Jails and jumbled Republicans
By LINDA JONES
The three city halls in "Gambling Gulch" are Victorian" treasures, each delightful and picturesque. Despite their combined age of 398 years, they remain cherished beauties. One claims the title of "oldest public building in Colorado."
The smallest and simplest is the Nevadaville City Hall Firehouse / Jail. Nevadaville was settled one mile above Central City by A.D. Gambell and Sam Link in June, 1859, just a few weeks after Gregory's momentous gold strike two miles down the gulch. The town's peak population was over 1,000. The original settlement was called Nevada when it was officially established on January 12, 1861, in Kansas Territory, but the post office mandated a change to Bald Mountain in 1869, and Bald Mountain it was to the U.S. Postal Service until the post office closed in 1921. The residents, however, simply began calling it Nevadaville, making it one of the few towns in the country to have a different post office name than official name. (The town's cemetery, however, has always been called Bald Mountain Cemetery).
In Timberline Tailings, Muriel Sibell Wolle includes her sketch of city hall topped by a bell tower to summon the volunteer firemen. The little wooden building is actually three stories high, with one floor under street level in front, but at ground level in the rear. The lowest floor houses two jail cells and originally had a door at the back for admitting prisoners. The street level floor contained the hand-drawn hose cart, with storage under the stairs for uniforms and equipment. The courtroom was on the top floor. To reach the lowest level from inside, it's necessary to use a wooden fold-down ladder. The stairs to the top floor are well worn, with many stories to tell. The present owners of the Nevadaville City Hall, Dorothy and Tom Lehre, are invaluable sources of information on its history. They think a house was built on the lot by its original owner, Truman Whitcomb, about 1872, and it became the city hall when his heirs sold the property in 1883 to the city. Lot 33 is listed for the first time in the 20th century on the 1937 tax rolls, now owned by a private citizen. When the Lehres acquired the property in 1994, Dorothy says, "Newspaper used as insulation under the floors had dates from the 1800's, but was too powdery to save."