Ronni Hannaman is executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.
Today, developers have laid claim to almost every square inch of the 20 percent of the 144 square miles in Carson City not under governmental, church or nonprofit control.
And there’s not much land left in that small 20 percent either, thus there’s a flurry of activity as apartments, housing tracts and condominiums are being built on that bit of vacant land to keep up with the demand for all those who have discovered beautiful Eagle Valley.
Overall, Carson City is still affordable when considering the cost of housing in Reno and Douglas County. Plus, the community feel makes it attractive to those who don’t want to live in a big city or in a rural setting.
For developers, it’s always been about the “deal.” Even in the early 1850s, developers were looking for the best possible real estate opportunities. Carson City’s founder wanted to build a trading post in Genoa, but the cost of the land deterred him, thus he headed his horse north to gallop about 20 miles to what was already known as Eagle Valley.
He found what he wanted and, as they say, the rest is history.
The story begins in the year 1851 when Colonel John Reese established the first trading post in what was then the Utah Territory at what is today known as Mormon Station in Genoa.
About the same time, 20 miles north, John Hall also established a trading post and large ranch named Eagle Station off what is today Fifth Street in Carson City. He sold the post a few years later to John Mankins.
In 1858, Abe Curry, Carson’s most recognized founder, came with friends to the Eagle Valley to buy the huge tract of land from Mankins that was to become Carson City after his bid for $1,000 (today about $33,500) to buy property in Genoa was considered too low.
The $1,000 deal was made, and Mankins was paid $500 in coin and the remainder in mustangs, according to “Angels History of Nevada 1881.” As with all historical tales, there’s really more to the story.
If Curry were to try to purchase a house or land in Genoa today, he would find the property still out of his price range. In August, Redfin reported the Genoa median home listing price at $1.57 million, more than triple Carson’s listing at about $464,000, Thus, when one talks about “affordable,” it’s all relative.
Curry’s vision for a capital city paid off, although unlike many of today’s developers, he did not become a man of wealth. Whereas today’s developers deed space to the city for parks, Curry deeded 10 acres to be used to build a capitol on the very site it is today.
Over the many years, Genoa has evolved into a very small exclusive village of 659 souls, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, whereas Carson City has blossomed to over 56.500 (or over 58,500 if you include the prison population).
Carson City was always the center of trade for the region — that is until Reno was officially established in 1868 by Myron Lake who gave the Central Pacific Railroad the right-of-way through his newly established Reno that spurred the growth of this new city.
Even the Cartwright Family rode their horses from their Bonanza Ranch in Incline to do business in Carson. The Pony Express stopped here. The hotels were here. Silver coins were minted here.
There was an opera house, a racetrack, a brewery, hot springs, and later a bona-fide capitol building followed by prisons and all that comes with the establishment of a city. Even Mark Twain joined his brother here when Orion Clemens was the Secretary of the newly established Nevada Territory.
Carson City became the city where the history of Nevada was and continues to be made. But admittedly, we cannot claim the oldest bar in Nevada; that can only be found in Genoa, simply known as the Genoa Bar.
Being a state capital has had its ups and downs over the years. The city swells by 15,000 commuters a day during the week. And, since 80% of the land is not taxable, that leaves only 20% to pay all the property taxes. But those in charge of our consolidated municipality continue to make it happen and the city continues to grow and attract new businesses and residents.
As was published in the Nevada Appeal 150 years ago, “The hammer and saw is heard throughout Carson. Improvement is in the air. As a matter of fact Carson and Reno are thriving little towns and always will be.”
“Carson Conversation” is a monthly NNBW Voices column authored by Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce. Reach her for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.