Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 142 – Incline’s Historical Exhibit

Americans have been accused, rightly or wrongly, of lacking a sense of history. I don't know if this is true or not – I grew up in the "leatherstocking country" of upstate New York, surrounded by the history of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, in a town that had preserved a "stop" on the underground railway of the Civil War era, so it never seemed so to me, nor did I have that sense when I lived in the Boston area, but the Northeast is a hotbed of historical sites.

When I moved to California, I still found history around me – the missions, the gold rush, the San Francisco earthquake were all part of what I learned about as a new "left coaster." Still, I guess a case can be made that we don't carry the reverence for history that I've seen in Rome or Athens or Paris or London.

In Nevada, and particularly here in Incline Village\Crystal Bay we have a much shorter history (if you don't count the first nations who were here long before Europeans came). We have the Donner Party story nearby, and we have Squaw Valley and the Olympics, but the real history of IV\CB starts with logging in the 19th Century, and really kicks off with the formation of the Crystal Bay Development Company in the 1960's and the sale by the CBDC of the development to Boise Cascade in 1968, a scant 40 years ago – yesterday by European standards. That 40 years of history isn't much, but it's ours, and a diminishing number of residents have been here for all of it. Some of those pioneers and other present and former residents have been trying for some years to preserve and document that history.

Around 2007 a community project was formed to do just that and to find a permanent location for an exhibit of the history of Incline Village and Crystal Bay. A lot of people have worked on that project including Chuck Greene (son of Bonanza's Lorne Greene), Joe Bourdeau, Andria Daley, Michelle Schmitter and long-time residents Manny Sylvester and Georgia McGregor. In 2008 a site was secured in the upper part of the Village Center, adjacent to McGregor's Century 21 Real Estate offices (full disclosure: my wife, Emy, is a real estate agent in Georgia's office), and in August, 2008 the exhibit opened. Appropriately enough, the space where the exhibit is located is the original office of the Crystal Bay Development Company and later the Boise Cascade developers. In fact, one part of the exhibit, behind a Plexiglas barrier, was the vault in that office. The exhibits include photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, the original dinner table from the Bonanza TV series, and a wonderful model train-type recreation of the original Incline flume and logging operation.

Now, given the vagaries of Incline real estate and particularly office rentals, we are in danger of losing this wonderful and unique exhibit. Unless something happens, and soon, the exhibit will lose its space and, right now, there is nowhere for it to go. I don't know what the plans are for the space, or even if there are any, but I do know that unless help comes from somewhere it will no longer be available for the exhibit, and the exhibit will need to find other space or be mothballed. I don't know about you, but I believe that would be a real loss to the community. It costs us nothing, it is educational, and it preserves our community's history. I don't know what you can do to help, but I'll bet you do. Art Hoff, the owner of the Village Center is a business man – I don't fault him for making a business decision, whatever its basis. I do hope that it might be possible to work out an arrangement to have the exhibit stay in this perfect space – donations toward rent would surely help. Failing that, maybe you know a space that could be used for it or you can help in some other way.

I may regret saying this, but I really don't think there are two sides to this one – there is only the good that will come from keeping and developing the historical exhibit and the loss that will come from its demise. See if you can help.

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