Our Quirky Q&A’s
There’s no such thing as a bad question, especially when it comes to Virginia City. Trust us, we’ve heard it all. Here’s some of our favorites for your educational and enjoyment purposes.
In the mineral “Rush of 1863,” what was the population of Virginia City?
The population mushroomed to 15,000 people.
How many saloons were in Virginia City during its heyday?
There were over 100 saloons – one drinking establishment for every 32 people.
Were motion pictures filmed in Virginia City?
Yes, a notable one starred Humphrey Bogart in 1940. Then, the television show “Bonanza” came on the scene in 1959, when it premiered in Virginia City’s Piper’s Opera House, the playhouse which still stands. Although “Bonanza” was never filmed in Virginia City, the mining town was featured in the show.
What did Virginia City residents do for fun in the winter?
They entertained themselves with sleigh rides in the streets.
How many towns were in the Comstock?
There were 22 towns of the mining and milling Comstock, including Virginia City.
How hot is Virginia City in the summer?
Summertime temperatures in Virginia City range in the upper 70s to upper 90s.
What was the biggest revenue-making mine in Virginia City?
John Mackay’s Consolidated Virginia mine was considered one of the richest in the “Big Bonanza” group of mines that raked in $300 million.
How much gold and silver was found in Virginia City?
More than $700 million was pulled from the mines of the Comstock in a period of 25 years. This amount is split almost evenly between gold and silver.
When did Virginia City mines stop being profitable?
In 1880, Virginia City prospectors and investors noticed a downfall called a “Barrasa,” which is Spanish for a mining depression.
Is there mining going on today?
Yes, mining operations still exist but not with the magnitude of the 1800s.
How long did Mark Twain live here?
Mark Twain lived on the Comstock for about two years from 1862. He returned for a temporary visit later in the decade.
Is there a place where a visitor may see famous people?
The Silver Terrace Cemetery at the end of town provides an enlightening walk through history with its textbook summary of the people who built the Comstock. Interesting footnotes like: “I told you I was sick” can be found on the tombstones of the gravesites as indicated in “Voices of the Past,” a walking tour the Comstock Cemetery Foundation puts on.
Do people really live here?
Yes, of course we do. The estimated population for Virginia City is approximately 1,200 full-time residents with about 4,500 in Storey County.
What does Mark Twain have to do with Virginia City
Samuel Clemens arrived here in 1861 with his brother, Orion. He came to seek his fortune, stayed nearly three years and developed his writing style while here. He worked for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper as a reporter and his primary duties were to report on mining and the political news.
Do you have copies of Mark Twain’s newspaper columns.
No, but what a find that would be. No copies are known to exist of Territorial Enterprise newspapers with his writing appearing. Books have been published to such. All known copies of the paper were destroyed in the great fire of 1875 and none have turned up in public.
Are all these buildings real?
Absolutely. In 1875 about three quarters of the community was destroyed by fire. The buildings to the north of Taylor Street all generally date from 1876 when they were rebuilt. The buildings, except for the newer ones, to the south of Taylor St. down to the Presbyterian Church, generally date from 1860 or 1862 and were saved from the Great Fire.
Do you have bathrooms here?
Although we would like to say no just for the reaction, we do have history of taking our outhouses to the street. In fact, that’s how our annual event, The World Championship Outhouse Races, got it start. Seriously though, all of the saloons and restaurants have restrooms as do most gift shops. The Visitors Center, located at the “Crystal Bar” at the corner of C and Taylor streets, has restrooms available for the public daily.
Are the fronts of these buildings real?
This is the real deal and are not facades. If you look closely, some are more ornate than others primarily due to the architecture of the time.
What does the “V” mean on the side of the hill.
It is not a V, it is an arrow that points to the gold. That’s a joke. It stands for Virginia City, of course. It was placed there in the 1900s as a navigational aid for mail planes so they would know where to drop the mail from the air for a particular town. It has been maintained by high school seniors since as a representation of school pride. Go Muckers!
How close is Reno?
It’s 12 miles from here along Gieger Grade to Highway 395.
You really have wooden boardwalks?
Yes. Yes, we do. It’s part of what makes Virginia City what it is. Listening to boots walking on the boardwalk takes us back in time.
What is the altitude?
Virginia City sites at 6,280 feet at C Street. Fun fact. It’s the same level as the water in Lake Tahoe.
What is that siren for at noon?
It actually is just that, a noon siren. It was used for the fire alarm for the fire department before the advent of pagers and other communication devices. Now, it’s a tradition to sound it at noon.
How far can you see out to the east?
Actually it is about 90 miles but we like to fudge it a bit and call it a 100 mile view.
Where is the Ponderosa Ranch from here?
The Ponderosa Ranch from the television series was located in Incline Village, Nevada for many years and closed in the 2000s after transfering to private ownership. However, the legend of Hoss, the crew and the town they lived in, Virginia City, lives on in reruns.
Is there anyone famous buried in Virginia City.
Yes, all the miners and their families that worked here on the Comstock.
Do you get snow here in the winter?
Yes and the total accumulation varies annually but we’ve seen as much as 10 feet over the course of the winter.
Is Virginia City closed in the winter?
Nope. We’re not Disneyland. We’re a real place with real people with most of the town and places remaining opening year round.
Were there really 80,000 people here in the 1800s as I was told?
That’s kinda a stretch. There were never more than about 28,000 people residing in the area at our high point in the 1870’s. The corridor spand from the north end of Virginia City down to Silver City and included the American Flat area, to the west.
Are there ghosts in this town?
Seeing is believing. We recommend taking a tour of many of our haunted establishments to find out for yourself. The “Ghosthunters Guide to Virginia City” brings the haunted history to life, including excerpts from tales in Piper’s Opera House, the Fourth Ward School, Gold Hill Hotel and Mackay Mansion. Actually, our town has been named as one of the top three most haunted places in America. If you are brave enough to seek it out, there are several places we’ll be more than happy to point out to you.
Can you get on the internet here?
Guess what? We offer a free town WiFi service. You’re welcome.
What time does the town open up?
Funny question. We may look like a tourist attraction, but we’re a living breathing town filled with hardworking folks ready to welcome you to their shops and businesses all year long.
Why do you have so many parades in Virginia City?
Because everyone loves a parade. From St. Patrick’s Day to a Pet Parade and from 4th of July to honoring our Veterans everything in between, we take great pride in our celebrations. Come and check it out for yourself.
Where is J Street?
Fun fact. There is no J Street, but if there was one it would be between I and K streets.
Where are all the mines that were here?
They are still here but the passages have been closed off for nearly a 100 years. What remains are tours for two mines, the Chollar Mine and the Ponderosa.