Yes, Virginia, there is a city called Virginia…in Nevada
Rorie recently met up with her family in Nevada to take a road trip to California to celebrate the marriage of their niece and future nephew. On the way, they took a side trip to the small, iconic town of Virginia City, Nevada. Had Rorie known the ride would involve taking a tortuous, twisty, gut wrenching, gravity defying and terrifying road straight up a mountain devoid of any guard rails, she might have changed her mind about visiting this unique small town. Rather than taking in the scenery below, the mantra was “eyes forward”, repeated like a prayer over and over to her brother – the driver. At an elevation of 6,150 feet, Virginia City provides a breathtaking vista but it is definitely not a car trip for the faint of heart!
Virginia City is an old mining boomtown that resulted from the discovery of silver in the Comstock Lode in 1859. Precariously perched on the side of Mt. Davidson, this frontier town seemed to spring up overnight and in its heyday, had over 15,000 residents, 42 saloons, 42 stores, 6 restaurants, 3 hotels, and 868 dwellings. Built over miles of old mining tunnels and shafts, remnants and reminders of the old mines are still seen throughout the town and you can even take a tour of some of these mines.
With a current population of about 855 residents, this small town now attracts hordes of tourists who want to experience the Old West. The day we visited, hundreds of motorcycle riders descended on the town as part of a nearby rally. The juxtaposition of modern “hogs” with historic buildings was a sight to behold!
But if new fangled transportation isn’t your thing, try wrangling one of the wild horses that roam freely through the town, happily stopping traffic or munching on a manicured lawn.
Not just known for its silver, frontier nightlife and culture, Virginia City was also the temporary home to one of our most beloved and cantankerous writers. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, lived in Virginia City for almost 2 years and wrote for the local newspaper. It’s here that he assumed his famous pen name. Plaques honoring their most revered resident can be seen throughout the town.
The city is chock full of historic buildings and museums. The beautiful second-empire style Fourth Ward wooden schoolhouse is the last one of it’s kind in the US.
The Presbyterian Church in the center of town dates back to the 1860’s and is the oldest religious structure in Virginia City.
The bars and watering holes surround this beautiful church and are plentiful, but the unappetizingly named, old Bucket of Blood Saloon seemed to draw the biggest crowd.
Original wood boardwalks through the center of town reminded us of the ones on some of our favorite old TV shows like Bonanza, Wild Wild West and Wyatt Earp. If you closed your eyes, you could conjure up images of Artemis Gordon and James West, Little Joe and Hoss or the Earp brothers strolling down the wooden boardwalk on their way to the General Store.
Many homes dating back to the 1860’s and 1870’s are still standing including the banana yellow grand dame of them all, The Savage Mansion.
The three-story Victorian Mackay Mansion was built in 1859. The home is alleged to be haunted by friendly ghosts including a former Colonel, two women, and a little girl dressed in white.
Although Rorie loves the architecture of historic places, her favorite building was…you guessed it…the old-fashioned candy store!
Barrels filled to the brims with taffy, button candy, licorice, candy cigarettes and every childhood sweet treat you can imagine line the store. She and her siblings took their own trip down memory lane while drooling over old favorites and agonizing over how to narrow down their choices.
If you crave an Old West adventure and a taste of a bygone lifestyle and era, Virginia City is a must see. Who knows, you might run into a real life cowboy or the ghost of one from days past.