The Foreman-Roberts House . . . .
You may have spotted this cheerful yellow gem as you drive through Carson City. Dubbed the “Foreman-Roberts” home, it’s said to be the oldest surviving house in town! That’s bragging rights enough. But it’s also one of the few Gothic Revival-style structures in all of Nevada.
Surprisingly, the home wasn’t built in Carson City at all. Instead it was erected about 1863-64* in then-booming Washoe City by a surveyor named Solomon W. Foreman. Born in Ohio, Foreman had crossed the plains with his wife and four children during the Gold Rush era, landing initially in Grass Valley, California before moving on to Nevada. Solomon and his wife, Margaret, lived only briefly in their pretty new home before leaving Washoe City behind to move to San Francisco. The home was sold to businessmen H. Erlanger and L. Wertheimer in October, 1865.
Roughly two years later, the charming two-story home was sold again, and this time was acquired (July 1, 1867) by James Doane Roberts.
Born in Illinois, Roberts too had come west during the Gold Rush, settling in Nevada in 1857 and serving during the Pyramid Lake War of 1860. In Washoe City, Roberts ran the 50-room Lake House, a hotel/saloon on the north shore of Washoe Lake said to be the “finest inn” in town. He had married British-born Annie Griffin in 1864, tying the knot in nearby Virginia City.
As Washoe City’s fortunes began to ebb, Annie and James moved to Carson City in 1873. There, Roberts became co-owner of a saloon known as “Roberts & Corbett,” perched conveniently right across the street from the V&T Depot.
In November, 1874, the Roberts had their beautiful Victorian home moved from Washoe City to Carson City. Family history suggested the house was transported via the V&T Railroad, and some claim there are photos showing the home still on “skids” from its railroad journey. This would have been impossible, however, according to Nevada historian Guy Rocha, due to a railroad tunnel along the route. Instead the home may have been moved by wagon, he suggests, and might have been partially disassembled.
It wasn’t just the house that was moved; some large locust trees from the Roberts’ original homesite in Washoe City were moved as well in 1875, and replanted near the home in its new Carson City location.
The Roberts had nine children together, including a set of twins. Sadly, three died as infants and two as young children. But four of the children survived and grew up in the house in Carson City: Richard, Mary, Josephine, and Thurman. Annie was friends with “seer” Eilley Orrum Bowers. Son Richard Lee Roberts, too, developed a reputation as a clairvoyant.
Annie would live in the family home for a total of 50 years, until her death in 1927 at age 83. Thereafter, youngest son Thurman and his wife, Hattie, occupied the home. At his death, Thurman left the Foreman-Roberts house in his will to the “children of Nevada.”
Although the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, Carson City’s Public Works Dept. originally intended to raze the structure. Thankfully, local citizens rallied to save and restore it.
A reproduction Carriage House was added to the site in 2015. Bottles and other treasures found during excavation are on display inside, along with photos and a wonderful old map of Carson City.
Like to see the inside of this beautiful historic building for yourself? The Foreman-Roberts House is now home to the Carson City Historical Society. Check their website [cchistorical.org] for their hours, plus information on lectures and other events!
*Grateful thanks to Sue Ballew, President of the Carson City Historical Society, for her help with this story. For Guy Rocha’s detailed research about the history of the Foreman-Roberts house, correcting its construction date to 1863-64, see National Register revision no.8.