Gardnerville’s Jensen Mansion

Tucked away at the tail end of Ezell Street is a gem of a house. Just looking at it, you know it has a story!

When Arendt Jensen first set foot in Gardnerville, Nevada in 1887, there were just two houses in town. Jensen was young — 28 — and full of energy. By the time he died in 1940 at age 81, Arendt had become one of Gardnerville’s most successful and respected businessmen.

Heard of Douglas County Farmer’s Bank? Jensen founded it, and stepped up to serve as president. How about the Midland Garage? He built it. And the classic brick Carson Valley Merc building? Yup, Jensen built it. (It housed his Arendt Co. store.)

Locals well remember the Carson Valley Merc which used to occupy the left-hand brick store and sold — well, EVERYTHING! Arendt built this brick building in the spring of 1896.

Born in Denmark in 1859, John Arendt Jensen came to the States in 1880. He married Lena (Paulina) Norgaard (a fellow Dane) in 1882 when she was just 16. Arendt made his way west and, with a keen eye for the future, spotted opportunity in the fledgling town of Gardnerville. He and Lena moved to the tiny settlement in 1887, opening a small store on Main Street “flanked by sagebrush and barbed wire fences.” Arendt went on to build a thriving mercantile business, eventually acquiring multiple business interests and extensive property.

Jensen’s ad in 1909 for the latest washing machine — he also sold everything from groceries to wagons!

But Arendt’s most outstanding architectural contribution to his new hometown was the Jensen Mansion, a gracious Colonial Revival home that still graces Ezell Street.

Touted as a “palatial residence” when construction began in 1910, the Jensen home was to be “modern in every respect.” Floors would be hardwood, and the house would be “steam heated throughout.” Arendt himself invented a special galvanized form that would make the home’s poured-concrete foundation resemble more-attractive cement brick construction.

Arendt died in 1940, and Lena passed away in 1948. Later decades saw the beautiful old Jensen mansion become a boarding house, a vacant eyesore, a bed-and-breakfast, and eventually a much-loved private home again. An architectural survey in 1981 by the Douglas County Planning Department dubbed it as one of Gardnerville’s “most outstanding buildings.” It received the recognition of a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Best of all, the Jensen Mansion is reputed have a resident ghost — as all great old houses should! Former owners reported the strong odor of lavender wafting through the great room from time to time.

How lovely to imagine it’s Lena Jensen, still keeping an eye on the goings-on in her magnificent home.

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