Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Ghost Town Of Gold Point, Nevada

The ghost town of Gold Point, Nevada looks like a set for a western movie-----it consists of several dilapidated wooden structures stuck in the middle of a desert wilderness. It is privately owned and visitors can spend the night there in some of the surviving structures. Gold Point is located about 180 miles north of Las Vegas on Highway 95; it's about midway between Beatty and Goldfield at the junction of Highway 95 and Highway 266 (this is where the Cottontail Ranch brothel is located-----the only commercial establishment for many miles----so the intersection is hard to miss!). Travel about 7.5 miles west on 266 until you reach Highway 774, a graded dirt road. From there, it's about 8 miles to Gold Point. The dirt road is usually suitable for passenger cars, and before long you're entering the suburbs of Gold Point:

The first mining in the Gold Point region began in 1868, but the town didn't come into being until a large silver strike in 1908. The original name of the town was Hornsilver. By 1908, railroad and wagon transportation had improved to the point where it was economically practical to ship lumber to such an isolated site, so Hornsilver had numerous wooden buildings instead of the stone, adobe, and rock structures found in most nineteenth century towns. Before long, Hornsilver had a post office, a population of over 1000, a newspaper, and 13 saloons.

The initial fast growth of Hornsilver couldn't be sustained, however. Mine production stagnated and there were many disputes over mining claims, effectively shutting down numerous mines during the litigation process. But in 1927, a vein of gold was discovered and the name was changed to Gold Point in an effort to lure more investors. The production of gold was modest, however, and the town slowly faded away. Mining of non-strategic materials like gold was suspended at the start of World War II, and as a result Gold Point became almost completely abandoned after 1941. Only a few old-timers remained, but the post office continued to operate until 1967.

Every building in Gold Point, even those that seem completely abandoned, is owned by someone. Most often, that "someone" is Herb Robbins, a carpenter and ghost town buff who managed to win over $220,000 in a Las Vegas casino. He had visited Gold Point numerous times before his big win, and long felt the town should be preserved. With his casino windfall, he bought up much of the remaining property and converted/restored five of the surviving cabins into bed-and-breakfast accommodations. He also re-opened one saloon that serves visitors on weekends, and below is its impressive bar:

There is still some small mining activity in Gold Point, and the residences of those miners are easy to recognize-----they are off-limits behind fencing:

The house below looks a little too fancy to have been the home of a miner. Maybe one of the mine superintendents and his family called it home:

It's remarkable how well-preserved some of the buildings are in Gold Point:

However, most are in a state of decay, like the one below:

Gold Point is a long way from both Las Vegas and Reno, but it's worth the trip from either. It's a shame that so many people visit Las Vegas and never see any more of Nevada than it. Nevada is a state loaded with history and unusual places; anyone looking for the real Old West can find plenty of it in rural Nevada. My favorite weekend activity when I lived in Las Vegas was to take my 4Runner and head for a place located well beyond where the paved roads ended!