HISTORY: Giles-Barcus house began life as modest family home before becoming antique store and featured museum building.
– The town of Goldfield, Nev., about 185 miles north of Las Vegas, was hit by a great fire in July 1923.
Goldfield was the center of a rich gold mining area, and is today still the county seat of Esmeralda County. The fire was intentionally set – it was thought at the time – by a bootlegger who was angry at a rival.
The blaze destroyed much of the town, including most of the housing. Edwin Giles, a local mining engineer who had lived with his family in Goldfield since 1907, escaped the flames by sliding down a fire hose from the building he was in. In the aftermath, Giles decided to stay and rebuild. For his family’s new home he constructed a small, 24’ by 26’ house where he and his wife Edith lived until they both passed away, Edith in 1946 and Edwin in 1950.
After Edwin’s death, the couples’ daughter – also named Edith – and her husband, a mining engineer named Clyde Barcus, modified the house to become the Odd Shop, an antique store in Goldfield in the late 1940’s.
A few years later, Edith and Clyde decided to move to the southern Las Vegas Valley and had the house moved to a rural area at Giles Street and Hacienda Avenue in 1952. Giles Street was named for the family, and Hacienda Avenue for the Hacienda Hotel, which had opened that same year. The house was not going to be their home, as they planned to continue its use as the Odd Shop.
Today the location is within the urbanized area of the valley, but in the 1950s it was in open desert. The Odd Shop operated for many years, but eventually Edith closed it and, with the urging of Liz Patrick, chose to donate the house to the County Museum.
After Edith died in 1991, the house was on the move yet again – across the valley to the Clark County Museum grounds. The following year the house was restored and opened as a part of the museum’s Heritage Street.
The structure was restored as a house, though the interior had been drastically modified during its time as an antique shop. In 2010, the museum staff changed the interpretation of the house, taking it back to being an antique store, showing the interior as it would have been during the 1950s through the 1980s.
The house has some unique features which can still be seen today, most notable is the heavy wooden front door which features what appears to be an old fashioned nineteenth century handle and latch. On closer inspection, though, the latch looks somewhat too new, and the door is far too heavy for the building. The reason is that the door was originally made for Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley, Calif.
Edith Giles Barcus worked for the Johnsons who built the Castle (Death Valley Scotty, who claimed it as his home, was merely a front man). For workers at the Castle, there was a rule that you were not allowed to take anything from the materials brought for the Castle’s construction, even from the junk pile. However, the new Giles home needed a front door, and there was an extra one which had been made for the Castle and not used. Edith decided to appropriate the door and have it fitted to her parent’s new house.
A drawback to the door was that it made the interior rather dark. Edith had two small diamond shaped windows removed from a wrecked automobile (possibly a Pierce-Arrow) in the Goldfield dump and installed in the front door, where they remain today.
Though a rustic outhouse sits next to the Giles Barcus on Heritage Street, the structure featured indoor plumbing from its construction. It may have been small, but it had all the amenities. Visitors can view the types of wares an antique store would have had for sale in the late 1950s through the 1980s, including a Victrola record player with the Morning Glory horn and the washing machine (an open wooden container on legs with a hand crank). Remember this is an exhibit, and not a working antique store, so nothing is for sale.
The house is open daily along with the rest of the museum, from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. We are only closed three days a year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year), and we are still only $2.00 per person ($1.00 if you are under 18 or over 55).
We invite you to visit the museum, and see the most traveled part of Heritage Street. | iH
Mark Hall-Patton is director of the Clark County Museum, the Searchlight Historic Museum and the Cannon Aviation Museum. He is regularly featured on television programs including ‘Pawn Stars’ and ‘American Pickers’.
This piece was featured on page 23 of the January 2016 issue of Inside Henderson Magazine.