An amazing number of Nevada mining towns just seemed to pop up almost overnight—and then disappear even faster.
Most of these “Now-You-See-‘Em-Now-You-Don’t” towns were frequently little more than tent cities, but a few, such as Gold Center, were able to claim at least a few brick and stone buildings before vanishing forever.
What remains of Gold Center can be found about three miles south of the southwestern town of Beatty, on a hillside directly west of U.S. Highway 95.
Despite its name, Gold Center wasn’t the location of much successful mining and never produced any gold. In fact, its main reason for existing to supply water from the Amargosa River, which runs adjacent to site, to surrounding mines and mining communities.
In 1904, a town site was laid out and named Gold Center. The town’s optimistic developers hoped that Gold Center would surpass nearby Bullfrog, Rhyolite and other mining camps as a kind of mining camp suburb.
When the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad was constructed through the area in 1906, Gold Center was selected as its connection with the nearby mines. Unfortunately, that was the high point in Gold Center’s existence.
Less than a year later, rail facilities were completed to Rhyolite, which had grown much larger, and Gold Center began to lose its importance as a shipping point.
The end, however, wasn’t immediate. A large brewery and ice plant was constructed in Gold Center in 1907, as were several dozen wooden homes and a number of businesses, such as a post office, bank, hotel, stores, saloons and even a newspaper office. The latter, called the “Gold Center News,” managed to be published for a few years in 1906-07.
Additionally, a large mining mill was erected on the hillside above the town to process ore from area mines. A mining company even sank several shafts in adjacent hills to test the area for mineral potential, but found nothing worth pursuing.
All of these efforts proved to be bad investments. By the time the Bullfrog mines went bust and Rhyolite began to fail, about 1910, Gold Center was already in serious decline and soon after quickly faded away.
A visitor today will find only a few reminders of Gold Center. Much of the former site has been destroyed by dredge mining operations in the area during the past few decades.
The best remains are found on the hillside overlooking a large pond of water diverted from the Amargosa River.
Wandering through the stone and brick ruins on the hillside, you can find the large, rusted poles that were once part of the mill. In addition, you can find stone foundations, cracked concrete floors and the intriguing remnants of some kind of brick and iron oven.
A good place to learn more about Gold Center’s history is the Beatty Museum and Historical Society (417 Main Street, Beatty, http://beattymuseum.org/), which contains displays and artifacts related to the entire area’s rich history. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information about Gold Center, go to http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/nv/goldcenter.htm.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.