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Saturday, May 09 2015

In July 1986, Life magazine described Nevada’s U.S. Highway 50 between Ely and Fernley as the “Loneliest Eureka Nevada Road in America.” At the same time, AAA representatives warned travelers to avoid this empty 287-mile stretch unless they were “confident of their survival skills.”  Much has changed in the last 30 years. The scenery is still wide open, there’s not a lot of traffic, but it’s far from lacking in amenities. This scenic corridor retraces the route of the Pony Express and Overland Stagecoach trails, connects you to plenty of recreational opportunities, and passes through five full-service communities. Eureka is one such stop along the route, and is one of the best-preserved 19th century mining towns in the state.

Lead and silver ore was first discovered in Eureka during the fall of 1864 when a party of five prospectors traveling 70 mile from the silver camp of Austin to explore the area. Unlike most new mining strikes, not much excitement was caused by this find— not because the assays of the rock weren’t favorable, because they were, but because the smelting methods available at the time were not suited to treat the oxidized gold-silver-lead ores (those which are found above the water level) they had found. The ore was rich in iron and arsenic and occurred in a form that was hard for the miners to process economically. When smelters were perfected and constructed several years later, mining boomed. The 16 smelters around town certainly didn’t improve air quality, but perhaps it was the 100 saloons that helped the nearly 10,000 residents forget about the pollution! At about that same time, several rich ore bodies on Ruby Hill were discovered, and as a result, the Eureka mining district became quite prosperous. Because of the town's central location in the state, it became a railhead for the whole area, which kept Eureka alive even after production decreased.

Most of the district’s production was made between 1870 and 1890. Although there have been large amounts of gold produced in the last 50 years, the recorded production up to 1964 was approximately 313,000 tons of lead, 7,000 tons of zinc, 1,000 tons of copper, 1.65 million ounces of gold, and 39 million ounces of silver. These production totals are probably understated since records prior to 1901 were incomplete. Since 1964, nearly 1.5 million ouncEureka Opera Housees of gold and a lesser amount of silver have been produced by open pit mining. Mining continues in the Eureka area and new operations are being planned at the Mt. Hope mine, a few miles north of town. All in all, the area around Eureka, Nevada is well mineralized and seems to have a bright potential for future production of all sorts of metals.

To get a sense of Eureka’s past, and see dozens of historic buildings and sites in downtown, pick up a self-guided walking tour map at the Sentinel Museum, then spend a couple of hours or all day stepping back in time. A few highlights include:

Eureka Opera House, built 1879, has been fully restored and now serves as a convention center and auditorium. Elegant features such as a chandelier, curtain, wood floors and horseshoe balcony (one of only three horseshoe-shaped balconies in Nevada) have been preserved. Historic graffiti has been preserved back stage from the early days, and the tradition has been continued with signatures of the people who have performed at the Eureka Opera House since it was reopened.

Eureka Nevada gold mining

The 1877 Jackson House next door to the Opera House has been beautifully restored and has nine Victorian bedrooms upstairs, and a bar and restaurant downstairs.

The brick Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Building dates from 1879 and now houses a museum. This structure was used as the newspaper office and residence until 1960, and was made into a county historical museum in 1982. The downstairs press room, shown above, features all original equipment on which the Sentinel was printed in the boom days of Eureka. Old copies of the Sentinel are tacked on the walls. In the mining history room upstairs you will see tools from the early days of mining, as well as historic stock certificates, ledgers and personal miners items. Lifestyle artifacts from the early days of Eureka are there, too, including items from schools, homes, and businesses.

IF YOU GO:

Sentinel Museum

10 North Monroe Street (right behind the Courthouse)

Eureka, Nevada

Phone: 775-237-5010

November – April: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

May – October: 7 days per week 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

                 

Eureka Opera House

31 South Main Street, Eureka, NV 89316

Phone: 775-237-6006

Posted by: Denise AT 03:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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