Nevada’s marble ghost town
While most Nevada mining camps owed their existence to the quest to find gold and silver, the southeastern Nevada town of Carrara was different. Its founders discovered marble.
In 1904, miners — who were actually looking for gold or silver — stumbled upon promising marble deposits in the hills south of Beatty. The marble, in fact, was said to contain as many as twenty different colors.
Within a short time, a small quarry opened to mine the stone, which was valued for its beauty. The effort was quickly abandoned, however, when the marble deposits proved to be too fractured to provide the kind of large hunks that were commercially viable.
But in 1912 larger deposits were uncovered and a company was formed to remove the stone. With great optimism — and a bit of hyperbole — the area was called Carrara in honor of Carrara, Italy, the source of the world’s most famous marble.
A town was laid out in the valley below the quarry on a site about nine miles south of Beatty adjacent to today’s U.S. 95.
The new community was close to the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad line (now gone) so a three-mile short line railroad was constructed by the American Carrara Marble Company to provide a direct connection between the quarry and the main LV&T rail line.
The smaller railroad was completed in 1914 and soon large blocks of marble were being shipped from Carrara to Los Angeles. By 1915, the town of Carrara had nearly 40 buildings, including a hotel, restaurants, shops, a saloon, post office, and a weekly newspaper called “The Carrara Obelisk.”
To reinforce the image that Carrara was an important community that would be around for a while, the marble company constructed a large outdoor fountain in the middle of the town that sent a plume of water six feet in the air. A pipeline was built from Gold Center, located nine miles north, to bring water for the fountain and the town.
Unfortunately, the marble mine didn’t prove to be profitable and in 1917 the quarry was closed. Within weeks, the newspaper went out of business, the short line railroad closed, and townspeople quickly began to pack up and move on to greener pastures.
Carrara had a brief revival in the 1920s when a spur was built by the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad (the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad folded in 1918 and part of its line was taken over by the T & T) to link to the quarry. Like the previous effort, this one also failed and Carrara began to slowly melt into the desert.
In the 1930s, a cement plant under Philippine ownership was constructed a mile north of the former site of Carrara. The facility, however, was abandoned in 1936 before production started.
Extensive ruins of the plant, including a couple of graphetti-covered concrete structures can still be seen from U.S. 95. These ruins are often mistakenly thought to be part of the old town of Carrara.
In fact, little remains of the original Carrara. If you drive down the former road to Carrara, you must really search the weeds and sagebrush to find a handful of foundations. A few cement steps and a chimney or two are among the best reminders of Nevada’s only marble-town.
About three miles from the highway via a rough, dirt road you can drive into Carrara Canyon and find the old quarry site. A few pieces of rusted mining equipment litter the hillside.
And while there isn’t much to see of the old Carrara mining operation, the view of the surrounding expanse of the Amargosa Desert is spectacular.
Richard Moreno has a passion for Nevada, its towns and people.