Primary Credit Jasperado e1509031637432

Virginia City, Nevada – C Street

Main Streets 2017: Nevada

Donkey credit Sydney Martinez Travel Nevada
Donkey credit Sydney Martinez Travel 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

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Elko Motorcycle Jamboree new photo 2.22.16

Elko, Nevada – Idaho Street

Main Streets 2016: Nevada

Elko was on the California Trail, a main route of west-bound pioneers, but people didn’t stop to make a community here until the railroad came to town. In 1868, crews here built the easternmost tracks of the Central Pacific Railroad, which that year joined with other lines to open the First Transcontinental Railroad. People stayed to build a town, a center for rail freight plus mining and ranching — and the tracks still run past downtown Elko today.

Idaho Street is Elko’s central avenue, and it has the wide-open feel of the Old West. The view opens to an expansive vista of the rugged Ruby Mountains that rise nearby. Idaho Street has modern chain hotels, but also old-time local motels with bright neon signs. It is also home to gambling and entertainment establishments including the Gold Country Inn & Casino and the Red Lion Hotel & Casino.

Gold is a big part of Elko’s past along with its present. The city is the center of gold mining in Nevada, which produces more gold than all but four countries around the world, and most of it comes from the Elko area. A tour of the nearby Carlin Trend Mine, given by the Newmont Mining Corporation, leaves Elko every second Thursday from April through October.

There’s more than gaming and gold in Elko, though — there’s history, whose oldest relics may date back two million years. The Northeastern Nevada Museum on Idaho Street features a display of rare mastodon fossils found in Spring Creek, along with exhibits on Native American and Old West history. The Western Folklife Center is in Elko, and each January, it hosts the five-day National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, with music, verse and stories that celebrate life on the ranch and in the rural West.

The California Trail Interpretive Center illustrates the struggles and stories of the quarter million pioneers who found their way west along the 2,000-mile trail. The center is eight miles west of Elko on the trail itself. Visitors to town often head out to explore the Ruby Mountains, the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Wildhorse State Recreation Area, or to go rock hunting in Elko’s environs.

Whether inside Elko or out on the range, folks still come here seeking that elusive strike of gold.

Photo courtesy of Elko Daily Free Press

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