The Carson Valley has a rich historical heritage dating back to the 1850’s, when Genoa, formerly known as Mormon Station, was the first settlement, before Nevada was even a state! Nevada became a state on October 31, 1861, when it was formally separated from the Utah Territory. Today, the state still celebrates it’s statehood each year. The state celebrates Nevada Day on the last Friday of October, and banks, post offices, schools, and all other government offices are closed.
Nevada’s Humble Beginnings
Back in the 1850’s, the Carson Valley quickly became one of the favorite stopping places of immigrants in covered wagons and on horseback. Today, you can travel back in time by visiting any of the local historic sites, stopping at the many road markers in the area, or taking some of the local tours. If a self-guided tour is more your style, you can pick up a tour map at the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority.
In 1879, The Gardnerville Hotel, Blacksmith Shop and a Saloon were built along the new road running north and south, now known as US Highway 395. Here in the center of the hay and grain-producing community, Gardnerville was born. The town was named after John M. Gardner who homesteaded the area in 1861. Here are just a few highlights of Gardnerville:
- The Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center was built in 1915 as Douglas County’s High School. Today, it is a museum with exhibits related to our local history and to the heritage of our beloved Carson Valley. There is an art gallery, a gift shop, rest area with picnic tables, and public restrooms.
- Carson Valley Hospital (Logan Building) – The first hospital in our town was built in 1914 and is an elegant brick Victorian, courtesy of Dr. Hawkins. Later, it became a boarding house and private residence. Today, tenants report that a friendly ghost resides there.
H. F. Dangberg, founder of Dangberg Land and Livestock Company, established Minden in 1905 to provide terminal facilities for the Virginia & Truckee (V&T) Railroad. Minden is named after a German town near Dangberg’s birthplace.
- Douglas County Courthouse – The Nevada Legislature voted to move the County Seat to Minden in 1916, after a terrible fire ravaged Genoa, almost levelling everything in the town. The Courthouse was designed by F. J. DeLongechamps and built on a lot deeded from the Dangberg Land Company.
- Minden Inn – Currently the Douglas County offices, the building was designed by F.J. DeLongchamps in 1917.
- Minden Park – Built in 1906, the park became known as the “town square” for the first residential section of Minden. Today, it’s a gathering spot for many community events. Throughout the summer months, local businesses sponsor musical acts to come and perform at the Minden Park on Friday nights, where people of all ages gather for good food, music, and great times as the sun sets over the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Genoa, originally known as Mormon Station, was Nevada’s first settlement. John Reese came out west to establish a trading post and waystation for settlers moving westward as the word traveled that there were gold and silver in the hills! John Reese and his party were Mormons from Utah, hence the name, Mormon Station. The town was renamed “Genoa” in 1855 after Christopher Columbus’ birthplace.
The most significant event in Genoa’s history was the Great Fire of June 28, 1916. Two blocks of businesses and several homes burned to the ground after a fire broke out in the County Alms house and spread quickly through the town. The Courthouse was just a brick shell when the fire was extinguished. Although the County Commissioners approved rebuilding of the Courthouse, many of the businesses relocated to growing Minden and Gardnerville, which ultimately brought about the change of the County Seat in 1916.
- Genoa Courthouse Museum – The Courthouse Museum was built in 1865 and rebuilt in 1910. After the County Seat was moved to Minden in 1916, it became a school house. Today, it is a museum that reflects the rich history and heritage of the area.
- Mormon Station State Park – A replica of the original trading post and fort built in 1851 by John Reese. There are picnic tables and restrooms and is a wonderful place to go and learn more about Nevada’s Wild West roots.
- Genoa Bar – The Genoa Bar is Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor (aka Saloon) dating from the 1850’s. The Bar was built by J. K. Livingston. This bar is still open for business and you can still belly up and get a tall, cool drink today! Many a local resident has seen celebrities and other famous individuals enjoying the ambiance of the Genoa Bar over the years!