Decaying house to succumb to fire training exercise

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealA firefighter enters the abandoned house at 314 E. Telegraph St. during training on Thursday afternoon.

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealA firefighter enters the abandoned house at 314 E. Telegraph St. during training on Thursday afternoon.

Heaps of trash littered the floor of that old, boarded-up house on Stewart and Telegraph streets a few weeks ago.

Books on how to overthrow the government were stacked on top of old photographs, license plates and empty bottles of tequila. Condiments and rotted eggs still lined the refrigerator, likely festering for more than a year.

"This is pretty much what the whole house looked like," said Chris Pace, a firefighter and paramedic who was spending a weekday in March gutting the home, using a wheelbarrow to haul out the junk. "Just trashed."

That house on the eastern edge of the Carson Nugget parking lot used to be cleaner and had owners who cared for the property. Today, it's been largely forgotten, turned into a quirky landmark for the thousands of daily commuters on Stewart Street.

Its days are also numbered.

The Carson Nugget bought the house in July and donated it to the fire department to practice its search and rescue procedures. On Wednesday, the department is expected to set fire to the house at 314 E. Telegraph St., and then raze it to make way for the proposed City Center project behind the casino.

The hold-outs

For years the Carson Nugget tried to buy the property from Joseph Righi, but as long as he was alive that wasn't going to happen.

Righi, an Italian immigrant and World War I veteran who lived in the house with his wife, Virginia, for decades, had worked as a casino worker throughout the region before his death in 1985 at the age of 87.

"He wouldn't sell to the Nugget because he didn't like the Nugget," said Carson City Recorder Alan Glover, who got to know Righi when he'd pass the house while walking to the bank many years ago. "He didn't want much out of life, a new fishing pole. That's all he cared about in life."

Star Anderson, the general manager of the casino, said she's heard stories of the Adams family, the former owners of the Nugget, feuding with Righi over the years. He'd hold out for more money, but never got the offer he wanted.

"It became a tug of wills," she said.

The ownership of the house eventually changed after Virginia died in 1990. The Righis willed the house to their friends, Ted and Edna Workman, who run Workman Farms in Fallon.

Edna Workman, 73, said in a recent phone interview that she and her husband befriended the Righis in the 1970s when Joseph approached them about hunting on their rural property.

"He was a hunter," Workman said. "The doctor told him he had to hunt and fish to eat that stuff to keep him alive. Basically it was just to get him out of the house to do something."

The Workmans obliged. So as Joseph scoured their fields for birds to shoot, Edna would share cups of coffee with Virginia inside her Fallon home. Over the years their friendship grew.

"We invited them over for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner for years until he broke his hip and had to go to the old folks home," Workman said.

The Righis always had big dogs, usually overfed, and Virginia would make candy in one of the backrooms of their home. Joseph loved to make picon punch whenever company arrived.

"They were characters," Workman said.

She said she didn't know when the Righis came to Carson City, but said they may have been the original occupants of the home on Stewart and Telegraph streets. And despite the repeated attempts by the Carson Nugget to buy it, "He didn't sell out," she said.

In the years following Virginia's death, the Workmans lost contact with the house. They rented it out to two college students for five or so years after they promised to maintain the home in exchange for cheap rent.

Eventually, the uncle of one of those students wound up living in the home until he died about a year ago.

Workman said the man collected books and had many hobbies like photography. She said she never met him.

"He was into survival books," she said. After he died, "When we went in there, there were bottles and bottles and bottles of water. Filled, distilled water. In fact, he kept a 50 gallon drum of water. ... He was waiting for bad times."

In July, the Workmans finally did what the Righis could never bring themselves to do: They sold the house to the Nugget. The Mae B. Adams Trust and its sole trustee, Steve Neighbors, bought it for $76,230, according to city records.

Workman said it was just too much money to pass up on the decaying property.

"It's a a shame," she said of the home, "we often thought about getting a historic designation."

Before it became a home

The earliest mention of the property in Carson City's historical records is 1878, when an Augustus Cutts of A. Cutts & Co., opened a wood, coal and lime yard on the corner of Stewart and Telegraph streets, according to an analysis of Carson City records at the Nevada State Library and Archives (with the aid of former state archivist Guy Rocha).

Cutts opened the business with Eugene B. Cutts - presumably Augustus's older brother, according to census data - who had been working in Carson City as a blacksmith before Augustus Cutts moved to the capital after living in Empire. They wound up building a woodshed on the property, which may have been converted into the house that sits there today.

The property changed hands a couple more times and remained an industrial lot until somebody between 1907 and 1941 built the home.

In a few weeks, the house will be gone and the city will continue, likely untouched, by the departure of the decrepit house at 314 E. Telegraph St.

Ron James, the state historic preservation officer in Nevada, said the house was never listed on the National Register of Historic Places and likely had no significant historical value.

But that doesn't mean it should be forgotten, he said.


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