Nevada’s Historic Cities

Nov - 11 2013 | 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.



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.



Travel Nevada. (2013). About Nevada. Retrieved from‎.

Nevada State Government. (2013). History of Nevada. Retrieved from