Editor’s Note: Mark has also penned articles on historic tours of downtown, High Street and the East End of Truckee, Al Tahoe in South Lake and Portola in the Lost Sierra. Click on the Explore Tahoe. tab in the main menu.
Download the Truckee Historic Walking Tour guide
The Commercial Row/Brickelltown Historic District in downtown Truckee is on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. The designation follows an east-west orientation parallel to the railroad tracks first laid down in 1868 and includes downtown Commercial Row and dwellings located west of the center of Truckee along Donner Pass Road. Seventy percent of the buildings date from 1870 to about 1930 because fire destroyed most early wooden structures. Stone and brick construction protected these buildings from frequent destructive blazes, both accidental and arson-caused, that plagued the town from its earliest days.
These former residences in west Brickelltown present more charming and ornate National Folk, Queen Anne and Craftsman styles of construction and were the core of Truckee’s first upscale residential neighborhood.
The Registry classifies the 48 buildings that contribute to this historic district by prominent architectural categories, including the Brick Block/Utilitarian Commercial style primarily found in the main downtown area of today’s storefronts. The buildings on Commercial Row can be identified by their uniform Italianate masonry style, comprising arched or projecting window capstones, upper-story windows and flat roofs. The uniform arrangement reflected contemporary concern for “restrained dignity in the landscape.”
Locals in the know, however, consider the neighborhood west of Spring Street on Donner Pass Road as the real Brickelltown. As you walk west from downtown, the character of the architecture segues into individual wood frame residences characterized by “steeply-pitched gable roofs [due to heavy snow loads], and front or wrap-around porches that provided relief from both sun and snow,” as listed on the registry. These former residences in west Brickelltown present more charming and ornate National Folk, Queen Anne and Craftsman styles of construction and were the core of Truckee’s first upscale residential neighborhood. Although there are many unique buildings in this part of Brickelltown, this brief walking tour guide will focus on three structures that stand out for both their history and architecture.
Old Eaton Houses
10368 Donner Pass Rd.
These handsome structures with wrap-around porches were built by lumberman Edward J. Brickell in 1880 to serve as the company store for his business operation across the street, the Truckee Lumber Co. The side-by-side Eaton Houses anchor private businesses today, but the Eaton family began living here in the late 19th Century. According to Truckee Donner Historical Society, Harry S. Eaton Sr. was Brickell’s son-in-law and an experienced railroad engineer. His son, Harry Jr., was born in 1906 and raised in this house. Harry Jr. worked as a bus driver and mechanic for local schools and was eventually promoted to Superintendent of Transportation for the school district. In his 30s, Harry delivered the mail between Truckee and Tahoe City when severe winter storms shut down the railroad.
10292 Donner Pass Rd.
To my mind the most notable architectural gem in the Brickelltown section of west Truckee is the Kruger-White House. This Queen Anne Victorian-style structure was built in 1874 by Austrian craftsmen for William Henry Kruger and his family. When Kruger bought out George Geisendorfer’s interest in the Truckee Lumber Co., he became business partners with the district’s namesake, Edward Brickell.
After Kruger’s death, his widow sold the house in 1904 to Charles Bernard White, a longtime prominent citizen. C.B. White arrived in Truckee in 1869 with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad to serve as an agent for Southern Pacific Railroad Co. and later for the Lake Tahoe Railroad.
When automobile traffic picked up after 1910, C.B. and his wife advertised their house as “the only first-class private hotel in Truckee.” His tenure in Truckee included a stint as a director of the Truckee Public Utility District.
Over the decades the Kruger-White House has undergone restorations by local businesses and the old home’s exterior still looks fresh. It is the only house in Truckee on the National Register of Historic Places. The building is currently closed, but new tenants are moving in soon. Rocky Mountain Underground, an innovative, outdoor sports accessories retailer, is setting up a Truckee-based location here. Their concept stores offer gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, beer, cocktails, music and events, along with skis, bikes and gear.
10382 Donner Pass Rd.
Another accurately restored property is the Titus House, built by Frank Titus Sr. in 1912. Designed by the legendary Lake Tahoe architect Will Bliss, the home was constructed on a site previously occupied by a Chinese boardinghouse. Titus Sr. worked as a locomotive engineer on the narrow-gauge Truckee-Tahoe railroad that hauled raw timber from Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley to Truckee sawmills. His son, Frank, was a member of the 1939 University of Nevada’s undefeated champion ski team coached by Wayne Poulsen. In the 1940s, Frank actively helped Poulsen establish Squaw Valley Ski Corp. and was one of the first stockholders in the fledgling resort. | truckeehistory.org