A short drive from Carson City puts you in Virginia City a town set on the side of a mountain that perches precariously over miles of tunnels and shafts remaining from the mining days. C Street is the main thoroughfare and the town’s wealthy live on A and B street. D Street to R Street was originally home to the red-light district, V&T Railroad depot, the Chinese quarter, and ore stamp mills. Scattered throughout the town are remnants of various mines.
Virginia City sprang up after the discovery of the Comstock Lode of silver ore in 1859. Thousands of people, including Mark Twain, came to Virginia City to make their fortune in the mines.
Mark Twain developed his writing style and adopted his famous pen-name while staying in booming Virginia City from late 1862 to May 1864.
In 1859 the Comstock Lode was discovered and the growth of Virginia City began. More money was produced by the Comstock Lode than the entire California Gold Rush a decade before. By 1876 Nevada produced over half of all the precious metals in the United States
Through time, the ownership of Comstock mines changed from numerous independent mines to large monopolies. The Bank of California financed the mines and mills of the Comstock until they had a virtual monopoly. By the late 1860s, a group of Irish investors threatened the Bank of California’s control. John Mackay and partner James Fair began as common miners, working their way up to management positions in the mines. By purchasing mining stocks, they realized financial independence. Their partners, James Flood and William O’Brien, stayed in San Francisco and speculated in stock and the four men became known as The Irish Big Four. The next few years saw the greatest profits on the Comstock and the Bank of California lost control to the Irish Big Four. John Mackay became the richest man in the world, establishing the company that became AT&T, and laying the first transatlantic communications cable. James Fair became a US Senator.
Virginia City’s fate was sealed when Congress passed the Mint Act, known as the “Crime of ‘73”. The act negatively affected the silver mining industry by reducing the amount of silver purchased by the federal government. The Comstock mining boom was effectively over by 1880. Virginia City declined, but never completely disappeared.
As I told you in yesterday’s blog The Ponderosa Ranch from the TV show Bonanza was located in Lake Tahoe but the characters in the TV show often went to Virginia City and this brought Virginia City’s history to a new generation.
Today Virginia City welcomes visitors craving an authentic old west experience. Many of the old Victorian buildings remain and tourists walk the board walks wandering through various gift shops and stopping for drinks in old salons.
We enjoyed our afternoon in Virginia City, especially our visit to the Bucket of Blood Salon.
The Salon was constructed in 1876 after the great fire of 1875, which destroyed almost a thousand structures in the town. The masonry walls of the Salon predate the great fire of 1875.
Along the back wall of the bar were rows of Victorian Pickle Castors.
A pickle castor is a silver plated frame with a fitted glass jar and they are used to hold pickles for serving at lunch, tea, or the dinner table. The frames are usually very ornate, sporting lacy filigree, raised floral, shell or scroll designs. Most frames have a hook on one side, from which a small pair of silver-plated tongs rests. I’m now on a quest to find my own pickle castor 🙂
As we headed out of town we came across this very colorful pile of rock.
Until next time …