Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Elko's Sherman Station: Clever Historic Adaptive Reuse

When you visit Elko’s Chamber of Commerce, you can’t help but think that a stagecoach just might pull up at any moment. That’s because the chamber is housed in a 100-plus-year-old former stagecoach stop known as Sherman Station.

Completing the image is the fact the two-story structure, which sits in a shaded park near the center of Elko, is made of two-foot-thick bristlecone pine logs.

In 1997, the station and four other wooden structures were relocated to Elko from a Huntington Valley ranch about 60 miles south. The five buildings, which were restored to their original condition, are part of a visitor center and historic complex now open to the public.

Inside the main station building, visitors can view a re-creation of an early 1900s parlor, which contains original artifacts and antiques that belonged to the Walther family, the station’s original owners.

Additionally, the 4,800 square-foot log ranch house has a meeting room and events center as well as a gift shop and chamber offices.

Adjacent to the house is the restored log stable, which once housed stagecoach teams, and is now leased to a company offering horse-drawn carriage rides of Elko.

Other historic wooden buildings on the premises include the Blacksmith Shop (now a specialty shop selling leather goods and other crafts), the Creamery (now a cowboy wear shop), and the Schoolhouse (now a museum).

Sherman Station traces its beginnings to the early 20th century, when rancher Valentine Walther erected the log house on his property on Sherman Creek in Huntington Valley.

Walther and his wife, Sophie, had homesteaded 600 acres in about 1875. According to the Elko Chamber’s information, the Walthers lived in two covered wagons during their first few years in the valley before building a small log cabin.

Somehow the two managed to raise 12 children in the cabin (eight girls and four boys). In 1895, Sophie was killed in a carriage accident.

Shortly after her death, Valentine Walther and a friend, Nick Scott, began construction of the two-story log house. Apparently, it took three years to cut and haul the dense bristlecone pine logs from the Ruby Mountains, another three years to trim and shape them and a year to assemble the logs into a house.

Finished in 1903, the ranch house also served as a post office (called Sherman) as well as a stagecoach stop (on the line heading south to the mining town of Hamilton) and community center.
At the time of its construction, it was considered the largest log house in the state.

For many years, Walther operated what was considered one of the best orchards in the state, raising cherries, plums, apricots and apples. Several of his original trees still stand on the former site of the station.

The Walthers owned the ranch and log buildings until about the 1920s—family members still live in the Elko area. Several later owners lived in the big house until the 1970s, when it ceased to be used.

In 1995, Peter and Kathy Scheidemann donated the historic structures to the Elko Chamber, which was able to obtain grants to pay for moving them to Elko. The restored buildings opened in 1999.

Sherman Station is located on the corner of 14th and Idaho streets in Elko. It is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to www.elkonevada.com.