was a patron when, as a young reporter, he worked for the Territorial Enterprise, which began in Genoa before moving to Virginia City. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt paid a visit and all Nevada’s governors have come through the doors. A high-stakes poker game with local cattle baron’s was played in front of the wood stove with Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. Musicians found a safe haven at the Genoa Bar while entertaining in the casinos of Stateline. It was not unusual to see the Charlie Daniels tour bus parked in front of the bar on its way out of town. Willie and Waylon and the boys, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Slim Pickens, John Denver, Captain and Tennille, all have made the bar a regular place to hang out with a certain amount of anonymity.
The bar has achieved a certain amount of notoriety as a movie set for movies like John Wayne’s last movie, “The Shootist,” Walter Matthau was there during filming of “Charley Varrick,” and the owner, Bob Carver made his movie debut as the bartender in that movie. Other movies included “Honky Tonk Man,” with Clint Eastwood, “Misery” with Kathy Bates and James Caan and recently “Till the River Runs Dry” with Ann-Margret. Raquel Welch donated her bra, which still hangs on the antlers of a trophy deer head on the wall, but not without requesting that similar donations made by others be removed.
The owners are inviting everyone to welcome in the new year with a stop at the Genoa Bar. Step back 152 years in a place unchanged by time. Feel the warmth of the wood stove, the glow of the oil lamps, the sounds of trumpeter Ray James playing starting at 9 p.m. and a champagne toast at midnight.
Interesting stories, photos and memories about this historical building are sought by the owners of Genoa Bar. To share stories or for more information about the New Year’s Eve event, call 782-3870.
Genoa Bar is located at 2282 Main St., Genoa.