Friday, April 12, 2024

Genoa: An Idyllic Town

Courthouse Museum in Genoa, Nev. © Glenn Franco Simmons.

by Glenn Franco Simmons

Genoa is an idyllic Nevada frontier town known for its stunning beauty that includes breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada and Carson Valley.

The charming community is also known for its historic legacy and vibrant community. Courthouse Museum is one of the hidden gems just a short distance away from the main highway.

It was a group of intrepid pioneers who, in 1851, founded Genoa, the state of Nevada’s first town.

One sign has "Court House Museum" and this sign has "Courthouse Museum."

Those settlers sought a fresh start in this verdant yet rugged valley. Genoa was once Douglas County’s county seat, partly because of the thriving commerce that it attracted.

While the types of commerce have evolved over nearly two centuries, Genoa remains a vibrant hub of locals and tourists alike. Just visit any day from spring through the first snowfall and you will find it busy with happy people.

Fourteen years after its founding, townspeople erected the original Douglas County courthouse in 1865.

It had to be “rebuilt after the 1910 fire that decimated the town…,” states a Wikipedia page on Genoa, Nev.

This is the other sign. Maybe it's my eyes.

“In 1916, the county seat was moved to Minden and the courthouse was sold to the Douglas County School District for just $15, then was transformed into an elementary school,” according to Wikipedia. “It served for 40 years as a school before it closed in 1956. In 1969 it was reopened as a museum by the Carson Valley Historical Society.”

Much has changed over the years, but I’m sure there are many still in the area and/or alive who remember being schooled in that grand old building.

It’s similar in size to the two-story (with bell steeple) Garfield Elementary School I attended for three years in the rural, forested valley of Freshwater, Calif.

A memorial plaque dedicated to a popular and talented Nevada artist.

That school was built in the 1880s out of old-growth redwood. In the 1970s, the state government mandated seismic standards that meant the destruction of many beautiful structures, many of which were masonry, brick, stucco, etc.

However, Garfield was constructed out of wood. Nevertheless, the state ordered it destroyed. Local construction crews found out that the old-growth lumber in it was sturdy as cement.

So sturdy, in fact, that the school district had to call in the National Guard’s heavy machinery then located in Cutten, Calif., to remove the huge and heavy redwood beams.

So, ever since my lovely wife Kathleen showed me the courthouse, I’ve wanted to photograph it. She grew up here and told me how lovely Genoa was, which we first visited together two decades ago.

Instead of grabbing my pro gear, I find for blog posts, my smartphone works as well as my old 35mm cameras I used at local community weeklies and dailies over my journalistic career.

There was some mining near Genoa, but most of local mining was in The Comstock.

I plan to go back in summer, when the trees have full foliage. On this March day, it was overcast, then sunny, then in-between on a spectacularly beautiful day.

If you travel to Genoa from Carson City, you can take Jacks Valley Road or the highway. I prefer the old road. It is slower, more scenic (closer to the high peaks and deeper into picturesque Jack’s Valley) and takes just about the same amount of time. Depending on traffic, the highway might actually take more time from where I am located.

While I have not yet gone inside the museum (it is closed in winter), I plan to.

“Today it is a museum with many displays that reflect the history and heritage of the area,” according to Wikipedia. 

I cite Wikipedia because finding information about the museum and its displays is not easy. 

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