Nevada’s Historic Cities

Nov - 11 2013 | no comments | By

Nevada is the nation’s 36th state and was officially admitted on October 31, 1864. The three cities of Carson City, Reno and Virginia City give a glimpse into historic Nevada. The cities where established after the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859.

 

Carson City

Founded in 1858, Carson City is the capital of Nevada and one of the first settlements in the state. Named after the frontiersmen and scout Christopher “Kit” Carson, the city became a thriving commercial center after the discovery of gold and silver in Virginia City. Among some of the most historic places in Carson City are the Capitol Building, the Sears-Ferris House and the U.S. Mint. Joseph Gosling designed the capital building. The building was a central rectangle with two wings and housed all three branches of the government for more than 50 years. The legislative building was finished in 1971 and now is home to that part of the government. Today the capitol building serves the Governor and historical exhibitions on the second floor.

 

The Sears-Ferris House was purchased in 1868 by George Washington Gale Ferris, Sr., the inventor of the widely known Ferris wheel. The home previously belonged to prominent residents Gregory and Mary Sears. Ferris came to the state in 1864 as a farmer and is partly responsible for the importation of the large numbers of hickory, black walnut and chestnut trees found throughout the city. The first Ferris wheel towered 250 feet, with 36 cars, each holding 40 people. It took 20 minutes to make a complete revolution but was an instant hit with early fair attendees.  The U.S. Mint is one of seven mint buildings in the country. Established by Congress in 1863, the construction was delayed because of the war and the building opened in 1869. The founder of Carson City Abraham Curry was the first superintendent. The eight coin denominations made with the mint “CC” mark are well desired among coin collectors. The U.S. Mint lost its status in 1899 and the building serves as a state Museum today.

 

Reno

The city of Reno started off as a passage way for those going to Virginia City. Charles Fuller built a bridge over the Truckee River and charged a fee to those headed in search of gold. Fuller sold the bridge to Myron Lake in 1861, and he used the money from the tolls to purchase more land. On May 8, 1868 the town of Reno was officially established. Reno was named after Civil War General Jesse Reno. The city of Reno earned the nickname “Sin City” because of its numerous legal brothels, its underground illegal gambling and its access to quick, easy divorces.

 

Some of the most interesting historical places to visit in the city of Reno are associated with the city’s founding. The Lake Mansion, home of Myron Lake acts as a museum in present day Reno.  The Virginia Street Bridge, built in 1905, marks the place of the first bridge built by Fuller. Virginia Street Bridge is the oldest functioning bridge in Reno and one of the first concrete bridges in the state. The Virginia Street Bridge is associated with historical folklore. Reno was once known as the Divorce Capitol of the world as goes the tale after receiving their divorce couples would make haste to the bridge and toss their wedding rings into the Truckee River. The bridge has been called the “Wedding Ring Bridge” and the “Bridge of Sighs”.

 

Virginia City

The history of the industrialized state of Nevada began with the discovery of gold in Virginia City by Paul McLaughlin and Peter O’Reily, two local miners. Henry Comstock claimed that the find was on his property and the giant lode was named after him. The town was supposedly named after James Finley’s childhood nickname “Old Virginny”. Gold seekers encountered the problem of a sticky blue-gray mud that seemed to stick to picks and shovels. This annoying matter turned out to be silver. President Lincoln became highly interested in the gold and high quality silver mix and rushed to add the state of Nevada to the Union as a result.

 

The writer Mark Twain got his start in Virginia City and today the city can be marked as a place that contributes greatly to historic Nevada.  The city pays tribute to the famous author with the Mark Twain Museum and Bookstore.  Though after the mining boom the city’s population shrank to a few hundreds, the town is still marked by what occurred hundreds of years ago. Travelers can visit the mining district where there are archeological clues of the mining boom. The Piper Opera House once served as the center of cultural activity during the Comstock years and often showcased Shakespeare plays with prominent American and British actors.

 

Resources:

Travel Nevada. (2013). About Nevada. Retrieved from www.travelnevada.com/‎.

Nevada State Government. (2013). History of Nevada. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/nevada/sitelist.htm.

Things to do in Historic Nevada

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Modern day Nevada is famed for its brash lights, all hours partying and the gambling of the Vegas strip. The 24-hour-culture capital is loud and proud, with over the top architecture, drive-thru weddings and classic mob history, and has been made even more famous in recent years by the cult murder mystery TV show, CSI. However, the past of this desert area is long, interesting and often overlooked. However, the Silver State’s inception, struggles and eventual fruition as the gambling capital of the world is well recorded, and for tourists looking for the quieter side of the desert, there’s a lot to see, do and learn.

 

Ghost Towns

 

If you really want to find some quiet, you can’t get much more silent than a ghost town. Not too far from the bright lights of the big city of Vegas, the Nevada countryside is dotted with deserted ghost towns that date back as far as the 1900s. Although not all of the towns are necessarily on the map, many of them are easy to get to, and can provide a fascinating glimpse into the real historical lives of long since buried Nevada residents.

 

Rhyolite is a fantastic example of a true Nevada ghost town. Located four miles west of Beatty on State Route 374, Rhyolite is ironically famed as one of Nevada’s most-visited abandoned villages, and it’s not hard to see why. With easy access from the highway and a collection of creepy old buildings, the town features its own dilapidated jail house, featuring barred windows, a perfectly chilling thrill for wannabe ghost hunters. Once you’re done saying hi to the incarcerated spooks, check out the incredible Tom Kelley Bottle House. Erected in 1905, the house is, as the title suggests, entirely constructed of liquor and beer bottles, and is surprisingly one of the few intact buildings amongst the rubble of Rhyolite.

 

Mining Tours

 

If you want to escape the desert ghosts but still find a window into Nevada’s past, a mining tour might be the best option for you. More family-friendly than a ghost town, the long-since closed mines of Nevada offer a unique picture of the town’s economy, which was founded on precious metal mining as far back as 1849.

 

For a real historical insight, a great place to start is Virginia City. Known as the “birthplace of Mark Twain”, this was the first place young Samuel Clemens first used his famous nom-de-plume, whilst writing for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. A boomtown worth its weight in silver, Virginia City is home to the Chollar Mine, which offers year-round educational tours on the history of the mine, which in its heyday served as the fifth largest in the area for silver production.

 

If you’re looking for something with more sparkle than shine, why not check out the famous Nevada opal mines? Virgin Valley in north-west Nevada is home to three that are open to the public (namely, The Royal Peacock Opal Mine, the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, and the Bonanza Opal Mine) and most even allow you to dig for your very own piece of treasure, whilst learning the fascinating history of Nevada mining.

 

Museums

 

As an area steeped in the past and made rich by its heritage and culture, Nevada is of course home to a number of museums detailing its long and lively history. With eight state museums, choosing where to start can be a dizzying experience, so travelers are best advised to choose based on what aspect of Nevada history they’re most interested in.

 

If motors are your thing, Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Collection, located in the eponymous town of Laughlin, is a must-see for classic car enthusiasts. With over 80 vintage and antique cars on display, this is a haven for any automotive maniacs, and we’re just getting your engine started. To get really revved up, scoot along to Reno’s National Automobile Museum, where over 220 of Bill Harrah’s classic collection are on show, along with multiple changing displays throughout the year.

 

Alternatively, for a kid-friendly educational experience, check out the three children’s museums Nevada has to offer. In the heart of Vegas you’ll find the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, an award-winning attraction, and one of the biggest children’s museums in the country. With more than a hundred exhibits and many changing displays, this is an interactive education built on kids having fun. Over in Reno, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum offers another exciting kid-focused adventure space, encouraging kids to build and learn, and in Carson City, the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada combines fun and learning with a focus on science, arts and the humanities, proving that museums don’t have to be boring.

 

If you’re looking for a holiday steeped in history, look no further than beautiful Nevada, where you can experience a rich culture embedded in the glorious desert surroundings.

The Land of Historic Nevada

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The state of Nevada’s history and mores has been shaped by the harsh but plentiful terrain and environment. Nevada became famous for its plentiful silver deposits that were discovered there in the late 1850’s, resulting in the rise of boom towns of fabulously rich people. Decline would follow whilst some sections of society hoped to transform a state that seemed as though it was built on out of control capitalism into an almost renaissance society built on learning and idealism. Economic depression followed in the early part of the twentieth century and this had the effect of reducing the state’s population. The years of economic decline halted in the early part of the 1930’s when the state embraced legalized gambling, and divorce laws that allowed for the quickest divorces in the entire United States. The state of Nevada was accepted as a territory of the United States in the late 1840’s and later on in1864 it officially became the 36th state of the Untied States of America.

The Historical Mining Towns of Nevada

Due to its rich mining heritage there are many historical sites in the state of Nevada for the visitor to discover, such as silver mines and even ghost towns. Nevada’s rich cultural heritage means that it is possible to step back in time as it were, to experience what life was like back in the silver rush days.

Built almost overnight in 1859, thanks to the discovery of silver, Virginia City is one of America’s biggest historical sites. Not only is Virginia City famous for its silver mining heritage, it was also the site where famous American author Samuel Clemens used his nom de plume, Mark Twain. Therefore, a lot of people now associate Virginia City as the birthplace of the famous author.

It was not just silver that helped Nevada to become the destination of choice for those people that were looking to make their fortunes. Gold, copper and lead were also in plentiful supply, and this is reflected in the names of some of the towns and cities that sprung up all across the state, such as the town of Goldfield. In fact, the town of Goldfield can claim to have been the home of Wyatt and Virgil Earp for a brief time during the gold rush in 1904.

The Comstock Lode

The first major deposit of silver ore in America was the discovery of the Comstock Lode, which was found beneath Mount Davidson on its eastern side. The discovery was not made public until 1859, and this then sparked the great silver rush that would last for decades. Silver prospectors travelled from all over the United States in order to stake their claim, and the discovery of silver in Nevada sparked much excitement in the neighboring state of California. The Comstock Lode was the most significant discovery since the discovery of gold in California just over a decade before. Many mining towns sprung up almost overnight.

Apart from creating immense wealth in the state of Nevada and parts of California, the mining of the silver also produced many advances in mining techniques and machinery. By the mid-1870’s silver mining had declined in the area and almost a quarter of the population eventually left the area, however, silver mining continued in one form or another until the late 1920’s.

The History of Gambling and Prostitution in Nevada

Silver miners work hard and they take their free time just as seriously, so it should come as no surprise that a number of laws were relaxed in order to keep the miners happy during this period. Gambling and prostitution laws were relaxed, and even though there were attempts to curb gambling and prostitution after the sliver rush ended, these attempts only had moderate success. When the Great Depression hit in 1929 gambling was once again made legal, and now places such as Las Vegas and Reno are seen as two of the world’s most popular destinations for gamblers from all corners of the globe. Reno is also famous for being the home of the “quickie” divorce, and it had some of the most relaxed divorce laws in America, with people travelling from across the United States in order to free themselves from their wedding vows.

Military and Nuclear Testing

Nevada became home to the testing of nuclear weapons in 1951, and in all there were almost 1,000 tests on nuclear devices between then and 1962. Nevada is also infamous as being the home to Area 51, a highly secretive and classified air base, which has been subject to much speculation.

From isolated towns to big towns and cities and Mecca’s of gaming and gambling, Nevada has many historical sites for the visitor to explore, and there is no shortage of historical markers to look out for when travelling across the state.

History of Nevada Inhabitants

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It is estimated that the very first inhabitant arrived in Nevada around 12 thousand years ago. These people were basically food gatherers including fishermen, and hunters for the lakes of Great basin.

Today, a number of early human habitant sites are found, and the most famous among them is said to be Pueblo Grande de Nevada, is also famous by the name Lost City. In recent history, there have been four main Indian groups who have successfully inhabited Nevada, which are Washo, Shoshoni, Northern Paiute, and Southern Paiute.

The first explorer to discover Nevada is believed to be the Spanish priest named Francisco Garces. It was in 1776 that he first entered from the southern most part of Nevada. While in 1826 Peter Skene Ogden penetrated from the northeast Nevada. He was on the exploration mission of the Humblodt River.

In 1850, Mormon Station founded the first permanent  settlement, which is not known as western Nevada. This area also became part of Utah in the same year.

After some time Mormon settlements started in the same region and in the Valley of Las Vegas. However, this mission failed in Las Vegas, however the farming communities were successful in the northwest region. At that time the friction between the placers minors and Mormons resulted in political unrest. Majority of the Mormons left in 1857 from western Nevada when Salt Lake City came under threat from the invasion of federal troops.

In 1861, a new Nevada Territory was formed. Just after the gap of 3 years, Nevada achieved statehood on 31st October 1864. However, it was not until 1867, that present boundaries were formed. There were two factors involved in the creation of Nevada, first is the secession of the southern states, and secondly the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859. It became a thriving mining center after that it has immense volumes of silver and gold, and as a result thousands of people were attracted towards the region.

The development of Nevada was later on was entirely due to the economic boom of the Comstock. These affairs were led at first by the Bank of California, and later on by John W. Mackay and partners of the “Bonanza Firm”. However, by the time of late 1870s, these ores were exhausted and because of this Nevada went into a depression for almost 20 years. Its people and establishment made a number of effort to get the economy going by encouraging minors and increasing silver value. As a result, the silver party also dominated the state politics for more than a decade.

In early 20th century, after the new discoveries of gold at Goldfield and silver at Tonopah, its economy revived. The latest boom gave way to the major discoveries of copper in eastern Nevada.

Historic Sites

There are a number of historic sites that you can discover in Nevada. You can visit many Nevada mines by going underground, you can also tour a historic courthouse and a ghost town in Nevada. This is a great way to look back into the rich history and heritage of the Silver State.

If you move towards the southeast of Reno you will find Virginia City, which is considered to be the largest historic landmarks of the country and is also part of the list of the National Registrar of Historic Places. This town became famous instantly after its mining discoveries of silver in 1859, which is also known by the Comstock Lode. The city is also considered to be the birthplace of Mark Twain. If you have any interest in opera houses then you must visit this place called Piper’s Opera House. Among other attractions is the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. The Fourth Ward School, and the Comstock Gold Mill. You may as well enjoy your stay at the Virginia City’s Gold Hill Hotel in Gold Hill, which is Nevada’s one of the oldest hotels or the newest addition called The Silverland Inn & Suites.

The Caliente Railroad Depot is a also a place worth seeing. You will also admire the Eureka Opera House that is recently restored, and the Eureka County Courthouse. The Old Rawhide Jain in Hawthorne is another must see site. You may as well want to experience the Sherman Station in Elko, the Depot in Lovelock, and the historic mining town of Goldfield. In Wells, you will find another historic place to visit called the Seventh Street Historic District. There is another historic place known as the 1935 Reno Arch that is hard to miss.

Conclusion

Nevada is a place of big cities and remote towns, and it will provide a number of historic places that provides a great insight into its past stories. Besides a number of notable locations, you will observe historical markers on several scenic routes. You will enjoy every moment of this historical place and its wonderful experience will stay fresh in your memories for years to come.