The Pink House: A Trip Through Carson Valley’s Past
The Pink House’s story plays out like a Western drama, providing a wealth of insight into the life and times of the early Carson Valley. One of the oldest surviving buildings in Nevada, and a place that has seen its share of history, Genoa’s Pink House has been a must-see for anyone traveling through Carson Valley since before Nevada became a state.
Built in 1855 at the west end of Genoa by Col. John Reese, the house was originally painted white and followed the Gothic Revival architectural style that was popular during the 19th Century. Inspired by medieval design, the complex and irregular shapes commonly used in the Gothic Revival style fit well into the natural landscape of the Eastern Sierra and rural character of Genoa. The steep pitch of the roof, another staple of Gothic Revival, helped to cut-down on the weight of snow during heavy winter storms.
The house’s original construction took place at the same time the town’s name was changed from Mormon Station to Genoa. Also in 1855, the government of the Utah Territory, which included present-day Nevada, sent a delegation from Salt Lake City to establish a more formal government. Reese’s house became a town hall of sorts, hosting meetings and many long days that ultimately shaped the Nevada State Constitution. Meetings there established Genoa as the county seat of Carson County. The house remained an important meeting spot for locals throughout the rest of the 1850’s.
In 1870, the house was bought by local merchant J.R. Johnson. Johnson bought the house with the intent of bringing his family from Utah to live with him. He made several changes, including painting it pink (a fashionable color of the time), and moving the house from its position on the west end of town next to the old grist mill to its present location, closer to the center of town. Moving it was no easy task, as the house was pulled by oxen through the streets with wooden rollers and planks. Johnson lived in the Pink House quietly with his family until 1883. During that time he was a popular Genoa resident, holding the offices of country treasurer, assessor, and public guardian.
In 1883, another prominent Genoan, Daniel Webster Virgin purchased the house. He had come to Genoa 20 years earlier to practice law and became the first district attorney of Douglas County. He later became a district judge at the Douglas County Courthouse in Genoa. His wife, Mary, came from the large and distinguished Raycraft family that owned a hotel, livery, and stage lines.
The Virgin family brought the Pink House into its heyday. They added a wraparound porch with white columns and railings, taking care to stay true to the house’s Gothic Revival Architecture. The day Judge Virgin died, the town flag flew at half-mast to honor the distinguished Genoan.
Another famous owner, Lillian Virgin Finnegan, went on to become one of Genoa’s most revered citizens. Lillian lived in the house from the age of three until she got married, and moved back in after her husband passed away. She was active in town and school affairs and is credited with starting The Candy Dance, a celebration that is Genoa’s largest annual event to this day. Lillian Finnegan died in 1938, marking the end of 54 years of her family owning The Pink House.
The house was immediately bought in 1939 by Percy and Agnes Train. The story is they were passing through town one day and bought it on a whim. The Virgin’s possessions were still in the house along with many of the furnishings and décor dating back to the 1870’s.
Today The Pink House is owned by Lois Wray, and it beams with the same rugged pride that is characteristic of Carson Valley’s earliest pioneers. In 2014, with help from the Douglas County Historical Society and the State Historical Preservation Office, Lois began the important task of restoring The Pink House to its original Gothic Revival form. In restoring the house, great effort was made to follow the Department of the Interior standards to retain the Registered Historic Site status. Careful attention has been taken to maintain the integrity of the building. During the 2015 restoration of The Pink House, the original unique roof pattern was discovered. The pattern you now see on the roof is a replica of the original.
The Pink House offers a fine selection of artisan products, including cheese, charcuterie, beer, wine, whiskey, and specialty coffee. They also feature a menu of sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, and other light fare.
If you ask the locals about The Pink House, they will probably mention the skilled French Chef, Yves Gidot. Yves has worked in the culinary world nearly all of his life, starting in his native Belgium at 14 years old. He may be best known as the long-time chef at La Ferme, a former fine-dining French restaurant in Genoa. He‘s now back in Genoa at The Pink House to open up a world of culinary wonder.
Enjoy an evening with cheesemonger Casey Sebahar as he cracks open an 80-pound wheel of parmigiano reggiano sharing samples and pairing it with the perfect wine. Or stop by for Friday Fondue during the winter. No matter when or why you visit The Pink House, you are sure to realize that the house is anything but ordinary.
See why The Pink House definitely makes the list on our Top 15 Places to Eat and Drink in Carson Valley.
Want to learn more about Genoa and its unique history? Head over to the Town of Genoa website.