Strolling Winnemucca's streets reveals town's rich history

Many Nevada communities have discovered that visitors love to hear their stories. Tourists enjoy learning about a town's history and folklore because it helps to make the community come alive.

One of the most popular ways that towns are telling their stories is with historical walking and driving tours that guide visitors through neighborhoods, pointing out commercial buildings, public structures and houses of historical significance.

Among the Nevada communities that have produced an historical walking tour guide is the central Nevada town of Winnemucca, located 180 miles northeast of Carson City.

"Take A Walk Through History," is the title of an informative walking tour guide brochure available for free from the Winnemucca Convention & Visitors Authority (call 800-962-2638 to receive a copy).

The two-color brochure offers a brief history of the community, which started out as a trading post on the Humboldt River in the early 1860s. In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad helped establish a settlement there, which was named Winnemucca in honor of a local Paiute leader.

A well-designed map depicts the streets of downtown Winnemucca and traces a one-and-a-half to two-hour walking tour of the community's most historic treasures.

The tour begins at George Nixon's First National Bank (352 Bridge St.), which was the site of Winnemucca's most famous bank robbery. It's generally believed that in September 1900, members of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch gang robbed the bank - although the crime was never solved.

Other downtown structures on the tour include:

- The Turin Brown Mercantile (355 Bridge St.), which was built in 1898 by the Brown family and served as the town's first hardware and home furnishing store. It has been restored in recent years and remains in use as a business.

- Humboldt County Courthouse (5th and Bridge St.), erected in 1921. The classical, pillared hall of justice was designed by noted Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps.

- Winnemucca Fire House (5th and Bridge St.), which was completed in 1935. This sleek, streamlined structure - it has a very 1930s look - remains in use as the town's fire house.

- Winnemucca Hotel (95 Bridge St.), which was erected in 1863 by Louis and Theopile Lay and Frank Baud. The hotel is the oldest structure in Winnemucca and is still in operation as a Basque hotel and restaurant.

- St. Paul's Catholic Church (4th and Melarkey St.), constructed in 1924. This fabulous church boasts Old Spanish mission style architecture with Romanesque features.

From the commercial district, the walking tour heads into neighborhoods filled with historic homes. For instance, the Legarza Home (451 W. 2nd St.) was originally owned by local banker George Nixon (later a U.S. Senator from Nevada). Nixon sold the house in 1908 to prominent local sheep ranchers Juan and Florenzia Legarza, after whom it is named.

Nearby is the magnificent Reinhart Home (343 W. 2nd St.), which was constructed in 1909 for Simon Reinhart, part owner of the Winnemucca Bank and Trust Company. Built in a Greek Revival style, the house was one of the most impressive and expensive houses erected in the town at the time it was completed.

Across the street from the Reinhart Home is the two-story, bungalow-style Turin Brown Home (322 W. 2nd St.), which was constructed in 1913 by the owner of the town mercantile.

The W.C. Record Home (146 W. 2nd St.), which the brochure describes as having been built in the "Victorian, vernacular gothic revival-style," was erected in 1874 and is one of Winnemucca's oldest houses. Listed on the national register of historic places, the two-story house has largely retained its original appearance and is used by a commercial business today.

Around the corner from the Record Home is the Gables Guest House (124 Lay St.), which was completed in 1903 and originally used as a sanitarium. It served as the town's main surgical hospital until the community opened its own hospital in 1908. Apparently, sometime during the next decade it was converted into an apartment house, which it remains today.

A few doors down is the Schmidt Home (82 Lay St.), a solid redbrick house built in 1911 by the Schmidt family, which operated a boarding house on Bridge Street. A fire destroyed the house's second floor in 1969 but it was rebuilt as a one-story structure and today is home of a graphic arts studio.

Richard Moreno is the author of The Backyard Traveler and The Backyard Traveler Returns, which are available at local bookstores.


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