Comstock offers Old West experience
In 1859, placer miners and prospectors in the western Great Basin made two amazing strikes of gold and silver ore near Virginia City. The Comstock Lode, as people soon called the ore body, resulted in what would today be billions of dollars in riches. Virginia City became a highly urbanized, industrial setting and by the early 1870s, together with its smaller neighbor, Gold Hill, reached a population of nearly 25,000, becoming one of the nation's larger communities.
Mining camps are known to pass through an evolution of boom, dramatic growth and excitement, and then decline and Virginia City certainly followed that pattern. By the early 1880s, it was becoming clear that the good times were over. It had been years since miners had discovered any new bonanzas, and thousands of people were leaving for better opportunities. By the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Virginia City had declined, shrinking into a town of only several hundred people.
Interestingly, the NBC television western, Bonanza, that ran from 1959 to 1973, brought a declining Virginia City back to life. Due to the enormous popularity of the show, visitors from around the world began to seek out and discover this famous western city, previously known only through the chronicled, weekly adventures of the Cartwright family. Bonanza’s pop culture standing influenced the city’s offerings to also include amenities for travelers, like restaurants, saloons and shops along the main strip.
The best tour of one of the largest national landmarks in the US begins by aquainting yourself with the discovery of The Comstock Lode. The following museums and attractions tell this remarkable story.
Fourth Ward School Museum
On November 28, 1876, the excited residents of Virginia City christened their new monument to education, the Fourth Ward School. The majestic four-story building could accommodate over 1000 students, and it boasted state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and sanitation systems, as well as water piped to all floors. Today this historical treasure is a museum featuring programs designed to tell the real story of the American West. Permanent exhibits include the Fourth Ward School building, a historical overview of the Comstock, a newly renovated Comstock mining overview, 1870's classroom, Virginia City Alumni photographs and memorabilia, and Mark Twain.
537 South "C" Street (located at the very south end of the main strip)
Silver Terrace Cemetery
On the dramatic, windswept hillsides of Virginia City, among the many abandoned mines that remind visitors of the Comstock’s heyday, resides the Silver Terrace Cemeteries. The ornate, Victorian-era plots tell the stories of Virginia City’s history and immigrant culture, capturing their profiles in colorful inscriptions. Seasonally, living history tours are offered in the cemetery. For more information visit: http://comstockcemeteryfoundation.com/docs/voices.pdf.
End of North E Street (northeast of C Street business district)
For more information visit comstockcemeteryfoundation.com
Piper's Opera House
Located on a hillside over-looking C Street is the magnificent Piper’s Opera House, long considered one of the nation's most famous performance venues and one of the most significant vintage theatres in America. Built in 1885 and still in use, it has recently undergone extensive restoration. The stage once welcomed President Grant, Buffalo Bill, Al Jolson, and Mark Twain. Tours are offered seven days a week from 9 - 4.
St. Mary’s Art Center
Built in 1876, the St. Mary’s Art Center was originally established as the St. Mary Louise Hospital by the Sisters of Charity and Bishop Patrick Manogue. The 36 room hospital included five wards and 12 private rooms that could accommodate upwards of 70 patients. Today, the art center operates year round offering lodging and art instruction. Class offerings include watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, photography and other artistic media. Visitors are welcome 11:00 a m - 4:00 pm, Tuesday - Sunday.
55 N. R St.
The Virginia and Truckee is by far the most famous of all American short line railroads. As many as 45 trains a day arrived and departed Virginia City. President U.S. Grant and dignitaries the world over rode in the ornate coaches of Virginia & Truckee. Completed in 1869, trains hauled millions of dollars of gold and silver ore from the rich mines of Virginia City.
Take a 35-minute excursion back into the Old West. Journey over the original Virginia & Truckee Railroad from Virginia City, through tunnel 4 to Gold Hill, Nev. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Savor the spectacular mountain scenery. Hear the conductor narrate the amazing history of the Comstock while the train chuffs past the famous Comstock Bonanza mine ruins.
Trains operate daily May 23 - Oct. 31. For complete times and ticket prices, click here. The Depot is located at F street and Washington in Virginia City.775.847.0380
The main street running through town is "C Street". Here you will find restaurants, saloons, shops and more attractions.