Visiting The Humboldt Museum In Winnemucca, Nevada

Humbolt County Museum in Winnemucca, Nevada

OMG. Driving across the state of Nevada is a spectacularly boring experience.

Let me back up a bit… Our three week 2018 summer road trip was split into two parts. We spent the first leg of the trip driving up into Washington State, back down past our house to the Bay Area, then home for a quick stop to do laundry and restock the ice chest that didn’t even last two full days. After that we hit the road again and drove to Colorado and back, and the first day of that drive was from Rocklin, California all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah.

It was a very long day in the car. Usually I plan for things to do along the way when we have long drives, but there is seriously nothing along I-80 in Nevada but casinos every hundred miles or so. So we were thrilled when as we neared the town of Winnemucca, Nevada around lunch time, we saw signs for the Humboldt County Museum.

I plugged the museum into Google Maps now that I had service, we crossed the Humboldt River, and ended up at a group of buildings across from a beautiful park, and a covered picnic area overlooking the river, the Sonoma Mountains, and the town of Winnemucca below. The view was gorgeous, so we decided to enjoy a picnic lunch before checking out the free museum.

The Humboldt Museum, sitting just above the area where thousands of wagon trains forded the Humboldt River on the long trek to California, features three historic buildings and modern two-story building filled with local memorabilia, artifacts, old automobiles, and even 13,000 year old Columbian mammoth bones!

Visiting the museum and viewing all of the different exhibits in the main building, the 1880s Greinstein Building, the 1899 Richardson-Saunders House, and the 1907 St. Mary’s Episcopal Church took us about a hour and it was the perfect way to stretch our legs for a while and take a break from the long drive across the state.

Humboldt Museum Main Building

Our visit began in the Humboldt Museum main building.

The ground floor of Humboldt Museum was completed in 1985, with the second floor finished in 2001. The two-story building houses an automobile collection on the main floor and a variety of collections on the second floor, including Columbian mammoth bones, beaded and quilled regalia from an American Indian collection, local Winnemucca history, and more. The second level also houses an audio visual room, gift shop, and library

The Humboldt Museum’s main attraction is the display of several sets of Columbian mammoth bones that were unearthed near the Black Rock Desert. Near the mammoth bones, archaeologists also found the baby teeth of a saber-toothed cat, a toe from an extinct species of horse, and bison vertebrae. The museum’s collection of Pleistocene bones were excavated by archaeologists from the Quaternary Science Center of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, with the cooperation of the Bureau of Land Management, under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Livingston.

After exploring the lower-level of the museum, with vintage cars, gas pumps, clothing, and more, we stepped outside (into the intense summer heat) to visit the three ancillary buildings — all are local historic buildings that have been relocated to the museum complex.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

Our first stop was a gorgeous, white church that reminds me of the old church in our hometown — that we actually helped moved to a new location!

The church was originally built in 1907 at Fifth and Lay Streets in Winnemucca. Two years later, it was moved to the corner of Fourth and Lay Streets, where it served as St. Mary’s Episcopal Church for many years. In 1976, the lot was sold and church was moved to the Humboldt County Museum campus where it served as the Museum’s main building until 1985. Today the former church serves as a gathering place for meetings, presentations, art shows, musical and theatrical performances, and other events. The fully finished basement provides storage for some of the Museum’s newspaper collection.

The Richardson-Saunders House

The Richardson-Saunders House — the newest addition to the Humboldt Museum campus — was up next, and we had fun browsing through this home decorated with period furnishings, and setup as if someone was currently living there. The old appliances, sewing machine, fireplaces, and clothing were a treat to see.

This home was originally constructed in 1899 on Railroad Street by W.A. and Phoebe Cumley and is a rare Nevada example of Eastlake architectural style. In 1902 Albert and Annie Pearce Richardson purchased the home and it remained in the family for 103 years until Nora Chipman, granddaughter of Albert and Annie Pearce, donated the house to the Humboldt Museum in 2005.

The Richardson-Saunders House was opened for tours in December 2012. It was renovated to resemble its original state, with all items inside the home dating back to the early 1900s. Even the replica wallpaper, produced authentically by hand, one color at a time, matches the first layer of paper found in each room.

The Greinstein Building

The 18×35 foot Greinstein Building was constructed in the 1880s and was originally located on Sonoma Avenue. Moses Greinstein moved to Winnemucca in 1902, bought the building, and opened the Nevada Hide and Junk Company in 1911. In 1935, he converted the store into a home with three rooms, including a kitchen in the back. The Greinsteins lived in the building until 1941, but then rented the home out until 1954. It was then repurposed into a storage facility.

The Greinstein Building, with its original shiplap siding and boomtown front, was donated to the North Central Nevada Historical Society in 1982 by Sam and Louise Greinstein (Moses’ son and wife). The building housed the Humboldt Museum’s thrift shop for many years and today it displays three scenes of days gone by, including a store, a barbershop, and a pioneer kitchen.

This building was our last stop, and while it looks small from the outside, it felt a lot bigger inside and the displays were creative and interesting — they have a lot more detail and vintage artifacts than many displays at local museums we have been to.

Humboldt Museum Picnic Area
A view of the Humboldt River, the Sonoma Mountains, the town of Winnemucca, and part of the Humboldt Museum from the museum’s picnic area and parking lot.

Know Before You Go

  • Humboldt County Museum is located off US 95 across from Pioneer Park at 175 Museum Lane, Winnemucca, Nevada 89445 in Humboldt County.
  • The museum is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Wednesday through Friday and from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday.
  • Admission is free and donations are accepted.
  • The Humboldt County Museum collection encompasses the history of Humboldt County, with artifacts from Paradise Valley, Winnemucca, the Black Rock Desert, and surrounding rural areas.
  • The Humboldt Museum is mostly a self-guided experience, allowing you to tour all four buildings at your own pace.
  • Guided tours may be arranged by appointment and staff availability. A guided tour of the two story main building lasts approximately 45 minutes, while a guided tour of the whole museum complex lasts about 90 minutes.
  • North Central Nevada Historical Society is a Nevada Non-Profit and 501(c)(3) charity.
  • Across the street from the museum is Pioneer Park with picnic tables, a playground, and a large grassy area. It’s the perfect pit stop when driving through Nevada to learn some history, stretch your legs, and let the kids play.

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