Heidi Swank of the Nevada Preservation Foundation in Las Vegas made the announcement recently.
She said the National Trust for Historic Preservation has an Emergency and Intervention Funding program. “It is up to $5,000 if there is something that is very pressing and really can’t wait.”
She said applying for the grant is not complicated. “It’s a really short application process, so after I was at the commission meeting in mid-November, I had time later in the week. So I just wrote it up quickly and after about two weeks was notified the full amount had been awarded.”
A local group of people, headed by Louis Benezet of Pioche, along with Richard and Elizabeth Sidford and Michelle and Ron Orr, are interested in preserving the old hotel, built in 1895, and contacted the Nevada Preservation Foundation.
The grant, Swank said, “is to hire a structural engineer to come here and develop a plan for putting in a retaining wall in the rear of the building which is being collapsed by the hillside behind it, as well as addressing the structural issues that have come out of putting a French door on one (east) side of the building that is now causing some sagging. It was put in on a load-bearing wall, but was not reinforced and is starting to sag.” There are structural concerns on the interior as well.
She said she has noticed the condition of the old hotel on numerous times when visiting Pioche. “We have been kind of monitoring it for some time and when the county took it over earlier this spring, and a local group contacted us, then we felt we could make some movement to help. There are definitely funds out there for this kind of preservation.”
Back in 2006, the commission board decided to have the building torn down, but did not act on the idea. Even earlier this year, the current board declared the building “a liability and an eyesore. Unfixable, and likely to fall down on someone if they entered inside.”
Swank said that what is required “is to start with having the building stabilized, fix the hole in the roof, board up the windows, all of which will buy some time for further decisions to be made. Have them take a look at the building and see what is needed to make the building more stable for the time being and remove a lot of the stuff in it.”
She recommend contacting a southern California structural engineering company, Mel Green and Associates. “Mel Green has done a lot of work for us on other projects over the years and has a soft spot for Pioche also, and may even come himself rather than a staff member.”
The grant funds will probably be sent to the commission board early in January.
Looking ahead, Swank said, “The county might be thinking about what the building could be. Doing a historic preservation project does not necessarily mean the building has to return to what it once was and be used for the same thing. That actually rarely happens. It’s a good time now for the county to figure out how to use the building for the community needs and the surrounding area. It doesn’t have to be a hotel. It could be used as apartments for low-income people, maybe a community center, office spaces, etc. It’s a big building. There’s a lot of things it could be as the project moves forward. Buildings, even historic ones, need to work for the community they are in. What does it need to be?”
County Planning and Building Director Cory Lytle said, “What we need to be doing also is finding a group, a legal entity, to manage the grant funds, and funds for other future improvements. We want to ease into it and start coming up with a few solutions.”