‘Dot’s Place’ demolition approved
The house that may be Truckee’s last surviving brothel from the Depression era will soon be history.
Truckee Town Council decided unanimously at its June 6 meeting to give permission for “Dot’s Place” on Jibboom Street to come down.
After deliberating both sides of the issue, the council approved plans to tear down the ramshackle structure and allow the owner extra time to apply for necessary permits to build the proposed office space.
Council decided to follow Town Planner Duane Hall’s suggestion that the building’s history does not justify its preservation and that it should be torn down. But first, council heard arguments from the public and members of the Truckee-Donner Historical Society divided over whether the building should be preserved.
Members of the Truckee-Donner Historical Society took the lead in defending the building, arguing that although it is presently in bad shape, the building should be preserved in the interest of the town’s history.
Hall responded that the building does not have any remaining historical or architectural value because of the many modifications it has undergone. He added that the significance and integrity of a building are factors that must be considered together.
When participants objected that buildings could be historically registered if proved to be the last of their kind, Hall said that he felt the building is not one of a kind. He also said that the Jibboom Street house is no longer associated with significant lives or events “that have impacted broad patterns of Truckee’s history.”
Truckee resident Mary Delaney came forward to share her memories of “Dot’s house” in the 1930s and to argue that it should not remain. She told the council and audience that she remembered the house as a site of illicit activities including prostitution and bootlegging, the main sources of income for several Jibboom Street houses. Delaney also recalled more personal experiences of living near the house and helping her mother carry bootlegged liquor.
George Robertson, another Truckee resident, also had vivid memories of the place and said he would be pleased to see the house torn down.
“I feel I’m speaking for a lot of the people that something should be done about Jibboom Street,” he said.
Guy Coates, research historian for the Truckee Donner Historical society, recalled the Great Depression days in the 1930s when the prostitution and bootlegging that allegedly took place in the house were among Truckee’s most important industries. Coates said that the building should stay as a reminder of those hard times.
Hall responded by asking what the purpose of protecting such a building would be if it could not benefit the community in return.
Relaying the results of the independent Historical Preservation Advisory Commission (HPAC), Hall reported that the commission agreed that the house was in deplorable condition and did not merit preservation. He said the town planning commission consulted with HPAC before putting together its own opinion.
Historical Society member Sharon Arnold objected, and said tearing down the house would “put an end to all we’ve been working for in downtown Truckee.”
Coates added, “we must encourage preservation, instead of demolition.”
But Hall reassured the preservationists that tearing down “Dot’s house” will not set any precedents for destroying historical properties.
Hall explained that property owner David Giacomini’s proposal to tear down the house would only affect this one building because the application was so unique, in that it involved a house that was not in the historic inventory yet whose historical importance was under dispute.
“This is a one-of-a-kind application because it was the only one that met the (historical review) criteria for processing it,” Hall said.
Hall added, “the Town Council has made historical preservation a priority and has hired new planning staff and consultants to complete a new inventory.” He added that “we won’t see a deluge of demolition applications coming in because this review only applied to this one application.”
Still, opinion against the house won the day as other attendees agreed that the building should be torn down despite its colorful history.
“We need to destroy the building to move ahead in the renovation of the downtown area,” the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation’s Steve Frisch said.
Mayor Maia Schneider called the building an “eyesore” and Councilman Bob Drake expressed his disappointment that the building had been “condemned through neglect,” before they joined the council in voting 5-0 to raze the house.
The council also discussed the time pressures on Giacomini to obtain permits to demolish the building and get approval for his plans before the next inventory of historical buildings is taken in six months.
Council considered that the new inventory might include houses that are not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, but could be protected in the name of local interest, a category that uses similar standards as the National Register but is less strict. Both Giacomini and the council feared that if the house was not torn down in time, its historical significance could be brought into dispute again. Council decided that they would give Giacomini extra time to file his permits if he ran into difficulties.
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