More Tonopah: Exploring the mining queen
Continuing last week’s walking tour of Tonopah, we move from Main Street and into the surrounding neighborhoods, which also contain many interesting historic structures.
For example, the Brokers Exchange (northwest corner of Brougher and St. Patrick streets) is an impressive, single-story stone building erected in 1906. Old photos show that the Brokers Exchange was originally two stories high. A 1912 fire destroyed the top floor, which was removed when the building was remodeled in 1919.
First used by a brokerage house, the building later served as offices for prominent attorney Patrick McCarran. Following the fire, the Tonopah Divide Mining Company (owned by prominent businessmen Cal Brougher and George Wingfield) rebuilt the structure. Today it serves as a senior center.
A few doors away, is the Bass Building (119 St. Patrick), another of Tonopah’s substantial stone structures. Erected in 1904, this somewhat plain building is, nonetheless, important for being the third oldest commercial building in Tonopah.
It was initially used a lodging house by businessman A.A. Bass. Partially destroyed by the 1912 fire, it was rebuilt the following year. Notice the building’s façade, which is covered by metal siding pressed to resemble stone. It was later used as offices of the telephone company and as a meeting hall.
In the shadow of the Mizpah Hotel are other historic places such as the wood frame Water Company of Tonopah building. Constructed in 1909, this single-story structure is noteworthy for representing the town’s privately-owned water system.
Behind the water company is the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, a 130-acre museum complex that contains several of the town’s original mine sites, shafts, stopes, head frames and offices.
Another important edifice is the Nye County Courthouse, built in 1905. Constructed of stone and concrete, the two-story courthouse was designed in a Neo-colonial style. It is the largest stone building erected in Tonopah.
The courthouse’s most notable features are its articulated arched entrance and the silver dome perched atop the building. The structure was modified in 1907 and 1968.
Not all of Tonopah’s most significant buildings are located in the downtown core. The Tonopah Public Library (171 Central), built in 1906, is important for being one of the state’s first public libraries.
This simple, single-story stone-block structure has always been used a library—something not too many other communities can claim. Construction was funded from local donations.
A few blocks away is St. Marks Church (210 University), another well-preserved example of early Tonopah construction. Erected in 1907, it is considered one of the best examples of stonework in Tonopah (the work was done by E.E. Burdick, the same stone mason who built the courthouse).
Directly east is the elegant St. Marks Parsonage house. Originally built by Burdick as his residence, many consider this Neo-colonial stone house to be one of the finest surviving early-20th century homes. It was later purchased by the church.
Two houses on Ellis Street are worth mentioning. This area, known as University Heights, was Tonopah’s most prestigious neighborhood during its boom era (about 1900-1912).
The Hugh H. Brown house (129 Ellis), was built in 1906 for a prominent Tonopah mining company attorney. Constructed of wood and adobe, this square structure is one of the best surviving structures made of that material.
The other significant house in the neighborhood is the Uri B. Curtis/Tasker L. Oddie house, built in 1902 and enlarged in 1905. This wood frame structure features a series of three gabled roofs and a large bay window.
The Curtis/Oddie house was first inhabited by Curtis, a pioneer Tonopah businessman, who sold it to Oddie in 1904. The latter, an attorney, was one of Tonopah founder Jim Butler’s partners. He later served as Nevada’s governor and U.S. senator.
Farther up the hill is the George A. Bartlett house (corner of McQuillan and Booker streets), a once imposing shingle and stone mansion that was partially restored a few years ago.
A group called Barlett Heritage House, http://www.bartlettheritagehouse.com/bartlett.html, is still trying to raise funds to complete the project).
Despite its incomplete appearance, you can tell this was an impressive place when constructed in 1907. It is two and a half-stories tall and built in a rustic Eastern Shingle style that is accented by huge stone foundations and pillars.
The house was constructed for Bartlett, who was Jim Butler’s attorney. Bartlett later served two terms in the U.S. Congress and from 1918 to 1930 was a District Court Judge in Reno.
High above Tonopah on Booker Street is the Arthur Raycraft house, an elegant single-story stone home with a pair of Queen Anne style turrets (it looks a bit like a castle).
Constructed in 1906, the structure was owned by a prominent banker, who lost the house during an economic panic in 1907.
Two good places to learn more about Tonopah’s rich history are the Central Nevada Museum, 1900 Logan Field Rd., and the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, located behind the Mizpah Hotel.
For more information about Tonopah, contact the Tonopah Chamber of Commerce, http://www.tonopahnevada.com/.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.