Virginia City, Nevada
The Comstock Lode - Gold and Silver
Virginia City lies in extreme western Nevada at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just south of Reno and Interstate 80. It lies along scenic route SR 341 between U.S. Route 50 in Carson and U.S. 395.
Virginia City, Nevada is the largest federally designated Historical District in America. It is maintained in its original condition, as it was in the boom days of the 1870s, when the Comstock Lode made it the West's premier mining metropolis, with a population of 30,000.
Population / Elevation
--- 1,500 people / 6,220 feet above sea level.
Weather / Climate
|Virginia City, Nevada - Monthly Climate Normals|
There are hotels and motels in nearby Reno, NV or Carson City, NV with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list click on the city name above for rates, availability and reservations online.
Camping & RV Parks
There are numerous camping and RV accommodations in the area. For more information, contact:
Virginia City Chamber of Commerce
P. O. Box 464 Virginia City, NV 89440
775-847-0311 Fax: 775-847-0311
Virginia City used to be the richest gold producing area in the United States. Gold was first found in Gold Canyon south of Virginia City by the Grosh brothers. Soon more gold deposits were found at the top of Gold Canyon in January 1859 by James Finney, known as "Old Virginny" and Henry Comstock. Early on, the mining was done by the placer mining method of washing the dirt from around small pieces of gold found in creeks. Later on, gold veins were discovered underground and digging shafts and tunnels unearthed the veins of gold.
The discovery of gold and silver here brought many people to the area which became known as the “Comstock”, named after Henry Comstock. “Old Virginny” sold his original gold claim for about $50.00 and later died in 1861 a poor man. The town of Virginia City was named after him.
At one time there were as many as 20,000 different claims on this mountain known as Mt. Davidson, or Sun Mountain. Between 1870 and 1880, the “Bonanza” years, there were as many as 30,000 people living in the Virginia City, Gold Hill, and Silver City areas.
Early mining claims were very crude and a lot of gold was lost due to inefficient refining techniques. The miners were continuously bothered by a blue-gray clay that clogged their equipment. It was later found to be silver ore and almost as valuable as the gold.
In 1859 the gold ore was reported to be worth $3,000 to $4,000 dollars per ton. The gold was found in the quartz rock and could be mined by following the veins as they went underground. The deepest mine shaft was 3,862 feet below the ground. By 1863 the total production in Virginia City was up to over twelve million dollars.
Virginia City was now becoming a very sophisticated city. It had many hotels, opera houses, fancy restaurants, stores, banks and its own water, electric and gas systems. There were ten different fire departments, both paid and volunteer.
Many people became very rich from silver mining and stock investments in mining and took their money to San Francisco to help build that city. The mining kings, James Fair, Wm. Flood, John Mackay and Wm. O’Brien were the wealthiest, along with Wm. Sharon, Crocker, Wm. Ralston and several others. Ralston owned the Bank of California with offices in Virginia City. Leland Stanford (Stanford University) and George Hearst (newspapers) also made millions here. Many industrial inventions still used in mining today were invented in the mines of Virginia City. The money made here impacted both our nation and the rest of the world. John Mackay went on to form the company that laid the first transatlantic telephone cable. The man who devised the formula for the speed of light lived in Virginia City in the 1870s.
Nevada had been a territory since 1861 but became a state in 1864. President Lincoln needed the congressional votes for re-election and wanted to ensure that Nevada entered the US on the side of the Union.
In 1869 Wm. Sharon and Wm. Ralston built the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to haul ore from the Virginia City mines to the ore mills along the Carson River in the valley below and to the east of Carson City. The railroad would then return with wood and supplies for the Comstock.
On October 18, 1875 the “Great Fire” burned nearly three quarters of Virginia City but it was rebuilt in just over eighteen months. The buildings from Taylor Street south to the Presbyterian Church did not burn in the fire. Those north of Taylor were all damaged or destroyed.
From 1859 to 1919, over 700 million dollars in gold and silver were taken from the mines of the Comstock Lode. By 1920 very little mining was occurring due to economic downturns. The wealth is still in the ground here. The population of Virginia City began to drop and by the 1950s there were only about 500 residents.
Today the population is about 1,200 people. The economic base is tourism and some small mining activity. It is a very quiet town to live in. In the winter there may be a lot of snow; in the summer the temperature rises to about 90 degrees at the most. Humidity averages about 12 to 15 percent.
Virginia City is a federally designated National Historic District. Please do not mistreat the buildings. It is illegal to dig for artifacts or to remove any found items from the community.
History provided by Mark Twain Bookstore, C & Taylor Streets, Virginia City.
Things To Do
Virginia City, Nevada, once called "The Richest Place On Earth," offers glimpses of its splendid past at every corner. You can visit underground mines, historic saloons, stately mansions that are open to the public, and old cemeteries. Take a walking tour of the Liveliest Ghost Town in The West or ride the V & T steam train or the trolley ride (both narrated, giving the history of the buildings as they pass by).
- Chollar Mine Tour: See original square set timbering, tools and equipment form the 5th largest producer on the Comstock. May - September. 775-847-0155.
- Comstock Firemen's Museum: 1876 building houses a collection of antique fire fighting equipment. May 31 - Nov. 1 Daily 10 am to 5 pm. 775-847-0717
- Castle was built by Robert N. Graves, superintendent of the Empire Mine. The home, copied after a castle in Normandy, France, took five years to build and complete; construction was started in 1863 and completed in 1868. The Castle was one of the finest mansions in the West during its heyday.
- Detours Historical Walking Tours: Historical walking or driving tour of Virginia City offered year round. Call for cost of tour and meeting place. Group tours available. 775-847-9255 - Fax 775-847-9233.
- Grant's General Store & Free Museum: Gifts and old time general store museum. 775-847-0292.
- HAPPY HOOFERS carriage service specializes in providing the finest carriages and wagons for weddings, tours and other special events. 775-849-0959.
- Julia Bulette Red Light Museum: The name commemorates Virginia City's most famous prostitute. Paraphernalia including contraceptives, medical instruments and quack medical cure-alls. Opium equipage is also displayed. Noon to 8 pm Monday - Friday. 11 am to 7 pm Saturday - Sunday. 775-847-9394.
- Territorial Enterprise Mark Twain Museum: Housed in the 1876 Territorial Enterprise Building, it features the desk occupied by Sam Clemens, who took the pen name Mark Twain while working for the Enterprise.
- Fourth Ward School Museum: This Victorian four story school building was completed in 1876 and graduated its last class in 1936. Museum displays and period classrooms featured. May - October Daily 10 am to 5 pm 775-847-0975.
- Marshall Mint & Museum: One of the finest private mineral museums in the West. Coin Mint on premises. Daily 10 am to 5 pm. 775-847-0777.
- Nevada Gambling Museum: Display of historic western gaming tables, such as faro and roulette. One armed bandits and other gaming artifacts are featured. Daily 10 am to 5:30 pm 775-847-9022.
- Piper's Opera House: May - September. Daily noon to 4 pm. 775-847-0433.
- Ponderosa Saloon Mine Tour: A guided, 20-minute tour of part of Best & Belcher mine. Daily 10 am to 6 pm. 775-847-0757.
- Radio Museum of Virginia City: Over 100 wireless and radio apparatus from 1915 through 1950. See Hoot Gibson's magnificent 1929 Victor Radio-Phonograph. April - November. Daily 11 am to 5 pm. Most weekends December - March 1 pm to 4 pm.
- Storey County Courthouse: The 1877 courthouse is one of the most elaborate period courthouses in Nevada. Its statue of Justice is not blindfolded. Weekdays 9 am. to 5 pm.
- Silver Terrace Cemeteries: 16 of the Comstock's 31 cemeteries are located at this site. The first burial occurred here in 1860. A brochure describing the cemeteries is located at the entrance or at the Chamber of Commerce. Daily dawn to dusk.
- Virginia City Tram Tour: A narrated, 20-minute tour of Virginia City departs every half hour. 916-587-5742.
- Virginia & Truckee RR Train Ride: A narrated, 35-minute round trip train ride between Virginia City and Gold Hill. View the historic mining district from the original 128 year old right of way. Nine steam trains. May 27 - October 1, daily 10 am to 5 pm. Weekends October - November. 775-847-0380.
- V & T Gold Hill Depot: Original Gold Hill V & T Depot is undergoing renovation. Open weekends June - October (as volunteer staff permits).
- Way It Was Museum: Collection of Comstock mining artifacts, photos, maps, lithographs, working models, costume displays and cutaways of mines and mills. Also a 16-minute video featuring Merlin Olsen and Charlie Jones. Daily 10 am to 6 pm. 775-847-0766.
Gunfighter Exhibitions will occur the second Saturday of each month at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm in the central areas of C Street, beginning in May.
March: Mountain Oyster Fry.
May: Comstock Historic Preservation Week "Fire on the Comstock."
June: Commemoration of Gold is discovered! - 1859.
July: "Fastest Gun Alive" National Fast Draw Championship.
August: Civil War Encampment Reenactment.
September: International Camel Races.
October: Virginia City Commemoration of the Great Fire of 1875.
November: Veteran's Day Parade. "The Only Veteran's parade in Nevada."
December: Christmas on the Comstock Parade of Lights, Tree Lighting, Carolling and Fireworks.
Cities & Towns
- Reno, Nevada: 21 miles north.
- Carson City, Nevada: 17 miles southwest.
- South Lake Tahoe, Nevada: 52 miles southwest.
- Truckee, California: 48 miles west.
Parks & Monuments
- Dayton State Park: 10 miles south.
- Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park: 35 miles southwest.
- Washoe Lake State Park: 23 miles west.
- Mormon Station State Historic Park: 41 miles south.
- Bodie State Historic Park, California: 115 miles south.
Wilderness & Recreation Areas
- Toiyabe National Forest: 23 miles south.
- Lahontan State Recreation Area: 44 miles east.
- Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge: 55 miles east.
Historic & Points of Interest
- Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation: 55 miles north.
- Fort Churchill Historic State Monument: 52 miles east.
- Comstock National Historic District: 5 miles south.
- Grimes Point Hidden Cave Archeological Site: 57 miles east.
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