The Verdi History Preservation Society, Inc.
The Verdi History Preservation Society, Inc. consists of local residents concerned with the preservation of the history of Verdi and the surrounding area. In 2002, with the support of the Verdi Community Library, we started collecting photographs and artifacts that pertain to Verdi. We now have 85 scrapbooks that contain photos and histories of some of the families of early Verdi and we are working to collect more information.
We have opened the Verdi History Center at 740 Second Street in Verdi, NV and have several displays with artifacts and photographs. The Center is open to the public on the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 1:00 to 3:00 PM Appointments can also be made by contacting us at 1-775-345-0173 or by email at [email protected].
If you are interested in Verdi’s history or have information or photos to share, we can make copies and return the original to you. Items donated to the History Center will be preserved.
As we gather more information, we will be expanding our website, so please check back with us from time to time.
A Brief History of Verdi
Verdi came into existence in 1868, when the Central Pacific Railroad tracks reached its site ten miles west of the future town of Reno. Charles Crocker, of the railroad, pulled a slip of paper from a hat and read the name of Guiseppe Verdi, the famous Italian composer and so the town was named. It was quickly populated by people from the nearby lumber and teamster camp of Crystal Peak who deserted their town when it became apparent that the railroad was going to bypass them by nearly two miles.
Things changed with coming of the high iron. The Henness Pass road between Virginia City and California dried up, and the hundreds of people along the route who made part of their living catering to passersby and the voluminous freight traffic, dwindled away. the lumbering activities of Crystal Peak, which had hit a crescendo while the railhead was building down the Truckee canyon, passed across the river to Verdi, where sawmills, planning mills and shingle-mills began turning out the trainloads of lumber needed by the burgeoning city of Virginia City.
In addition to timber, Verdi a bit later became an important outlet for the ice industry, which thrived at the numerous ponds which were built along the railroad between Verdi and Truckee. Boca derived its first significance as part of the chain of ice centers in this area.
Although neither Verdi nor Crystal Peak ever had a newspaper–and this is the days when an entire printing plant would fit in the back of a spring wagon–the well-known newspaperman, John K. Lovejoy, settled here on a small farm after he had abandoned his newspaper career. He was the first Justice of the Peace for Crystal Peak and Verdi, and of such an eccentric temperament that the local Washoe City and later Reno papers were continually recounting his exploits.
The lumber industry, manned almost entirely by French-Canadians who had moved west through the lumber fields of Michigan and Wisconsin, was eventually built into a small empire by Oliver Lonkey and associates, who had the cream of the dense timber crop of the early Sierras to harvest. Other names such as Frandsen, Hamlin, Hunken, Katz, Meacham and Mortensen mingled with earlier settlers O’Neil, Bull and Pepper, Menke, Bates and Foulks. Of later prominence were the Christensens, Coes, O’Connors, Pownings, Jackmans and Swansons.
Although the lumber resources of the area were destined to wane with the cutting of the virgin forests, the nemesis of Verdi was fire. Three times in its history, the town was burned out. Each time the mills were rebuilt, but after the last fire in 1927, there was little future to lumbering that putting up another mill was an empty gesture and the structure wasn’t even boarded over. For a time it stood above the old mill pond like a gaunt skeleton of things past, equipped with inferior saws and cutting poor timber. Then it was gone.
In subsequent years. Verdi became something of a commuter town, most of its people working in Reno or for Reno-based activities, such as the power and telephone companies.