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Local historian rejuvenates Comstock
by Harry Spencer
Aug 05, 2013 | 2987 views | 6 6 comments | 78 78 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After decades of neglect and deterioration, the iconic mining buildings of the Comstock Mining District finally have a new champion of restoration. The name of that champion is the Comstock Foundation for History and Culture. This foundation is sponsored by Comstock Mining, Inc. which is setting aside a percentage of its profits to fund the endeavor.

 Corrado De Gasperis, President and CEO of Comstock Mining, who also serves as Chair of the board for the foundation, recently announced the appointment of well-known local preservationist Ron James as Executive Director of the Comstock Foundation for History and Culture.

  In addition to his work with the Comstock Foundation, James serves on the National Park System Advisory Board, as the Chairman of the National Historic Landmarks Committee, and as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Cold War Theme Study.

In December 2012, James retired as the Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer, having administered the agency for 30 years. He was a member of the Comstock Historic District Commission for 17 years. In 1991, James organized the Commission for Cultural Affairs and subsequently administered the distribution of roughly $40 million in grants from that agency, supporting the rehabilitation of more than 100 historic Nevada buildings to function as cultural centers.

James is the author or co-author of 10 books, including The Roar and the Silence: A History of Virginia City and the Comstock Lode, winner of the Wilbur S. Shepperson Humanities Book Award for 1998.

 He has received two awards from the American Association of State and Local History, one for the exhibit “Havens in a Heartless World: Virginia City’s Saloons and the Archaeology of the Wild West (2007) and more recently for his book, The Gold Rush Letters of E. Allen Grosh and Hosea B. Grosh, which also received an “Award of Special Recognition from the Clark C. Spence Award Committee” of the National Mining History Association (2013). 

James serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is a historian and folklorist, with degrees in both fields from the University of Nevada, Reno. He was the nation’s I.T.T. Fellow to Ireland in 1981-1982, where he studied folklore at the national archives. James’ publications on folklore, history, architectural history and archaeology have appeared in six countries, and he has given hundreds of presentations throughout North America.

James will collaborate with the Comstock Foundation five-member board, comprised of independent, local representation as well as others who share an interest in preserving and enhancing this landmark mining district. Joining De Gasperis on this board are Paul Yandre of Virginia City, Pam Abercrombe of Silver City, Lee Halavais of Reno, Nevada and John Winfield, the Chairman of the Board for Comstock Mining, Inc. and a resident of southern California.

Comstock Mining initially began the groundwork by propping up some of the crumbling structures in Silver City. This foundation has multiple purposes in refurbishing and rehabbing iconic mining structures as well as promoting one of the Nevada’s greatest cultural treasures and attractions to lure additional tourists to the storied location. The foundation is in the process of filing with the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status. For additional information about the Comstock Foundation for History and Culture, contact Ron James at 443-7803.

Harry Spencer is a long-time northern Nevada resident.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
David Toll
August 14, 2013
It should also be noted that this statement —

"This foundation is sponsored by Comstock Mining, Inc. which is setting aside a percentage of its profits to fund the endeavor."

should be read in light of the fact that the company has never made a profit and shows no signs of doing so any time soon.
John Ponzo
August 13, 2013
All I can say is, "Simply mind-boggling".

Anyone half-assed familiar with the Comstock and it's players should be able to right through this article.
Wes Smith
August 13, 2013
This had to be one of the most funniest articles I have read in a long time. The collaboration of Ron James and the Comstock Mining Company, is equivalent to a collaboration of the Sierra Club and the NRA. This mining company putting up a fake facade of "we care for the restoration and well being of the Comstock" is like what the Japanese were doing consulting congress that they want to be team players with Americans while bombing Pearl Harbor. As Comstock reaps the wealth from a National Landmark area, it leaves behind destruction, and irreversible damage to the scenery, mountains and the environment. Look at what they have done to the landmark area of Devils Gate, the mountain is getting flattened at such an alarming speed, just to line the pockets of a few.

If James was a true preservationist, he should be shocked and alarmed, and up in arms. Nope, just another puppet for the mining company, just like many of the Comstock's commissioners are. I cannot wait to see what happens when the gold pans out, like it will, it always does, and these guys will be out of town so fast, leaving a mess that can never be change, and destroying a landmark area. Of course they are helping buildings be propped up, with daily rumblings of equipment and explosives, they have to. Thanks for the article Harry, it was brilliant sarcasm
David Toll
August 11, 2013
Harry Spencer reveals the truth about Ron James and the preservation of the Virginia City National Historic Landmark, although he does it inadvertantly.

"After decades of neglect and deterioration," his article begins. Three paragraphs farther down it states: "In December 2012, James retired as the Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer, having administered the agency for 30 years."

Put them together and you have the essential facts: During the 30 years the Comstock was marked by neglect and deterioration Ron James was the Nevada SHIPO. It was while his resume was accumulating all those honors and ornaments Mr. Spencer listed that Mr. James was writing his books rather than protecting the Natipnal Landmark.

Ron James is the perfect foil for Comstock Mining Inc, the corporation that is currently gnawing down the mountains in lower Gold Hill. He has gone from indifference toward destruction of the Landmark to actively participating in it.
Craig Ayres-Sevier
August 13, 2013
I noticed the same dots as well, David.
Robert Elston
August 14, 2013
The reality is that Mr. James benefited more FROM the Comstock than the other way around.

In 1988, Mr. James received a comprehensive report from the National Park Service (NPS)regarding the cumulative destructive consequences of open pit mining for the Virginia City National Historic Landmark and the Comstock Historic District, and the necessity for regulating it. This report was buried and ignored.

The NPS still lists the Landmark as endangered from cumulative effects of surface mining. Since 1988, Mr. James has failed to call public attention to the problem and failed to propose extensions to the Landmark enabling legislation that would offer more protection to the historic landscape. In fact, on numerous occasions over the last 20 years, concerned citizens have approached the Comstock Historic District Commission (CHDC) to have them consider reviewing projects that involve landscape disturbances such as open pit mining. Mr. James consistently opposed such an idea.

Rather than help develop a comprehensive preservation plan that would help preserve the historic character of the entire district, Mr. James has gone more for promoting what might be called “historyness,” involving regulation of architectural features and “authentic” paint colors, and flashy restoration projects like the Fourth Ward School.

Retiring from 25 years of state “service” he takes a job with a mining company in an industry he regulated as a state employee.

He's lucky Nevada has no revolving door laws.
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