ELKO — A few years ago when the Dupont building was being remodeled in an attempt to bring it up to code, Jan Petersen noticed a big blue dumpster outside and her curiosity was piqued.
“All my life I had wondered what it was like upstairs,” she said. “We’d all gotten our prescriptions at Dupont’s and there was that mystery stairway that went to nowhere.”
Petersen approached an electrician who was working on the structure and asked if she could look around. She discovered a hodgepodge of vintage furniture on the second floor.
A local historian, Petersen has a penchant for all things past and she continued her exploration.
She noticed that the dropped ceiling for the ground floor had been removed and revealed a long line of windows near the top.
“They were part of the exterior walls on Fifth and Idaho streets,” Petersen said. “They’d been covered up because they had been the unfortunate victims of a furnace explosion.”
The window interiors were soot black and the exteriors were painted over in a white and then a tan color. Some had holes in them.
“There were big chunks of caulking coming out of the holes in the glass,” said Deb Bonetti, who helped restore the windows.
Petersen thinks the windows, dating from the World War I era, were covered up because it was too difficult or expensive to repair them at the time. The building remained boarded up for a couple of years with the windows intact.
The building was slated for demolition last year. Petersen contacted contractor Dusty Shipp to see if the windows could be salvaged. Petersen is the museum director for the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum and wanted to preserve and display them as a part of Elko history.
After the building was torn down Petersen was unsure if the windows had been kept.
“Then these guys showed up with three chunks all hooked together and in horrible shape,” Petersen said. “That’s when I discovered how filthy dirty they were.”
“She called me and said I have a surprise for you,” Bonetti said. “I was thrilled.”
Bonetti has been working with stained glass for a number of years.
It took some time but Petersen cleaned the windows of all the accumulated oil, paint and dirt.
“It was like a Dawn dishwashing commercial where they say you can do anything with Dawn,” Petersen said, laughing.
After cleaning, Bonetti set forth restoring them and, in many cases, piecing the parts back together to make a complete window.
“I had to scavenge one from this panel to put into that panel,” Bonetti said.
Petersen had hoped to install them in the building but the shape was inconsistent with the museum’s window frames. Instead, the windows have been hung from the ceiling in front of the building’s Commercial Street windows where light shines through the clear, blue and turquoise glass.
A number of pieces are still being put together to form complete windows. These will be for sale when the project is complete. One of the larger pieces is going to be raffled off, probably during the Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
“You would be buying tradition, heritage and old Elko culture,” Petersen said.
Bonetti, an Elko native, has been working on the restoration project for more than 250 hours. For her the task has been a labor of love.
Besides being decked out with “new” old windows, the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum has been featured in the current issue of Nevada Magazine. The article highlights the building’s history, including the fact that it was first owned by the famous saddle maker G.S. Garcia. Nevada Energy owned the building for many years but recently donated it to the community to house the museum.