137-year-old home gets new life on the Comstock

Louie the Barber really was a barber.

During my annual Father's Day visit with my dad, he informed me that Louie the Barber was Bill Avansino's father, Louie.

Louie had a barber shop for a while on C Street and then in his B Street home. He was the barber for many on the Virginia City Muckers basketball team.

"But he wouldn't cut your hair on game day. Any other time, but not on game day."

My dad said he guessed Louie thought a haircut would make you lose.

Dad said he was "a great guy. A town character."

I don't know if it mattered or not -- the Muckers didn't turn out any state championship teams between 1953 and 1957 when my dad would have played for them. They fell somewhere along the line to Tonopah, Lander County, Moapa Valley or Fernley, who claimed state in those years respectively. The next time the Muckers took the trophy was in 1959.

My dad said he started school in Virginia City in the third grade.

Dad also saw Mr. Gallagher out walking the other day. Sure glad to hear he's doing better.

Fred and Karin Gladding are restoring the family's old home on North A Street in Virginia City. When he was a kid, my dad and his sisters lived next door.

Karin said Fred told her he fished catfish out of a big pond that was at the back of my dad's childhood home.

The Andreasen home was built in the 1860s. "The first deed says 1865, but that was either the land or the house," Karin said. "It was the Sierra Nevada Mining Co. house."

The home, about 1,700 square feet, is large for most 19th century homes. The Gladdings believe it was used as a mine office and as a home for the mine's manager.

After that a family named Livingston lived in the home, which was purchased more than 70 years ago by Alice Andreasen.

Alice was Fred Gladding's maternal grandmother. She, then her brother, Fritz, lived in the home until they died. Karin said Uncle Fritz died about 15 years ago.

"It's been pretty empty and forlorn since then," Karin said. "First we tried to sell it, then we decided to restore it."

Fritz Andreasen worked at the school when I was a kid. I say the school because, at the time, first through 12th grades were all housed in the same building where Virginia City Middle School is now. Fritz had the task of keeping the wooden floors and everything else polished up with all of us trying to undo him at every turn by dropping peanut butter and jelly and whatnot as we made our way through each school day.

According to Marion, Fred's mom, Alice purchased the home when she was about 19.

Work has been under way since the end of January to restore the home, one of Virginia City's oldest homes. It has survived fires, snowstorms, a bit of neglect for 137 years. "It's one of the original homes up here. One of the ones that hasn't been affected by fire," she said.

Karin said the house has taken a lot of work to restore because it didn't have a foundation and instead sat upon big redwood blocks.

The siding and the flooring are also made of redwood and are in "amazingly good shape" and will be kept. Karin said she has also spent time nearly everyday for three months working on restoring the ceiling medallions. She chipped away the old plaster, sanded and repainted them and they will be returned to the home along with some newly-electrified gas lights and furniture such as a marble-topped bureau and a desk that will be "coming home."

The Gladdings have saved the brick from the original chimneys and will be using it for the hearth and the fireproof backing for a free-standing fireplace.

So far they've found an old axe head and a bunch of square nails.

She said Fred has been at the job site every day and is doing the woodwork and the painting himself.

"He's pretty meticulous with that stuff. He's done a lot of painting over the years."

The Gladdings are now living in the Virginia City Highlands a few miles from town where they have room for horses and lots of peace and quiet.

Karin said moving into town will be a change. "It's going to be very different from out here."

And the new, old home will be very different from its former self. It will have indoor plumbing. Marion said there was a bathroom for bathing, but that the only toilet was plumbed into the sewer system, but sat on an outside porch.

When finished, the home will have two full bathrooms and three bedrooms.

For me it's always a treat to know one of the old homes has found new life. Too many times it seems they go by way of fire or the wrecking ball to make life easier. But life's not about being easy is it?


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