Sifting Clues

As we peel back the layers of old plaster and past remodels, it’s becoming apparent that the Union Hotel was not built all at once and possibly did not even start out as a hotel in the first place. Currently, it’s agreed that the stone wall of the court yard is the old Pony Express building that predated the hotel structure by many years but the evidence is tossing up some contradictions. From the following photos, it looks like the roof structure of the Pony Express building actually used the side of the hotel as a support which is impossible if the hotel was not built at the same time or before the Pony Express building.

Pocket 01

Pocket 02

The beam pockets in the pony express wall align with the beam pockets in the brick wall of the hotel. Also, it seems apparent that the rear wall of the Pony Express building was neatly tailored to the hotel wall.

Building seam

This suggests that the Pony Express building was built after the hotel structure which messes with the accepted later construction date of the hotel. Considering this, I’m contemplating the idea that there was a brick structure on the hotel site that was as old or older than the Pony Express building and that that structure was later converted into the Union Hotel on the date that is historically agreed upon. My first bit of evidence is the window headers on the first and second floors. They are not the same.

First flr header

On the first floor, the windows are deep set. The masonry is supported by multiple iron bars and a fancy flat keystone of vertically arranged bricks.

Second floor Header

On the second floor, the windows are not as deeply set. Only a single iron bar is visible and the keystone is an arch of horizontally laid brick. There is also a subtle change in brick color between the first and second floors.

Brick change

If you look closely, you can see that the bricks between the beam pockets are a lighter shade than those above the beam pockets. This can mean either that they are a different brick or possibly weathering has changed the color. The detail is inconclusive so let’s look at some other pictures. Inside the second floor bedrooms at the rear of the building is another clue.

Burn 01

Burn 02

Note the burn marks on the mortar and bricks at the base of the wall and how they stop after the sixth course of bricks. This tells me that the first floor structure burned and that when it was rebuilt, a second floor was added. That would explain the difference in window style between the first and second floors. It could also support the theory that there was an older structure on site that became the Union Hotel in later years. If that’s the case, then what was the earlier building? Perhaps there is an explanation.


This message is written in carbide lamp soot and it’s been hiding under the plaster in the Pony Express yard for a very long time. I can’t read it. Does anyone have sharper eyes than me?

Author: Glenn

I'm a 5' 8" tall ape descendant with an interior design degree and a love for antiques and vintage architecture. I recently escaped from the IT world to follow my dreams and a beautiful damsel who shares my love of old buildings no matter how much dust is involved.

2 thoughts on “Sifting Clues”

  1. Someone mentioned the town had a trading post that could have possibly been at the intersection of Pike and Main. Do you think this could have been the original trading post? The only maps we have were on the University of Reno website (Sanborn Maps) which dated back to 1890 and 1907. They show the hotel and pony express building with additional out buildings on the property.

  2. On that last pic of the burnt bricks I think I can see where a window or such has been filled in and some burnt bricks were used for that….also, same pic, left of six rows and one course up there appear to be brick turned on end like how the used to “top” off a wall at the roof line, but it doesn’t continue all the way across……..

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