Main Streets 2017: Nevada
There’s a good reason why C Street was named the nation’s largest historic landmark when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. To walk along its wood-plank sidewalks, lit by gas street lamps, past establishments like the Silver Queen Hotel and the Ponderosa Saloon is to step back into an Old West panorama.
You might even see a shootout! That’ll be a reenactment — but C Street is living history.
This became one of the great American boom towns after the 1859 discovery of the nearby Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit found in the United States. By the turn of the 20th century, miners had brought $400 million worth of gold and silver out of the Lode, which is still worked under the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, just outside Virginia City.
If you’ve ever seen the 1960s TV series “Bonanza,” C Street may look familiar; this was the setting for the ranching Cartright family’s trips into town. Nearly all the buildings along C Street’s mile-long central section date to the late 1800s. But this is no stage set — these historic buildings, carefully preserved, are still in active use.
The several museums you can visit in Virginia City include the Mark Twain Museum in the vintage Territorial Enterprise building, where a young failed silver miner named Samuel Clemens got a job as a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise, a great paper of the Old West. You can also visit The Old Corner Bar, where Clemens would go to drink. A local legend is that he would call out “Barkeep, Mark Twain!” when ordering drinks for himself and a friend. Clemens first used that pen name as his Enterprise byline in 1863, then continued to use it throughout the great author’s career.
Speaking of saloons, on C Street you can also drop into the Bucket of Blood (“Where there’s always something brewing”), the Silver Dollar, the Firehouse Saloon and the Washoe Club, which is, appropriately enough in Virginia City, both a museum and a saloon. In the back room of the Ponderosa, guides will lead you through a wood-beamed shaft to the old, now defunct Best & Belcher silver mine.
You can also explore the town’s rich vein of gift shops, candy stores and restaurants. Or just walk along C Street, feeling like you’re strolling through a legendary old American time.
Primary photo taken by Jasperado
All other photos taken by Sydney Martinez / Visit Virginia City