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ELKO -- Cowboy artists from around the world have long been fascinated with the work of legendary saddlemaker and silversmith G.S. Garcia.

Now, 111 years after it was constructed, visitors will be able to step into history and see his workshop in the newly restored building that is the new home of the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, which will also feature cowboy arts and culture.

The grand opening of the museum is set for 2-4 p.m. Feb. 2 at 542 Commercial St.

Hosted by NV Energy, the reception will offer drinks, appetizers and refreshments.

Built about 1907 for the Garcia Harness and Saddle Shop, the building was remodeled to house offices for the Elko-Lamoille Power Co. and, later, NV Energy until 2016.

Work began in 2017 to restore and repurpose the building to become a museum in partnership with the NV Energy Foundation.

“It was restored to look like it did in 1907, right down to the pressed tin brick façade,” said Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum director Jan Petersen.

Inside, visitors will get a feel of what Garcia’s shop looked like more than a century ago, replicated from photographs, said Sue Wright, one of the gear museum’s board members.

“Eventually, we’ll have a display of a saddle in the progress stages,” Wright said.

Garcia bits and spurs will also be displayed in the original cases that J.M. Capriola bought when the shop closed in 1938.

People will also see the model horse Garcia used when he crafted his gold-medal saddle and a Garcia saddle on loan from the Northeastern Nevada Museum.

For the 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a small Basque exhibit will celebrate this year’s festival theme, Petersen said.

Petersen explained that the opening of the museum in G.S. Garcia’s old shop was a dream she shared with Paula and Doug Wright, former owners of J.M. Capriola Co., and something they talked about frequently.

“We fantasized about having it in the original building, but NV Energy was fully ensconced in it at the time,” Petersen said.

“I think this building was something Paula always wanted to do,” Wright said. “I still can’t believe we’re in here.”

When NV Energy announced its move to a newly constructed operations center on Ruby Vista Drive, the company offered the building to a group of people to form a nonprofit organization.

Museum board members include Petersen, Mike and Tana Gallagher, Mary Simmons and John and Sue Wright of Capriola.

“This whole project couldn’t have been done without the assistance and support of NV Energy,” Petersen said. “They are ardent community supporters.”

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Petersen said there are plans for the building to apply for a Nevada historic designation.

“One step at a time,” she said.

The museum’s first exhibitors will be photographer Nicole Poyo’s series on the Winecup Gamble Ranch and Merrilee Morrell Doss’s “One Man’s" collection of bits and spurs.

A website, www.cowboyartsandgearmuseum.org, will be launched before the grand opening, and the museum can be found on Facebook. The organization also welcomes local involvement and financial support.

The opening of the museum in downtown Elko marks an exciting time because it could be the start of making Elko a center of history, art and culture enthusiasts, Petersen said.

“What we’re planning on with the addition of the cowboy museum is that Elko will become a history destination,” Petersen said. “We have the Western Folklife Center, the California Trail Center, the Northeastern Nevada Museum, which is the hub of it all, and a new Shoshone museum, the Newe Gahnee, to open in the Elko Indian Colony.”

“Five destinations become a destination to celebrate all traditions, cultures and heritages from the first inhabitants to the most recent,” she said.

Petersen also sees the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum as being another link to Elko’s past when the business district was on both sides of the railroad tracks.

“We are enthusiastically looking forward to being a part of the renewed interest in downtown,” Petersen said. “Commercial and Railroad streets were the focus of business. This was – and still is – the heart of Elko.”

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Courts, schools & Spring Creek reporter

Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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