Knowing Nevada: Preserving the history of Nevada's prospecting roots
For decades, people from all over the Nevada territory would come to enjoy hot summer days at this regional park in Washoe Valley. Not only was this a park for swimming, fishing, and picnicking, it was home to one of the major silver-rush proprietors of the Comstock Era.
So, let us go back to the beginnings of Nevada when prospectors from all over the state were travelling out west to invest in silver, gold, and a mining lifestyle. There was a man by the name of Lemuel "Sandy" Bowers who traveled on his freight wagon in search of a more 'lavish' life. Once Sandy reached the gold hills of Virginia City, he began to dig and, boy,...did he dig. He actually struck silver in one of his first mine claims right around the time the state became ratified. Soon, every man with a pickax was begging to work in Sandy's mine claims across the foothills of the Nevada territory.
Many remember the stories of some of the Comstock Lode millionaires moving closer to the shores of California after they struck it big in the depths of the Earth. Yet, Sandy chose to make his money here and spend it here. During his time, he met his wife, Eilley, who was originally from Scotland and worked in the boarding houses on gold hill. They soon married and this was right around the time that Sandy purchased new land in late 1800's.
On this land, he built the Bowers Mansion.
The Bowers Mansion is one of the few remaining mansions that were built from mine claim investments. The large mansion housed Sandy and Eilley and their adopted daughter, Persia. This property was the kind of spending that the Bowers wanted to do. They bought fine furnishings, golden door knobs, and rare artifacts during the post civil war era. The family chose to not sit in their mansion on the hillside and look down on others who traveled across the valley north of Carson City. Since Eilley held her expertise in boarding houses, she would invite locals to enjoy the recreational space around the mansion. This included large picnics where thousands would turn out for days of enjoying food, music, and swimming.
Unfortunately, Sandy bowers passed on and his wife Eilley did shortly after. Soon, the Bowers mansion sat empty with the park area remaining vacant until a new owner took over the property and opened up the recreation area in the early 1940's. We saw a brief glimmer of light for the park. Picnics and swimming were once again back in transmission. As the years moved on, that owner soon passed on and it was left without an operator to maintain the grounds and preserve the old mansion. Washoe County and a local women's historical society stepped in the late 1970's to help preserve the property, as well as the mansion itself.
Once this purchased was finalized. It was time to begin to refurbish the house. Locals and travelers from all over donated pieces of furniture from the original Bowers Mansion, and some other antique novelty items to make the mansion feel like a home once again. Not to mention, the county then opened the park year round for recreation and seasonally for swimming in the pools.
You may not pass on the old 395 highway that often, but if you get a chance, tours for the mansion are open on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day until Nevada Day weekend.