Fourth Ward School gets funding infusion from cultural commission
The Nevada Commission For Cultural Affairs scored preservation work at Virginia City’s Fourth Ward School as the state’s top priority.
Mark Preiss, director of the Fourth Ward School, said the recent allocation of historic preservation funding will mean the school will receive $264,000 to shore up the foundation of the school’s east wall, restore the roof’s eaves-system and get a new roof.
“We were first in the state,” said Preiss. “It’s pretty cool for little Virginia City to be playing with the big boys.”
Though the school’s score of 95 points was the highest out of the 31 project requests, Artspace Projects Inc., for the Riverside Hotel in Reno, received $6,000 more in funding.
In his plea to the six-member commission Preiss said “this national treasure stands now proud, but crippled. With your support, the dreams of those who built it, those thousands of children who attended school in it, hauled coal up its four flights of stairs and sat in its desks, can be protected and celebrated as we move forward into the next Millennium.”
Preiss said the roof has been repaired several times in the past few years, yet covers have been placed over hundreds of original desks, furniture and books stored on the fourth floor as the rain and snow continues to damage the building.
Preiss said he will be looking for a $1.2 million grant from the Save America’s Treasure’s program through the U.S. Department of the Interior and will use the funds from the cultural affairs commission as part of the required match money.
If successful in obtaining the Save America’s Treasure’s grant Preiss plans to use the money to seal the exterior of the building, paint the south and east walls, restore all 82 of the building’s windows and possibly insulate the building.
“We have to scaffold the whole building to do the roof,” he said. “As long as I’m paying to get the scaffold up I might as well do the rest of the work.”
State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James, who acts as staff for the cultural commission, said the commission did a very good job of divvying up its $2 million in annual funding.
Last year, $170,874 was allotted the school. In the past several years, more than $800,000 has been spent preserving the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A proposal by Gov. Kenny Guinn is asking the 1999 Legislature to allow the commission to spend the nearly $500,000 of interest earned on its account. The funding allocations were made including the spending of the interest.
If the bill does not pass, the school’s allocation will not be reduced, said James.
The Fourth Ward School was designed to honor the nation’s centennial birthday and was given to the state in celebration of the centennial year, said Preiss.
“It was called the Centennial Building,” he said. “According to the Territorial Enterprise it was built ‘as a monument to free education.'”
Preiss said that since the interior department’s project is geared toward the millennium he thinks it would be fitting to support the Centennial Building.
“Besides it’s a school house,” he said. “And it’s beautiful.”
Preiss is working with Milford Wayne Donaldson, a preservation architect, to develop a preliminary plan to show them how to use the building at the same time it is preserved.
“The Fourth Ward School displays one of the highest degrees of architectural integrity for a school,” said Donaldson. “The building has been captured in time and reflects a unique collection of artifacts and objects integral to the building. These types of resources are extremely scarce and rarely exist.
“The condition of the Fourth Ward School would be similar to finding an 1890s automobile locked in someone’s garage for 100 years that maintains its original paint, seats, tires and other elements. These finds are rare or practically impossible. The rare qualities of finding a resource so intact produce the feelings conveyed by the sense of time and place of the Fourth Ward School as associated with events and the people of the Comstock.”
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