Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2017

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Whimsical building a tribute to a Boulder City character


Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Eight-year tenant John McEldowney paints the stair railing on the Storybook Apartments. Once owned by Virginia “Teddy” Fenton, the 1930s eight-unit apartment complex served as a boarding house for Hoover Dam workers.

Storybook Apartments

The Storybook Apartments on Avenue D at New Mexico Street. Once owned by Virginia Launch slideshow »

Storybook Apartments

At a pink and white cottage with snowcapped roofs, butterflies dance and frogs rest in the shade year-round. Not in a Swiss village, but on Avenue D at the delightfully eccentric-looking Storybook Apartments.

The overgrown dollhouse, which is now home to about eight men, was the brainchild of Virginia "Teddy" Fenton, the town's late historian and longtime Boulder City News reporter.

Fenton, who died at 86 four years ago this month, created the apartments in the 1930s.

The building originally was a Six Companies home built for Hoover Dam workers. Fenton and her husband bought the house, raised it, put apartments underneath it and rented it to more dam workers, historian Dennis McBride said.

She lived there, too, at the top of the winding stairs, running the boardinghouse, doing the men's laundry and all the cooking into the early 1950s, McBride said.

"It was her pride and joy for years," said her son Rich Fenton, who now owns the building. "It was the love of her life."

Teddy Fenton's portrait is posted in a display case in the apartment building's front yard. Above her picture, it says "The Narrator." Mail still comes for her in the bird-house shaped mailbox, residents said.

Rich Fenton said his mother came from North Dakota in 1936. The snowy looking roofs weren't to remind her of her cold home state. They're cheap foam insulation painted white, he said.

But the murals, the waterfall, the creeping vines, and the tree full of stuffed animals were all to suit her whimsy. "She liked wild things," Rich Fenton said.

Teddy Fenton lived in the apartments until she moved to Henderson a few years before she died.

Those who live there now say they don't mind when traffic in front slows to a halt or when people pause on the sidewalk to study the odd place. John McEldowny, who has lived there for eight years, repaints to keep it just as pink.

He lives in a ground-level apartment. Outside his door, a sign hangs that says "Smile! You are in Jet's Alley."

Jet was Teddy Fenton's dog.

"I thought about taking it down the other day," McEldowny said. "But you've got to leave something of hers. This was her place."

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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