Goldfield, NV is located directly along Highway 95 in Esmeralda County, 26 miles south of Tonopah, and 180 miles north of Las Vegas. If you’ve driven this route, you can’t miss it. It’s massive buildings stand tall and proud and they remember the times when Goldfield was filled with thousands of people, and was once the largest city in the state.
Goldfield, the beginning…
On December 4th, 1902 two prospectors (Stimler and Marsh) that had made their way south from Tonopah staked three claims on the north ridge of the Columbia Mountains. They named the new mining district “Grandpa”. It’s unsure the meaning behind the name however it is speculated that it could mean “The Granddaddy of them all”, or possibly because Gran Pah in Shoshone means great water. The three men named their claims The Sandstorm, Kruger, and May Queen.
On October 20th, 1903 thirty-six prospectors and investors gathered together to establish the town site. During this meeting, they voted to change the name of the town and mining district from Grandpa to Goldfield, because they figured that it would be easier to promote the area with a name like Goldfield.
There be gold in them hills…
From 1901 thru 1940 Goldfield had recorded production of $90,000,000, most of that in gold. Today that estimated value would be around $1.8 billion dollars! The gold to silver ratio in Goldfield was 3 to 1.
The Building Boom…
The building boom at Goldfield began in 1905 and continued through 1910. In 1903, just a camp for around 20 people, by 1907 Goldfield was the largest city in Nevada with a population of over 20,000 people. Goldfield had everything that any major city had. The directory published in 1907 listed the following businesses: Saloons (49), Restaurants (27), Barber Shops (15), Bakeries (6), Assayers (54), Attorneys (84), Brokers (162), Cigar Stores (14), Grocers (21). Hotels (22), Laundries (17), Doctors (40), Undertakers (10).
The one building that is familiar to most people today is The Goldfield Hotel. The Goldfield Hotel was built in 1907 by the Hayes – Monette Syndicate and designed by Reno architects Holesworth and Curtis. The estimated cost of the building was between $300,000 and $400,000.
The hotel had 150 sleeping rooms, and 45 suites that included their own bathrooms. The sleeping rooms shared bathrooms complete with a claw-foot bathtub, and toilet. The guest rooms were furnished with carpeting, telephones, draperies, glass lamps, hardwood dressers with glass plate mirrors, cuspidors, and brass beds. The Hotel also had its own dining room, as well a saloon.
The hotel operated well into the 1940’s. It still stands today as the most prominent building in Goldfield. Numerous times over the last decade, there have been talks of renovating and reopening the hotel. However, it seems that this is nothing more than talk, as no action has been taken. It is believed by many that this hotel is one of the most haunted places in the west as many paranormal investigation groups have experienced activity within its walls.
The Earps come to town…
Virgil Earp, along with his wife Allie, made their way to Goldfield in 1904. Shortly after their arrival, Virgil was made a deputy sheriff of Esmeralda County. Sadly, this didn’t last long. On October 19th, 1905 Virgil died of pneumonia in the Saint Mary’s County Hospital in Goldfield.
As for Wyatt, it is rumored that he owned a Saloon, a hotel, tended bar, etc.. There is no truth to these rumors. Wyatt was only ever in Goldfield for short periods of time to visit with his brother. He never lived, worked or owned any business in Goldfield.
July 6th, 1923, a fire consumed the town of Goldfield. The fire started at T. C. Rea’s house at 6:40am. It is believed that the fire was started as the result of a liquor still exploding in Rea’s house, and possibly because of a bootleggers feud. The fire destroyed much of Main Street, a total of 25 blocks. Two people died in the fire.
On September 29th, 1924 another fire broke out in Goldfield. While not as devastating as the 1923 fire, it did completely destroy the Goldfield News Building and the Montezuma Club.
After these fires Goldfield never recovered to the town that it once was.
Today Goldfield is still the county seat of Esmeralda County. The sheriff’s office, the court-house, and the county jail still call Goldfield home. The 2000 census shows Goldfield as having a population of 440 people, that is up from the 1950’s census which lists a total of 275. There are still a number of small businesses which operate within the town including a restaurant, a general store, a coffee shop, a bank, a book store, a number of mining collectible shops, and a saloon.
The Sante Fe Saloon is noteworthy as it began operation in 1905 and has been in operation continuously since that time. It is the longest running business in Goldfield’s history, and one of the longest continuously operated saloons in all the state of Nevada. Attached to the Saloon they have a small hotel with eight rooms available.
The Historical Society of Goldfield have done an amazing job at trying to bring tourism back into Goldfield. They have an informative website with plenty of information on the town. As well, they have created a tour of Goldfield complete with a nice guide of the historic buildings. You can request one of these guides from this location on their website.
During my visit…
I pulled into Goldfield on this cloudy ugly day in November. The days earlier had brought a good amount of snow to the town, much of which had already melted off leaving for a damp and muddy experience. I parked my car on Crook St. in front of the court-house and walked these once bustling streets. I spent a good part of two hours walking and photographing the town, amazed at what great condition much of the buildings are in for having being built over a century ago.
From the town I could see a number of mines out in the hills around the town. I decided to take a drive out in the “Goldfields” if there was access available. Sure enough, the snowy and muddy roads were open so I made the few miles drive around the mining area. While the road was not closed to visitors, the mines are, so all pictures I have are from the roads.
I could have spent days in Goldfield, but I was hungry and was already a good distance from Beatty where I was staying during my trip. I had expected that I might find a small restaurant open in town, but it’s only restaurant operates Monday – Friday only. Not exactly convenient for the many weekend travelers making their way down 95. So I hurried on down the road another 20 something miles to Tonopah for a bite to eat before making my drive back to Beatty.
I can tell you this, I will be back. There is so much more to see than what a few hours could provide me with. Go to Goldfield, you will not be disappointed!