Tour of historic Sutro Tunnel site Sunday


The Friends of the Sutro Tunnel will offer the public an opportunity to explore the 28-acre mining site from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and look at ongoing work to restore the on-site carriage house, warehouse and other facilities.

Funds raised from event ticket sales will directly benefit work the Friends group is doing to refurbish the artifacts, buildings and historic equipment that have been deteriorating.


“Preservation work is quite costly,” according to tunnel manager Chris Pattison said. “Due to the significance of this historic site, it is critically important we share the site, our mission and the story of the Sutro Tunnel with other Nevadans who share our interests.”


The event is the nonprofit’s effort to preserve access to the site that previously served as a drainage tunnel formed by San Francisco businessman Adolph Sutro. He sought to build a 20,498-foot-long tunnel from the Carson River Valley connecting to the Savage Mine in Virginia City at a depth of 1,640 feet. Mining on the Comstock began to decline in the mid-1800s, but the tunnel itself was effective in removing water from the mines.


Construction on the tunnel began on Oct. 19, 1869, and finished on Sept. 1, 1878. Once operational in 1878, approximately 2 to 4 million gallons of water were drained from the upper levels of the Comstock mines through the Sutro Tunnel daily, and today it drains about 13 million gallons daily on an annual basis.


In all, the cost of construction of the tunnel was about $2 million to $3.5 million. Sutro ultimately sold his shares in the tunnel for $1 million in 1879, never having made the profit from it he anticipated. He returned to San Francisco and became a real estate investor and was elected mayor in 1894.


The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation also made a significant donation to Friends of Sutro Tunnel. The society donated three national park-style signs to be installed at the Sutro site in spring 2022. These three interpretive panels were gifted to draw attention to Adolph Sutro’s Jewish heritage and his vision to create the Sutro Tunnel.


Tickets to attend the open house can be purchased online by visiting https://thesutrotunnel.org/tours. Tours will be offered throughout the day between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Donation levels and additional ways to get involved can be found on https://thesutrotunnel.org/how-you-can-help.

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