Tour Around Nevada: Genoa
May – June 2016
Tiny town’s history is larger than life.
BY MEGG MUELLER
If you look up quaint in the dictionary, you just might find a photo of the town of Genoa. Tucked so perfectly into the spectacular Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada mountains, this picturesque town is exactly what you’d expect from what many say is Nevada’s oldest settlement. And while its name stems from the Italian city, locals would like to remind folks it’s pronounced “Juh-NO-ah.” Leave it to a tiny Nevada town to so unapologetically stand its ground, as it’s been doing since it first began.
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
In 1851, Nevada’s first permanent settlement sprung up in what was originally called Mormon Station by the Mormon traders who moved into the valley. Renamed after Christopher Columbus’ birthplace in 1855 by Judge Orson Hyde who felt the area had a similar look, Genoa claimed a number of other Nevada firsts: business, house, ranch, post office, lawsuit, bar, and newspaper—the Territorial Enterprise (read more about the TE on page 22).
The area’s lush terrain was better suited to farming and ranching than gold mining, and the combination served to make the region a powerful force in the state’s development. Genoa even served as the seat of Douglas County until 1916.
PEOPLE MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Today, there’s some confusion about the number of people who call Genoa home. If you consider just the historic district, there’s about 300 people. The 2010 census counts more than 900, yet conservative estimates of the surrounding area are as high as 3,000. Whatever the size, it’s the people who set Genoa apart from the crowd.
Philip Ritger has lived in Genoa about 10 years, and as the town manager, he’s involved in both the professional and personal side of the town. Professionally, Genoa is unique in that just 10 percent of its budget comes from tax-based revenue; the rest, Philip notes, is from selling the lure of the town. And that’s where the people who call Genoa home come into play.
“What we found when we got here is how genuine and friendly the residents and people in town really are,” Philip says.
The prevailing attitude is one of teamwork, and to that end Philip is quick to point out the town is supported by an enormous volunteer core.
“People pick an event or affiliation and they just go with their passion,” he says. “The volunteer services here support how we fund the roads, parks, and services they get. They understand that.” More than just the necessary services such as volunteer firefighters, people come out to support the town’s special events, which draw tourists and much-needed revenue to the town.
PROMOTING THE PAST
The annual Candy Dance originated in 1919 to raise funds for town streetlights. Today, the two-day event features concerts, dances, dinners, and of course candy. The largely volunteer-staffed event is a big portion of the town’s annual budget. A relative newcomer to the special event roster, the Genoa Cowboy Festival is growing each year and becoming a must-stop-event on the cowboy poetry circuit. While special events are popular, everyday in Genoa invites a visit for the history buff, consider the historic downtown district that received a refresh a few years ago—all utilities went underground and dirt paths were replaced by pavers. Here’s you’ll find the Genoa Bar—the state’s oldest thirst parlor, which has been around since 1853, and Mormon Station State Historic Park, which contains a replica of the original fort that burned down in 1910, along with a museum and other artifacts.
The town’s courthouse was built in 1865 and now houses the Courthouse Museum where you’ll find original oak furniture, exhibits that explore the Carson Valley’s early inhabitant, a Victorian parlor, blacksmith shop, jail, and a Pony Express room. While history is an expected treat of Genoa, no visit is complete without the exploration of the area’s pastoral beauty. Genoans have capitalized on their town’s pastoral perfection through the creation of a trail system with something for everyone. Serious adventurists can take the Genoa Loops trails that rise in the hills above the town for a serious altitude rush, complete with canyons and waterfalls. Those who want to stroll amid the scenic landscape can choose a trail along the Carson River, or walk out to the historic 1862 David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort and Spa on the Walley’s Vista Trail. The mineral baths at Walley’s are legendary for their healing properties, and the relaxation factor is a 10.
Despite its small size, there are delightful dining options such as the newly opened Pink House—originally built in 1855—or the Genoa Station Bar & Grill. The Genoa Lakes Golf Course offers duffers two championship courses to choose from, and if after a day of hikes, history, hot springs, and haute cuisine, you’re in need of a little hibernation, choose from the Genoa Country Inn, Genoa B&B, or the Wild Rose Inn for a perfect end to a Genoa adventure. If you require more proof that this small town is worthy of your attention, consider this: Genoa is one of the smallest towns to win the Tour Around Nevada vote and not only has it done it in both contests (2010 and 2016), but it also received almost as many votes from people who don’t live there as those that do. Genoa proves that the impression a town leaves can be equally as relevant as its size. Good things do come in small packages.
Town of Genoa
P.O. Box 14 Genoa, NV 89411
WORTH A CLICK