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Virginia City - Gold Mining Years of the Comstock Lode Silver Strike

Updated on November 27, 2013

Virginia City - Historic Ghost Town

Virginia City, one of Nevada's oldest establishments, was proclaimed a National Historic Landmark in the year 1961. The Comstock Lode gold and silver ore strike of 1859 was the beginning of the mining days of Virginia City that caused it to develop into a booming metropolis. Towards the close of the nineteenth century the mining had dissipated, resulting in a quickly declining population that consequently caused the prosperity of Virginia City to subside, destining the successful city to demise into a ghost town. Though its boom days have ended, the historical town of Virginia City remains in its archetypal state much the same as in the 1870's when it was at the height of its mining days. With its enriching history and genuine preservation, Virginia City today is an attraction that lures millions of visitors every year.

Comstock Gold Discovery
Comstock Gold Discovery

Discovery of the Comstock Lode Silver Strike of 1859

Though the Grosh brothers along with Henry Comstock all played a role in the origins of Virginia City, actual credit for the unearthing at Gold Canyon has been widely disputed. Folk tale has it that it was James Fennimore, commonly known as James Finney and nicknamed "Old Virginny", who was the actual discoverer of the 1859 Comstock Lode silver discovery, the first major United States finding of silver ore. As soon as the silver and gold strike was made known to the public, prospectors from everywhere travelled to the eastern mountainous slope of Mt Davidson eager to stake their claim. Mt Davidson is the most elevated peak within the Virginia Range that forms the background of Virginia City.

Virginia City lies alongside State Route 341 in northwestern Nevada and is situated east of Lake Tahoe with nearness to Carson City, the state capitol of Nevada. Formerly, Virginia City had a population in excess of 30,000 people. This included the small surrounding communities of Silver City and Gold Hill. The rapid growth occurred and reached its height during the "Big Bonanza", which was the Mother Lode strike of the 1870's, the time when many millions of dollars of silver ore and gold were being excavated from the mining shafts exceeding depths of 3,000 feet.

The Great Fire of 1875

The "Great Fire" of 1875 destroyed a great deal of Virginia City. But, with the wealth of the expansive mining industry, the city was rebuilt in a relatively short time of eighteen months, and once again the banks, opera houses, hotels, saloons and other merchant businesses were back in operation.

Instantaneous wealth was achieved by many of the town's people during the active gold and silver ore mining times. However, once the Comstock Lode era began to dissipate at the close of the nineteenth century, Virginia City's population fell sharply, signifying that the boom age of this once very wealthy town was coming to an end.

Virginia City Today

Presently, Virginia City has a small population of about 1200 people, and though the mining activity is negligible, the economic basis of this historical town has moved to tourism, drawing over two million visitors each year. The conservation of the artifacts and historic buildings provide visiting tourists with an undefiled Victorian-era experience. Today, with overwhelming tourist attention, it has facilitated Virginia City to blossom once again as it did in the bustling days of the 1800's.

Because of the enormous wealth achieved during the hustle and bustle days of the Comstock Lode silver strike, Virginia City was referred to as "The Richest Place on Earth". Even though the presence of silver and gold has largely disappeared from the hills of this legendary ghost town, Virginia City remains prolific in folklore and history. The existing underground mines, stately mansions, historic saloons, and cemeteries all provide a glance of the early days of the town's significant past. With its acquired fame and magnetism, this extraordinary landmark lures visitors disparate to any other, personifying that Virginia City has justly earned a place in history.

Lake Tahoe and Other Nearby Places of Interest

In similar fashion to Virginia City, Lake Tahoe also has a very fascinating history and is only a 45 minute drive away from this well-known ghost town. View photographs of this stunning alpine lake as well as world-famous Emerald Bay and visit some of the most fantastic Tahoe wedding venues available that are found at elevated heights throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Lake Tahoe.

Guestbook Comments - Have you visited Virginia City or Lake Tahoe? Tell us about it.

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    • Kenny Halford profile image

      Kenny Halford 6 years ago from South Lake Tahoe, CA

      @lasertek lm: Its been a beautiful summer here in Tahoe this year...mid 80's and still have snow-capped mountains.

    • Kenny Halford profile image

      Kenny Halford 6 years ago from South Lake Tahoe, CA

      @mbgphoto: Thanks for the comment. I live about 40 minutes from VC and visit frequently. There's a lot of great history there.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      Been planning to visit Lake Tahoe.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Interesting lens....blessed