July 13, 2022

Photo Essay: Spending Two Nights In Gold Hill, A Near-Ghost Town Across the Divide from Virginia City, NV

I first heard of Gold Hill when I was researching a trip to Virginia City, Nevada that I ended up not taking last fall. All the travel guides recommended taking the train from Gold Hill instead of trying to find parking in Virginia City. That piqued my interest.

 Gold Hill train depot, built 1872

The combination freight/passenger depot still stands—having survived the 1875 Virginia City fire, which took out almost all other wooden structures. Official business on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad ceased in 1938—but the heritage railroad brought scenic excursions back in 1991-2.

 Site of Liberty Engine Company No. 1

All the addresses in Gold Hill are actually for Virginia City—but the two communities are technically separated by a hill and a hairpin turn in Highway 342, known as "Greiner's Bend." (The map shows another name for it, too: "The Great Divide.")

 Crown Point Mine headstock/headframe

Gold Hill was its own mining community of the Comstock Lode—a boomtown with a population of 8,000—but has dwindled down to just a couple of hundred residents, making it a near-ghost town. 

The Gold Hill Hotel was built by A. Riesen as "The Riesen House" in 1859 (or shortly therafter) to support the local mining operations. In 1862, it became Horace M. Vesey's "Vesey House," with an addition that hasn't survived the passage of time. 

Today, it still stands—and has the distinction of being the oldest operating hotel in Nevada. But most tourists pass it by nowadays, opting to stay in Virginia City, Carson City, or Reno instead. There was even a vacancy during my stay over 4th of July weekend—which should have been during its peak popularity.

By 1987–8, the then-owners Bill and Carol Fain figured the original stone and brick structure in the front wasn't enough of an offering for tourists—so they built a pretty huge wooden addition in the back. 
When you book your accommodations, you have your choice of staying in one of the "new" rooms, or one of the original rooms—which are apparently haunted. Even when tourists don't stay overnight, they do come to Gold Hill Hotel for weekly ghost tours, where they'll learn about the tragic Yellow Jacket Mine fire of 1869, which occurred just behind the hotel. 
For me, one of the most under-appreciated attractions of the hotel in Gold Hill was the resident cat...

...who joined the team in 2021 for pest mitigation. 

His name is Cloudy—and he's got a little covered living space outdoors with a comfy bed and plenty of snacks, where you can find him early in the morning. 

But most times, he's got free rein of the town's Main Street...

... and the hotel property (both inside and out). 
He's known for napping on a hallway seat and sometimes entering guests' rooms—but he wasn't having it when I tried to lure him into mine for a late-night rendezvous

The hotel also features the Crown Point Restaurant (named after another local mine), whose seating extends from the hotel's "Great Room" all the way to the annex. 

In the Great Room, you'll also find a circa 1884 Grand Cymbella reed organ, one of seven left in existence in the world. 

And just beyond the Great Room is the saloon—which thankfully stays open later than the restaurant and won't close while there are still plenty of thirsty patrons at the bar. They say Mark Twain might've gotten drunk there—which seems likely, since he reported for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise from 1862 to 1864, and he did like to drink. 

Up a flight of stairs from the saloon and restaurant (via an original staircase, they say) are the original historic rooms (and one of Cloudy's favorite perches)... 
...including Room #1, one of the tinier accommodations (perfect for a solo traveler like myself). 

It's not one of the rooms that's advertised as haunted. But the hotel website warns about even worse horrors for many modern-day tourists—like uneven floors and walls, no TV, original plaster and exposed brick, and unreliable heating, cooling, wifi, and electricity. 

It sounded perfect to me—and after just two nights there, I found myself wishing I could stay longer. 

I didn't find where the barbershop used to be. And I didn't see any traces of its former use as a brothel—at least, according to legend. 

I didn't get enough kitty cuddles in. 

And I didn't see (or smell) any ghosts.

1 comment: