Long before there was a fictional Boston bar “where everybody knows your name,” Gardnerville was known for its Basque bars, food and drink, and hospitality. Not only did everybody know your name, they spoke your language, shared your hopes and dreams as newcomers to America, and knew your family back in Basque country.
Birth of Gardnerville, NV
Gardnerville was born into a mix of local economic downturn, marital discord and prescient thoughts of “what could be” in a dry, sagebrush covered flat. Lawrence Gilman was crazy like a fox! In the late 1870s the wagon traffic through Genoa had slowed precipitously from that of the early years. First there had been the rush to California through Mormon Station. Later many people and supplies had reversed the trek, returning to the Comstock or hauling supplies to Austin and Eureka from California. Gilman and his wife had seen fewer people in Genoa and fewer people staying in their Nevada Hotel.
Mr. Gilman’s idea was that Genoa was on a decline and that the center of the East Fork area of the valley would become the center of commercial transportation for the recently booming camp at Bodie and the more established camp at Aurora. His wife thought he had lost his mind and first sued him for divorce in 1879. They had been married since 1873. There was a short reconciliation but it was not to last. Gilman bought 7.5 acres of the dry, sagebrush land from John and Mary Gardner for what would become his new town of Gardnerville. He and his wife owned the Kent House, an abandoned and reputedly haunted hotel, which was midway between Genoa and Walley’s Hot Springs. The Kent House was moved to Gilman’s Gardnerville property and opened as the Gardnerville Hotel on April 26, 1881.
The Gilman’s divorce was finalized on July 22, 1881; Mrs. Gilman retained the Genoa properties and Lawrence was the owner of the newly minted Town of Gardnerville. In June of 1881, a post office was established. By 1883 Mr. Gilman had removed all his personal possessions from Genoa to the new town of Gardnerville. In 1885, he sold the hotel and an undivided half interest in the 7.5 acres to Peter Victor Lundergreen (Lundergrene). Lundergreen would move saloon from Millerville to what is now the site of JT Basque Bar & Dining Room. The new town now had food, drink and blacksmith services in addition to the hotel. It was an ideal place to stop on the new and substantially shorter route to Esmeralda. (Thanks to the Town of Gardnerville for this story).
Modern Day Gardnerville
Modern day Gardnerville embraces its history, while being the business center of Carson Valley. Enjoy charming hotels, world-class food, and a farm with the best black raspberries you’ll ever eat. Quaint Heritage Park Gardens features life sized chess and checkers games, a labyrinth, and every year the Christmas kickoff for the whole valley takes place there. There’s even a fishing pond nearby, stocked every summer.
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