The University Preparatory School – precursor to the University of Nevada – first opened its doors in Elko to seven students on Oct. 12, 1874. The Nevada State Legislature approved the relocation of the University of Nevada to Reno in 1885, and students were welcomed to classes in Morrill Hall in 1886.
The original school bell made the move to Reno, although was later returned to Elko where it has been on display outside of Elko High School’s “old gym” – the original site of the University – on College Avenue since 1974.
Recognizing the timber framework holding the bell was in dire disrepair, members of two Elko Rotary clubs embarked on a project to reconstruct the framework in Nevada’s sesquicentennial celebration year. That goal was met on Oct. 22, 2014, when University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson and other University representatives joined with residents of Elko to dedicate the new structure. The dedication event was designated by the NV150 Commission as one of the Legacy Events commemorating Nevada’s sesquicentennial.
“I think it is just wonderful that we are preserving this monument that is not only the site of the original University of Nevada, but also the site where higher education began in Nevada,” Kevin Melcher, Elko resident and member of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, said. “All of Nevada should take pride in this celebration and in the beginning of higher education in Nevada.”
Constructed in 1874 of timbers from the historic railroad trestle in Palisade Canyon near Carlin, Nevada, the framework had seen better days. Even its plaque had been removed and stored during prior work to repair the structure.
Today, a new brick structure stands and a steel beam supports the original bell.
Getting to this point was not easy, and discussions about the project began more than a decade ago. But Melcher and fellow Rotarians persisted and, with donations from Elko’s Rotary clubs, Barrick Gold, Newmont Mining Corporation, Ormaza Construction and numerous individuals, the “Nevada Bell Project” came to fruition.
For more on the University of Nevada bell dedication and other activities organized by University faculty and staff to commemorate Nevada’s 150 years, including the upcoming symposium “All for the Union,” visit Nevada Today at http://www.unr.edu/nevada-