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inside Springs Preserve

A Look At Nevada State Historical Markers

By Joan Whitely

railroad strike photo
Rebecca Palmer at the podium

The state agency responsible for the historical markers placed throughout Nevada currently has no funding to add more. But Rebecca Palmer, guest speaker at the Friends’ Oct. 17 meeting, expressed hope that the Nevada Dept. of Tourism will follow through on suggestions to make a phone app that allows users to identify markers in the close vicinity.

Palmer, an archaeologist, works for the State Historic Preservation Office in Carson City, the agency in charge of the historical markers. She provided an overview of the range of cultural assets that the 268 markers honor.

“We don’t do, ‘first this, first that,’” she said. The markers actually commemorate various natural resources as well as trading routes, one “modern” roadway from 1915, specific individuals, and specific groups of people. That’s in addition to various historical buildings that they've also marked.

The program began in 1964 when the state celebrated its first 100 years. Seventeen markers were allocated, one for each county. Today there are 268 markers.

railroad strike photo
This map from the website of the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office show the distribution of markers throughout Nevada.

The “youngest” structure to be honored with a marker is the Morelli House, a mid-century modern residence built in 1959 that used to belong to Antonio Morelli, a musical conductor at the Desert Inn. On a tour of the Las Vegas state museum before the Friends meeting, Palmer noticed that in one video that captures Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. performing on the Strip, Morella can be seen conducting in the background. The Junior League of Las Vegas is headquartered today at the former home.

“History doesn’t change. Historical facts don’t change. But our understanding of history does,” Palmer said. Her office corrects inaccuracies in the markers. It also strives for variety. Initially, for example, most of the markers in Southern Nevada were repetitive, designating spots along the Old Spanish Trail’s route across Clark County.

one marker on the state line
The southernmost marker is an iron column placed by A. von Schmidt who was surveying state boundaries. The column’s location is a bit off the present state line between Nevada nad California.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Palmer’s office adapts the signs, as needed. In one case, a marker in Virginia City denoted a building that housed the Boston Saloon, one of the few black-owned saloons in town. However, when it was decided that the building wall that bore the marker would instead have an ATM installed in that spot, Palmer's office, after much debate, decided to move the marker to a different spot within the Comstock Lode Historic District. They then expanded the text to cover the contributions of various black Americans during the area’s mining heyday in the 1870s.

Several markers have been “decommissioned,” or removed, due to vandalism or marker theft. One example is Gypsum Cave in Southern Nevada, whose marker was stolen five or six times before the state decided to no longer mark it. In addition to the theft problem, the limestone cave is in a remote location not conducive to visitors.

Most of the marker program’s tight budget goes to maintenance of the existing markers through funding from the state Department of Transportation, Palmer said. The present cost of making and installing a marker is more than $15,000 - most markers are located near highways and must be able to “break away” if hit by a car, to minimize injuries. The last several contractors have dropped out of the program due to the low profit.

1920s Las Vegas Photos Wanted

railroad strike photo
Railroad strike photo already on exhibit at the Nevada State Museum

KCLV Channel 2 is an award-winning government access channel that features original programming focused on the city of Las Vegas. They are searching for photos from the 1920s, especially of the Twin Lakes - Lorenzi Park resort, railroads, and the railroad strike. More information, including a video, is available here.

Speaker for Friends General Meeting on Nov. 21 has changed

Archaeologist Kevin Rafferty

Due to a family emergency, the speaker for the friends Nov. 21 general meeting has been changed. Archaeologist Kevin Rafferty, professor emeritus of CSN, will speak Nov. 21 about some of his work at sites in Southern Nevada, including the Valley of Fire.

Giving Tuesday

giving tuesday logo

Giving Tuesday is an international day of giving. Fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, Giving Tuesday inspires millions of people to give to causes and issues that matter to them. This year, Giving Tuesday is December 3. Donate to support Education Programs at the museum.

Check out our Giving Tuesday page and donate online!

2020 Friends of NSMLV Elections

stuff a truck items

Elections for the Friends of NSMLV Board of Directors will be held during our Thursday January 16, 2020 meeting at 6 pm. Jim Parish has been nominated for Secretary, and Joan Whitely has been nominated for President. We will vote on approvals for insurance, incorporation fees, and administrative fees. All Friends members who have paid their dues are eligible to vote.

Jim Parish volunteers with the Education Department at the museum. He leads field trips, serves as a gallery guide, and helps the Education Curator with a variety of activities. Before moving to Nevada, Jim was a Senior Docent at the Detroit Zoo. Jim is presently the Acting Secretary on our Board of Directors.

Joan Whitely is our current Vice President. She has served on the Friends Board of Directors since our creation in 2016. She volunteers in the Natural History Department at the museum. Joan leads outreach and fundraising events for the Friends.

The Best Laid Plans...

The panel discussion, "Nevada's Governing Principals," was cancelled for Oct. 26 because one of the participants developed a last-minute schedule conflict.

The Friends hope that we are only postponing the event as we begin plans to reschedule it for early 2020. Our goal for a rescheduled event is to involve all four former state governors who reside in Southern Nevada.

All events held at the museum and are free with paid admission or membership. No registration required unless otherwise noted. Friends general meetings are the 3rd Thurs. of month. The museum is at 309 S. Valley View Blvd., inside Springs Preserve, LV 89107
Sun Nov 17 1-3 pm Pinot’s Palette – Old World Snowman Paint it Forward! Join us at Pinot’s Palette on Sunday, Nov. 17, 1-3 p.m. for an afternoon of step-by-step group art lessons accompanied by wine. Doors open at 12:30 pm. This class suits beginning painters and experienced artists alike. Pinot’s Palette provides all equipment, materials needed to paint a wonderful holiday image titled "Old World … Friends event
Thu Nov 21 6-7 pm Friends General Meeting Archaeologist Kevin Rafferty, Professor Emeritus of the College of Southern NV speaks about his work at Southern NV sites. Friends event

To see the complete schedule for the year, please go to our Events page.

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