Architectural firm helping restore historic Carson building

The state-owned historic armory building in Carson City on Feb. 2, 2024.

The state-owned historic armory building in Carson City on Feb. 2, 2024. Photo by Scott Neuffer.

One can walk planks in the attic of the old armory building at 406 E. 2nd St., in Carson City. The wooden footpaths weave through huge, dark timbers of the roof structure. It’s an environment that would scare some away but not Jeff Frame and Hannah DeHaven of Frame Architecture. On Feb. 2, they took to the space like treasure hunters invigorated by the thrill of discovery.

What they were seeking is hard to explain. They were looking for physical artifacts — a chimney stack, framing for a vanished cupula — but also something intangible.

“It’s exciting to try to bring an old building back to life, to try to bring it back to its original life and give it a new presence,” Jeff Frame said before venturing into the attic. “Unfortunately, some of these old buildings kind of disappear on us.”

Neither Frame, owner of the firm, nor DeHaven, interior design director, own the building they were exploring. The state of Nevada does. The architectural duo is in the investigative phase of design, gathering information. Their goal is seismic reinforcement of the original masonry and historical restoration where possible. Actual construction — and the budget for construction — will be determined in the next legislative session, said Adrianna Benjamin, project manager for the Nevada Public Works Division.

“This is an advanced planning project,” said Benjamin. “Part of what Frame’s team will be doing is informing us, the state, of what that cost eventually is. We have kind of an earmarked budget, but it hasn’t been approved by the state Legislature. So, the state Legislature has just approved this advanced planning portion and then during the 2025 CIP (capital improvement plan), we’re going to put together the request for the construction.”

Benjamin’s best guess is construction will be over $1 million but less than $100 million, she said with a grin. Rising construction costs haven’t helped capital improvement projects the last few years.

“Typically, it’s approved by the Legislature in the summer, and then we get all of our contracts together moving forward, and by that following winter, winter 2026, that’s probably when construction is going to get underway,” Benjamin said.

She stressed the state does not want to destroy the building and will be consulting with the State Historic Preservation Office on the project.

The building’s history is fascinating to many. Michael Johnson, facility manager for the state’s buildings and grounds department, was in his office on the second floor when the Appeal toured the site. The building gets its moniker of “armory” due to its being the original Nevada National Guard Armory at the turn of the 20th century.

The armory building off East 2nd Street in Carson City circa 1890. (Photo courtesy of Nevada State Museum) 

“Prior to being built into the office space, it was a high bay structure with an elevated observation walkway around the perimeter and was primarily used for military drills,” Johnson wrote in a brief history.

He said the office areas were added in the 1940s before the Nevada National Guard relocated to facilities on Colorado Street in 1957.

“After which, the building was occupied by the Division of Buildings and Grounds and the Capitol Police,” he said. “The Capitol Police have since relocated to the State Capitol, and Buildings and Grounds now shares the building with the Department of Wildlife (game wardens) and the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.”

The state has an initial construction date for the building of 1900, but this is a later date than the historical record Frame and team are piecing together. The Nevada State Prison Preservation Society, which keeps track of structures built with sandstone from the prison quarry, dates the building to 1882.

“It doesn’t show up on the Sanborn insurance maps until 1907,” Frame said. “Which is odd. Maybe it just didn’t get mapped.”

Frame got his hands on a photo from the Nevada State Museum showing the building in 1890.

“When I saw that black and white photo, my eye went right to that,” he said of the original cupula on the roof. “And that’s not there. Where did that go?”

The mystery of the cupula and perhaps other mysteries will animate the Frame team as they continue their investigation and design throughout the year, preparing for the 2025 legislative session.

Frame Architecture is a medium-sized firm of nine employees, Frame said. The firm has projects in western and Southern Nevada and parts of California. It specializes in commercial properties, but something about historic buildings attracts the attention of staff.

“It’s a niche within — a passionate niche,” Frame said. “We try to get them whenever we can.”

Frame and DeHaven grew up in Carson City. Frame graduated from Carson High in 1983 and DeHaven in 2008. They said they were excited to work on the Bank Saloon (formerly Jack’s Bar) in downtown Carson, another challenging, historic property.

“We wrapped construction in 2020,” DeHaven said, adding, “The Carson projects are close to our heart.”

The Bank posed a similar challenge to that of the armory building: how to handle unreinforced masonry.

“Before everybody gets scared about it being unreinforced, the Roman Colosseum is unreinforced, and it’s been up a few years longer than this building has,” Frame said.

Steel or wooden framing can be used in the reinforcement process. As can types of concrete, Frame said.

“You can do what Hannah did over at the Bank Saloon,” he said. “There is actually a wood frame structure inside there. They drilled into the unreinforced stone, epoxied it in and basically tied it to the new wood frame structure. What happens is the stone effectively becomes like a veneer. It no longer takes any load.”

In the case of the armory, the building will be gutted from the inside to prepare for a new supporting framework. Frame suspects shotcrete will be used, a hose-applied concrete.

“We have just seen, historically, that’s where the budget falls,” he said. “It’s all about the budget, so that’s usually what’s the most budget-friendly solution.”

Frame said whatever the future structural system inside, passersby will see the native stone outside. And because mid-century additions on both sides of the building will be demolished, the original structure will stand on its own, gaining its “well-deserved presence.”

“The building is going to get restored back to its original splendor. It’s going to be the only thing that really occupies the block,” Frame said.

He added, “What excites me about doing historic buildings is actually what it does to just the urban fabric of the neighborhood.”

DeHaven described it as breathing new life into a place.

“We can just add nods to the building’s history throughout and maintain the integrity of the structure on the inside as well as the outside,” she said.

Benjamin said the state plans to add landscaping and make the property “park-like.” She wasn’t sure which department would occupy the building post-renovation.

“I do know it will be office space,” she said. “I think it will be a coveted space because of its proximity to the Capitol.”

Construction could be complete by 2027 — a long, meticulous process. But the alternative is letting the building deteriorate to the point of no return.

Frame pointed to the V&T Railroad engine shops in downtown Carson that were demolished in the 1990s.

“It was the worst thing this city ever allowed to happen,” he said.

He emphasized Carson City is historic.

“It’s all about history here,” he said. “We’ve got something. We’ve just got this really cool building that we get to work on.”

For information about Frame Architecture, visit


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