Goldfield Part 3: Historic treasures found on town’s side streets
Finishing up with our tour of Goldfield, we head off the main boulevard (Crook Street/U.S. 95) and wander the side streets of this historic mining town, which is located about 200 miles south of Fallon via U.S. 95.
For example, on the corner of Ramsey and Euclid avenues is the former Goldfield High School, built in 1907. The school has been vacant since the 1940s and sadly has deteriorated in recent decades.
Efforts, however, have been made to stabilize and restore the building, which recently was awarded an historic preservation grant by the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
The school is a two-story stone and brick Georgian Revival-style building that sits atop a half-story full basement, which makes it seem even larger. The entrance is enhanced by wide wooden steps leading into an elegant archway and vestibule.
During the town’s boom, the high school accommodated more than 400 students.
Down the street, at 206 E. Ramsey Avenue, is the Southern Nevada Consolidated Telephone-Telegraph Building, once part of the town’s commercial district. Constructed in 1906, the building is a one-story, stone structure, which has a full basement containing much of the phone company’s original wiring and relays.
The building is significant because the Southern Nevada Consolidated developed the first communications systems in Goldfield. It extended its telephone and telegraph lines from Tonopah to Goldfield in 1904.
By 1907, when Goldfield was teeming with more than 20,000 people, the phone company was bursting with activity as it tried to keep up with the demand for communications services (records indicate revenues in excess of $250,000 in 1906).
The town began its long decline after 1913, but the phone company managed to survive for another five decades before finally closing its doors. Today, it is in fairly good shape (it was used as an apartment for a number of years) and is one of only seven commercial or public buildings made of stone that are still standing.
Adjacent to the phone company building is the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company Building, also known as the Nixon and Wingfield Block.
This three-story stone structure is probably the third-most impressive building in Goldfield (after the Goldfield Hotel and the Esmeralda County Courthouse). Built in 1907, this was the nerve center of the Goldfield mining empire of Sen. George Nixon and financier George Wingfield.
Nixon and Wingfield dominated Goldfield’s mining industry during its early boom period. By 1907, they had purchased controlling interest in nearly all of the productive mines in the district.
A year later, Wingfield acquired Nixon’s share in the company and virtually ruled the town’s mines until 1932, when he suffered financial setbacks as a result of the Great Depression.
Directly next door to the Goldfield Consolidated Building is the Curtis and Ish Building, also erected in 1907. This is a three-story concrete and stone structure that utilizes a Neo-Classical Revival style.
The impressive commercial building was constructed by two successful Goldfield businessmen, Loren B. Curtis and Marvin E. Ish.
Curtis was owner of the Nevada Power, Mining and Milling Company, which supplied electrical power to Goldfield and Tonopah. Ish and his brother were mine developers, who made nearly $1 million from the Mohawk Mine (later acquired by Wingfield).
Across the street from the Goldfield Consolidated Building is the less auspicious Elks Building, built in 1925. This was one of the last substantial structures erected in the town, having been built on the foundations of the former Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad Building, which was destroyed by fire in 1923.
A couple of ruins worth noting are the former sites of the Montezuma Club and Sideboard Saloon.
The Montezuma Club (on Columbia Street) was once the most influential and powerful social institution in the town’s history. Its members included the richest and most successful businessmen in Goldfield.
The original structure, which was three-stories high and one of the largest buildings in town, was destroyed during the 1923 fire. Today, all that remains is a shallow pit, stone foundations and the original cornerstone, which is inscribed: “Montezuma Club – July 1907.”
The Sideboard Saloon ruins are noteworthy because of the unusual 12-foot, round, stone arch — once the entrance — that stands in an empty field. The original building was erected in 1907 but destroyed in the 1923 fire.
The last building of significance is the Santa Fe Saloon, built in 1905. This modest wooden drinking establishment is located well outside of the main commercial portion of Goldfield but adjacent to the town’s mining fields.
The Santa Fe is one of a handful of businesses that have managed to stay open in Goldfield for the past century. It’s a classic frontier-style saloon with a wooden false front and sidewalk.
Inside, it boasts a century-old backbar, uneven floors and plenty of authentic, old Goldfield character (or characters, depending on who’s there) as well as a handful of rooms for overnight visitors.
For more information about Goldfield, go to the excellent Goldfield Historical Society web site at http://www.goldfieldhistoricalsociety.com/history.html.
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada unique.