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These guys are a few bricks short of a full load

by Linda Hiller

This week seemed to ring with a theme of “out with the old and in with the bigger, better, newer stuff.”

First, there was the murder of the Mapes. You didn’t have to be someone who’d frequented the big old hotel-casino when you were young to appreciate her lines, majesty and significance.

My mother, born in California in 1913, raised in Iowa from around 1917 and living in Washington since the 1940s, always fondly recalls stories of Reno as she read about it in magazines.

“You couldn’t get a divorce so easy back then,” she says. “You had to come to Reno and live here for six months and then you could apply to get a divorce. Oh, it was an exciting place.”

She remembers Clark Gable and others coming here and, somehow, when she tells the story, you can sense her true affinity for the “Biggest Little City,” though her first time here was as a senior citizen.

The Mapes symbolized that era, so when I would go to Reno and see the Riverside and the Mapes, I’d think of Mom and of her WWII generation and their romance from afar with Reno.

Watching the implosion on Sunday morning from three angles was like watching a live execution. I don’t care how many times people bring up the fact that it was empty for 18 years and riddled with asbestos, blah, blah, blah – it was still a crime to destroy it forever and I am embarrassed for Reno and for us as Northern Nevadans because of it.

Every time some so-called “white knight” would sally forth with a plan for the Mapes, it was exciting. “Maybe this time …”

But those knights turned out to be frogs, and in the end, watching the Mapes go down is a chip on their hearts as it was for any of us who value history.

The bottom line is, even though those guys from who-knows-where didn’t manage to come up with a plan to save the ol’ girl, at least they stepped up to the plate.

The real batters, though, should have been the city of Reno. About a decade ago, they should have said, “OK, none of you big talkers is making any progress, so we’re stepping in. This building is on the National Register and no one has ever imploded a building on the National Register. Reno isn’t about to be the first. We aren’t trying to be Las Vegas, where they take down every last piece of (albeit short) history to erect some contrived new, shiny replica of something their gambling customers might want to approximate for a weekend.”

The Mapes wasn’t a replica, she was the real deal and Reno blew it so big, I can’t believe it.

Let this be a lessons to us here in the Carson Valley. So far, we have a pretty darn good track record of holding onto history.

Don Bently had the foresight to remodel the Minden Wool Warehouse in a way that made it functional on the inside and historically relevant on the outside. Bently Nevada also used the Minden Creamery building so it doesn’t deprive onlookers of a glance into history – to the day when that brick building was the heart of this community. Every time I drive by there, I imagine wagons full of eggs and big containers of fresh milk out front, waiting to be unloaded.

Lots of businesses in Minden and Gardnerville – the county’s Minden Inn, the Logan Building (old hospital), Nevada Gourmet (old bank), the JT … (thankfully) too many to mention them all -have stepped up to the plate here. But one building official for the county reports that a new trend in residential housing is to bulldoze existing houses to replace them with new, shiny modern homes, so we’d better watch out.

We need to be vigilant in protecting our visual history, and this includes open space.

I’m not saying new is bad, but as evidenced by the feeding-frenzy opening of the beautiful, new Home Depot this week juxtaposed against the backdrop of the death of the Mapes, it behooves us to remember that today’s newer, better, shinier deal is tomorrow’s implosion, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

With cookie-cutter corporate chain stores spreading from community to community, it’s becoming hard to tell one town from another anymore and, believe me, Las Vegas is exciting for about two days, but the shallowness, the forced ambience of the Venetian, the New York, New York and even the Paris goes only skin deep.

Places like the Mapes, the Dunes, Sands, the Minden Creamery or a pasture full of cattle and eagles, they go to your soul.

n Linda Hiller is a part-time staff writer for the R-C.