Historic Virginia City Walking Tour
A walking, or driving tour, of Virginia City highlights our rich Comstock mining history and lets you step back in time. During the tour you’ll see and learn about some of our most noteworthy sights and structures. As you tour our famed town, you’ll hear brief histories designed to give you a sense of what it was like to live in Virginia City during our heyday.
What follows is a recommended order of your tour starting at our new Welcome Center, located just as you come into the north side of town from Reno.
Welcome to Virginia City, home of the Comstock Lode, the 19th century mining bonanza that turned Virginia City into the most important industrial city between Denver and San Francisco.
The history and stories of Virginia City are as unique, rich and colorful as the streets and buildings themselves. One must see Virginia City to even remotely understand it. We invite you to rest and take in our town from our new welcome center, recently awarded the “Statewide Excellence in Grants” award.
VIRGINIA AND TRUCKEE RAILROAD FREIGHT DEPOT
In 1869, the last rail of the Virginia and Truckee (V&T) Railroad was laid to connect Virginia City with Carson City. The freights shed operated until 1938 after which time it was used as a stable, lumber year and storage house. It remains largely unaltered today.
Rising out of Six Mile Canyon is Sugarloaf Mountain. In 1901, the Butters cyanide mill operated at its foothills. Dotting the landscape are mine waste rock dumps and tailing piles of some of the earlier underground mines and mills in Virginia City.
Now part of the Silver Queen, Molinelli’s Hotel was established in 1879 and remained in this building for many decades. In the 1880s it shared the ground floor with a retail liquor store and a popular restaurant called the Capital Rotisserie and Saloon.
GRANDMA’S FUDGE FACTORY
This building was shared by a number of business establishments during the 19th century including William Spencer’s Retail Liquors, Pearson and McCourt Wine, Liquor and Cigars, and the Palace Restaurant.
SAWDUST CORNER SALOON
This building was built as a saloon in 1876. In 1878, the first floor was shared by a saloon and a cigar and tobacco shop.
ROOS BROTHERS BUILDING
Five buildings south on C Street is the former Roos Brothers Clothing Store, identifiable by the traces of the sign which was painted the entire width of the building under the cornice. The Roos Brothers established an important clothing business at 20-22 C Street in 1876.
TERRITORIAL ENTERPRISE BUILDING
Now the Silver Queen, this structure was built in the 1870s to house the first newspaper in the Nevada Territory. The Territorial Enterprise was known for the flamboyant style of journalism developed in its earlier years by such writers as Mark Twain, Alf Doten and Dan De Quille.
GILLIG BLOCK, RED GARTER SALOON
In 1876 this building housed the hardware plumbing supply enterprise of John Gillig, a prominent businessman in Virginia City.
BANNER BROTHERS BUILDING, CRYSTAL BAR
This building originally housed a dry goods and clothing store on the ground floor and an insurance concern on the second floor. The Crystal Bar was originally established in 1867 in the Old Washoe Club.
ST. MARY’S IN THE MOUNTAINS CATHOLIC CHURCH
The present St. Mary’s Church is the fourth structure erected in the city by the Catholic congregation. The former churches were all destroyed. The large brick structure you see was rebuilt and dedicated in August 1877.
ST. PAUL’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The original structure that housed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1862 and destroyed in the fire of 1875. The church was rebuilt the next year on the site where it stands today.
Looking towards the Mackay Mansion you’ll see a greenish stone and brick foundation remains of the hoist house of the Gould and Curry Mining Company. The hoist house was built over the Bonner Shaft which was sunk in 1864. By 1873, the mine had reached the 1800 foot level, with a total production of $15,525,110.
Over time, this well-kept brick structure has housed many diverse establishments including a broker’s business, a meat market, a saloon and a brewery. The building dates from 1876 and was rebuilt after the fire of 1875 destroyed the original structure.
The Presbyterian Church was the only original church structure in Virginia City to escape the great fire of October 1875. It was built in 1867 with funds raised by its congregation from mining stocks, and maintained with income from two stores built at the same time on either side of the church.
In 1863 Robert Greaves, the superintendent of the Empire Mine, imported workman and furnishings from around the Cape of Horn to fashion this European castle-style residence. The house boasts a three-story tower with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.
A.M. COLE MANSION
This two-story Victorian mansion was built in 1887 by A.M. Cole, a prominent Virginia City pharmacist.
WATER COMPANY BUILDING
Known as the old Water Company Building, this structure was built in 1875 to house the Virginia City and Gold Hill Water Company.
STOREY COUNTY COURTHOUSE
The ornate High Victorian Italianate building, built from 1876-77, embodies 19th century ideals of law and order. Construction began in 1876 after the previous building was destroyed in the fire of 1875.
PEACE OFFICERS MUSEUM AT THE COURT HOUSE
This museum is dedicated to sharing the rich history of law enforcement nationwide.
PIPER’S OPERA HOUSE
During the last 20 years of the 19th century, Piper’s Opera House served as one of the centers of cultural activity on the Comstock and in the West.
KNIGHTS OF PYTHIAS
The Knights of Pythias building was erected in 1876 as a lodge for the group, a mutual aid and protection society started in Virginia City in 1873.
FOURTH WARD SCHOOL AND MUSEUM
The Fourth Ward School is the last one of its kind still standing in the United States. The 1876 Second Empire, four-storied state-of-the-art wooden school preserves the real story of life in a booming Old West mining town.
The Chollar mansion was built between 1861 and 1863 as the head office of the Chollar Mine and the residence of the mine superintendent. The mansion was originally commissioned by Billy Chollar, the discoverer of the Chollar Silver Lode in 1861.
This museum was built in 1860 by George Hearst as the headquarters of the Gould and Curry Mining Company Office and later purchased by John Mackay, one of the Comstock “Silver Kings.”
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 more than 70 patients.
GOLD STAMP MILL
The mill is located on F Street near the old amphitheater, where the V&T railroad tracks cross the street. The Comstock Gold Mill is reconstructed in a building attached to the Arizona-Comstock Mill.
SILVER TERRACE CEMETERY
Beginning in the 1860s, a wide variety of fraternal, civic and religious groups established burial yards on the hillside.Nearly every plot is fenced or bordered, a typical practice of the Victorian period.
WAY IT WAS MUSEUM
If you want to know what it was really like living on the Comstock and step back in time, visit the Way it Was Museum. This museum displays the most complete collection of Comstock mining artifacts in the world as well as rare photos, lithographs and maps of the “Bonanza” period.
The Washoe Club is a three story brick structure located in the Historic District of Virginia City and is one of the most haunted locations in “The West.” Today is it named as one of the most haunted locations in the west.
GOLD HILL DEPOT
The Virginia & Truckee Railroad (V&T) was built under the direction of William Sharon, manager of the Bank of California, owner of many mines and most of the mills on the Comstock. The Gold Hill Station on the V&T was completed in September 1869, and the first locomotive passed through American Flat Tunnel on November 3 of that year.
GOLD HILL HOTEL
H. M. Vesey acquired the hotel early in the 1860’s and added the wooden structure to the original stone building. The hotel became an important part of the now thriving metropolis of Gold Hill which was adjacent to the even larger industrial and business center known as Virginia City.