175 Museum Ave. Winnemucca, Nevada
On the California Zephyr line, the eastbound train always catches Winnemucca in the golden hour. That light only adds to the romance of a small Western town that boasts of the Buckaroo Hall of Fame, the historic Basque Winnemucca Hotel and the Tri-County Fair and Stampede.
Across from Pioneer Park, off of Highway 95 is the Humboldt Museum. Named for the county, the museum has its main collection housed in a two-story brick building that also serves as the library and gift shop. While the main building is ripe with artifacts and information, the outbuildings possess a more embodied sense of place.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, the Greinstein Building and the Richardson-Saunders house were all relocated from their original properties to the museum campus. In this new “home,” the present gets layered onto the past. Every action or reaction adds to the patina until the building becomes thick with it. Hundreds of people have passed through the doorways of these buildings. Simple spaces become elevated to portals. While standing on this spot one experiences the history of a place woven into personal pasts.
Originally built in 1899 by W.A. Cumley, the Richardson-Saunders house was then sold in 1902 to a Cornish family, Albert E. and Annie Pearce Richardson. The house remained in the family for the next 102 years until it was donated and relocated to the grounds of the Humboldt Museum. Historically renovated and decorated in period furnishings, the house serves as a history of domestic spaces.
Inside the front entry of the house is a placard describing the efforts to replicate the original wallpaper. This process involved excavating samples from the walls, sending them to the Midwest to be patterned and hand-printed, then shipping the rolls back to Winnemucca to be installed. History repeats itself, so there is an irony in that the present resources have to be shipped in from elsewhere. While the wallpaper patterns are gorgeous on their own, the narrative of preservation and replication increases their richness. Even with all of that collected effort to preserve, there is a futility to it. Over time this new, remade wallpaper will suffer the same fate as its forbearer. It will age and fade.
In any house or home, generations stack memories on generations. Moving through the Richardson-Saunders house, there aren’t many barriers between visitor and owner. At any moment it feels as though you could adjust the lights or unthread the sewing machine. It’s all an arms length away with cupboards teasingly tipped open. The visitor becomes part of the scene, part of the home, and the house is codependent on that visitor. Without people moving through it, the house becomes just a staged scene. The illusion of actual domesticity is engaged once someone is there— a warm body in the room. It’s a live vignette where the experience of history is constantly moving to “just past” moment.