Driving through Silver City on State Route 341, visitors and residents have passed by a small sign on the side of the highway. For those who live in Silver City, it represented depression, anger, frustration and hopelessness.
The numbers on the sign counted the days, months and years the community had been without a community center.
But Saturday morning, a new emotion entered their lexicon, joy.
Surrounded by residents and guests, community and county leaders broke ground on the new Schoolhouse Community Center. In true Comstock style, the leaders shied away from shovels, instead choosing silver pick axes to turn the soil.
The groundbreaking came two years, three months and 10 days after the historic structure burned in a fire believed to be sparked by county employees using welding torches to install air conditioning.
"The schoolhouse has been described as the heart of this community and now, we have our heart back," said Erich Obermayr, town board chairman. "This feels a lot more real today than it did yesterday."
In February, the Lyon County Commission voted unanimously to accept the bid by Building Solutions LLC for $763,078 to rebuild the center. Construction began in late February and is expected to be completed in November.
Commissioner Bob Milz told those gathered the commission was happy to help return the town's meeting place.
"This was your center of life, and it was destroyed. You've been very patient, but I'm glad this day is here," Milz said. "Thank God we're here today."
Ron Reno, an archaeology professor who lives in Silver City, said it was the dedication of the community that made the resurrection of the building possible.
"These people put on (protective) suits, in the heat of August, because of the lead contamination and went through all that wreckage. We hauled 12, 20-yard containers out of here, all of it sorted by hand," Reno said. "There is a cargo container of lumber that is ready to go back into the building and pallets of bricks cleaned by hand to be used.
"It was only when the building was ruined that we realized what it meant to us."
No one was happier to see the groundbreaking than Bill Young, who's grandfather and mother were both graduates of the school. Young himself graduated eighth grade at the school in 1949.
"It's just unbelievable. I can't believe the job they've done to get it back," Young said.
After the ceremony and potluck, those leaving Silver City passed that sign that for so long had counted up the days the community had been without its heart.
Now, it counts down the days until the building is completed.
Saturday, it read 228 days to go.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.