Some of the most interesting of Virginia City’s historic sites can be found off the city’s main street. For our final look at Virginia City’s back streets, we’re going to explore directly east of C Street.
For example, on D Street, you will find the majestic Mackay Mansion (129 D St.) built in 1860 as the offices and residence of the Gould and Curry Mining Company (owned for a time by George Hearst). Later, it was home to mining magnate John Mackay, one of the Comstock Silver Kings.
Across the street from the Mackay home is the so-called Spite House (140 D St.). Virginia City lore says the house earned this name when two miners got into an argument, the subject of which has been lost to the ages.
In a fit of rage, one of the miners moved his house adjacent to the other, placing it so close that he blocked all the windows on the north side of the other’s home. Most historians, however, believe this whole story isn’t true.
A few hundred yards south is the Savage Mansion (146 D St.), built in 1861. The bottom floor of this three-story mansion, which is a private residence, originally served as the office for the Savage Mining Company, while the top two floors were living quarters for the mine superintendent.
With its expansive mansard roof and dormered windows, the Savage is considered one of the last of the great Comstock mansions to have been built. One piece of historic trivia is that President Ulysses S. Grant gave a speech from the second-floor balcony in 1879.
South of the Savage Mansion is the Fourth Ward School, built in 1876. Boasting an ornate Victorian-era architecture, Virginia City’s Fourth Ward School almost seems too elegant to have been a schoolhouse.
Now open for tours, the school was built to accommodate more than 1,000 students in 16 classrooms. It featured many modern conveniences—at least they were modern for the times—such as a central heating system, water piped to every floor, drinking fountains and indoor “Philadelphia-style,” patented, spring-loaded, self-flushing toilets.
Just around the corner from the school is the Chollar Mansion, built in 1863 as a combined mining office and residence for the Chollar-Potosi Mining Company.
If you continue farther east from D Street, you will reach other landmarks, including the St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church (corner of Taylor and E streets), built immediately following the 1875 fire.
This impressive two-story, Gothic Revival brick structure, open to the public for viewing, has fine rosewood balconies and stained glass windows.
Another of Virginia City’s churches is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located one block northeast of St. Mary in the Mountains on the corner of F and Taylor Streets.
Erected in 1876—an earlier congregation church that was erected in 1862 burned in the 1875 fire—St. Paul’s is entirely constructed of native pine and has arched ceiling beams and walls that are actually held together with wooden pegs.
The original pews and wood-paneled walls are also nearly intact and the church still hosts regular services.
Of course, even farther beyond these neighborhoods are a handful of other historic places to explore including Virginia City’s Silver Terrace Cemetery, the St. Mary’s Art Center and the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Freight Depot. All are worth checking out.
For more information about the community’s historic places go to the Virginia City Tourism Commission web site, http://www.visitvirginiacitynv.com/attractions/popular-itineraries-aamp-tours/historic-walking-tours.html.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.