Nestled in the rugged landscapes of northern Nevada, Winnemucca stands as a historical gem, echoing the tales of yesteryears etched in its streets, buildings, and landmarks.
As we embark on a journey through this resilient town’s history, we’ll discover the tapestry of stories woven into its historic structures and sites.
Winnemucca’s rich history comes to life through its well-preserved landmarks, each echoing the vibrant narratives of the past. The imposing Humboldt County Courthouse, the time-traveling Humboldt Museum, the iconic Martin Hotel, the charming W. C. Record House, and the grand Winnemucca Main Post Office are but a few of the noteworthy sites to explore.
Meanwhile, the Winnemucca Grammar School and the Winnemucca State Bank & Trust Company each offer a glimpse into the town’s vibrant heritage.
Join us as we delve into the annals of Winnemucca’s past, exploring its historic buildings and sites that have withstood the test of time, bearing witness to the town’s captivating history.
A brief history of Winnemucca
Winnemucca, offers a rich tapestry of history and culture that unfolds against the backdrop of the Humboldt River. The town derives its name from Chief Winnemucca, a prominent figure among the Northern Paiute tribe who called this region home.
Translated, Winnemucca means “the giver.” Chief Winnemucca’s legacy endures through the remarkable efforts of his daughter, Sarah Winnemucca. She championed education and equitable treatment for the Paiute and Shoshone tribes, serving as an interpreter, scout, and messenger for the United States Army during the Bannock War of 1878.
Sarah’s profound influence extended to her role as the first Native American woman to publish an autobiography in 1883, a testament to her advocacy for indigenous rights and education.
Winnemucca’s history also intertwines with the remarkable development of the Central Pacific Railroad, which reached the town on September 16, 1868.
The town proudly bears the legacy of Basque immigrants who settled here. They left an indelible mark on Winnemucca, celebrated each year through the Basque Festival, a testament to their enduring influence.
The historical journey through Winnemucca reveals tales of outlaws, such as the notorious Butch Cassidy and his gang, who staged a daring robbery at the First National Bank in the year 1900.
The former brothel district, known as “The Line,” is a unique part of Winnemucca’s history. An exploration of this district uncovers intriguing facets of the town’s colorful past.
Winnemucca also boasted a vibrant Chinatown during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This thriving community played a crucial role in the development of the transcontinental Central Pacific Railroad and the town’s early growth.
Winnemucca’s population grew significantly by the early 20th century, with ore shipments and ranching driving its growth. Fires in 1891, 1905, and the late 1910s damaged parts of the town, but it was rebuilt.
In 1922, the Victory Highway, later US 40, boosted the local economy. The late 1970s brought a mining boom due to microscopic gold discoveries, and the completion of Interstate 80 further modernized the area.
Today, with over 7500 residents, Winnemucca remains a popular traveler’s stop. Many historic buildings still stand, though some were lost to more recent fires.
The Humboldt County Courthouse
The Humboldt County Courthouse, an architectural gem located in Winnemucca, Nevada, has a rich history and stands as a testament to classical design. Completed in 1921, it was meticulously crafted by the renowned architect Frederick J. De Longchamps.
This courthouse boasts a Classical Revival style, characterized by a grand pedimented portico with Corinthian columns. An entablature gracefully wraps around the entire structure, creating a sense of timeless elegance.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, this courthouse holds great significance for Winnemucca and Humboldt County. Its construction replaced the original courthouse, which was tragically destroyed by fire in 1874.
The building occupies a prominent site, facing east and occupying a central position between Winnemucca’s historic commercial areas. Externally, it features a harmonious combination of buff-colored brick and cream-colored terra cotta.
De Longchamps’ architectural prowess is on full display in the monumental pedimented portico adorned with Corinthian columns, medallions, and intricate details, which encircle the building.
Inside, visitors are treated to an exquisite Classically-inspired interior, showcasing finely proportioned public spaces, including a stunning U-shaped gallery supported by square, Classically-decorated structural columns.
The Humboldt Museum
Nestled near the heart of downtown Winnemucca, the Humboldt County Historical Museum has been a custodian of the region’s rich history since 1977, sharing Nevada’s storied past with visitors from near and far.
This museum isn’t just a repository of historical relics; it’s a time-traveling journey through the local heritage that has left an indelible mark on the state.
The museum’s offerings are as diverse as they are fascinating. From impressive exhibits on American Indian and Chinese heritage to a remarkable collection of prehistoric fossils, the Humboldt Museum showcases the tapestry of Nevada’s history.
One highlight is the machinery from the Humboldt Soda Works, a company with origins in Winnemucca that later became a part of 7UP’s history.
The museum itself is spread across four buildings, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Nevada’s past. The main collection resides in a modern, two-story brick building, while the historical structures adjacent to it extend the exhibition space.
These include the 1907 former Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church, the 1880s Greinstein Building, and the 1899 Richardson-Saunders House, each with its own unique history and architectural significance.
Visitors can explore a wide array of exhibits, from Ice Age remnants dating back 13,000 years to intricate beaded and quilled American Indian regalia, vintage automobiles, mementos from Winnemucca’s “Art Nouveau” era, the Roaring Twenties, and a captivating glimpse into early soda manufacturing.
The Martin Hotel
The Martin Hotel, a venerable establishment at 94 W. Railroad St. in Winnemucca, boasts a rich history and stands as a cherished relic listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This historic hotel building, once known as the Lafayette Hotel Annex and the Roman Tavern, holds immense historical significance. It served as a boardinghouse for Basque sheepherders who frequented the area, and it’s renowned for its delectable Basque cuisine, maintaining its culinary traditions even today.
Constructed in the Vernacular Commercial style, the Martin Hotel occupies a strategic location at the corner of Railroad and Melarkey Streets, directly opposite the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks and not far from the depot.
Its history involves several phases of construction and reconstruction. The building’s foundation and roof are made of stone and composition shingles, respectively. Notably, the building retains a high degree of integrity in terms of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association for its significant period from 1913 to 1953.
The Winnemucca Grammar School
The Winnemucca Grammar School, nestled at 522 Lay St. in Winnemucca, stands as an architectural gem with historical significance. Designed in the Prairie School style by architect Richard Watkins, this two-story brick structure was constructed during 1927–28.
Notably, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and retains a remarkable level of integrity.
This splendid school building plays a crucial role in representing Winnemucca’s rapid growth from 1915 through the 1920s. It also stands as a fine example of Prairie Style school architecture. Nestled within a residential neighborhood at the heart of Winnemucca, the school remains in use for lower grades, maintaining its architectural integrity and excellent condition.
Featuring symmetrical Prairie School design elements, such as white cast stone ornamentation, red brick walls, and a flat roof with shallow crenelations, the primary facade accentuates the horizontal aspect.
Inside, ornate interior finishes create an unexpectedly intricate atmosphere. Checkerboard corridor floors, granite-flecked face brick wainscoting, and embellished columns and piers showcase a blend of classical and botanically-inspired elements.
The Winnemucca Grammar School is not just an architectural masterpiece but also a repository of the city’s history, capturing a period of growth and educational significance in Winnemucca’s vibrant past.
The Winnemucca Main Post Office
The Winnemucca Main Post Office, a distinguished historical structure located at the intersection of 4th and Melarkey Streets in Winnemucca, stands as a testament to Classical Revival architecture.
Erected in 1921, this elegant edifice found its place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
This Federal building, though built from standardized architectural plans, is of immense historical importance, serving as the oldest Federal building in Nevada. While some earlier Federal buildings existed in the state, they were later replaced, leaving the Winnemucca Main Post Office with this distinctive honor.
Over the years, it underwent expansion and renovation, with one notable addition being a mural created as part of the New Deal arts program in the 1940s, making it one of only three post offices in the state to house such a significant artwork.
Today, this architectural gem, steeped in historical significance, serves as the Winnemucca City Hall, further emphasizing its central role in the community.
The building, with its symmetrical facade, a raised basement platform, and the enduring charm of the Classical Revival style, continues to stand as a symbol of the Federal government’s connection to the town and the nation’s dedication to small communities during periods of economic hardship.
The W. C. Record House
The W.C. Record House, also known as the Roberts House, stands as an architectural gem nestled at 146 W. 2nd Street in Winnemucca. This charming residence, with its vernacular Gothic Revival style, has a storied history that dates back to its construction in 1874. The house boasts a unique gingerbread vergeboard, adding an extra touch of elegance to its design.
Over the years, the W.C. Record House has undergone several modifications and expansions, reflecting the changing needs and growth of the town. In 1879, it received a two-story addition to the east, featuring a delightful bay window with colored glass insets and a Tuscan-style porch that graces the south side.
Between 1886 and 1899, additional enhancements were made, including the addition of shutters and a balconet on the south side. In the mid-20th century, the house was covered with vinyl siding, which has since been removed as part of ongoing restoration efforts.
The W.C. Record House is not just a testament to architectural ingenuity but also a tangible link to the formative years of Winnemucca. Its first owner, W.C. Record, played a vital role in the lumber and building industry, and his house contributed to the town’s growth and the development of residential areas like West Second Street.
The Winnemucca State Bank & Trust Company
The Winnemucca State Bank & Trust Company building, located at 138 S. Bridge Street in Winnemucca, stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and resilience.
Construction on this building began in 1912 under the guidance of the Reinhart Brothers. By 1913, the bank had opened its doors for business and quickly became a symbol of prosperity in the community.
However, the tumultuous era of the Great Depression marked a turning point for the bank. The economic collapse spelled the end of the Reinhart Empire, leaving investors with a mere 10 cents for every dollar they had entrusted.
In the years that followed, the building witnessed a diverse array of occupants, from the National Guard Engineering Corp to a theater, and later, the Elks lodge. The basement even played host to boxing matches, adding a vibrant chapter to the structure’s history.
In the late 1990s, the Phillips Family undertook a restoration project that peeled away a 60-year-old façade, unveiling one of Winnemucca’s most ornate building fronts.
Today, the former bank has found new life as a part of Phillips Furniture, among several other historic buildings that collectively narrate the enduring story of this resilient and ever-evolving community.