When it comes to the history of Nevada mining, the Virginia City Historic District, which encompasses four major communities and a large expanse of land surrounding them, has become a popular location for many tourists to visit. Though there are many worthwhile historic sites that are not readily promoted or even open to the public, the opportunity to learn about an area that had one of the greatest influences on the state's history is something that should not be ignored.
Dayton, Virginia City, Silver City and Gold Hill are some of the most important settlements within this over fourteen thousand acre expanse, including a great deal of open landscape. The area is well known for its archaeological significance, namely its historic mining facilities, though mining is just one feature that makes this district famous. In fact, with just under four hundred buildings listed as historic places of interest, it is impossible for any holiday to the area to include everything.
The district's mining legacy is probably best known for the gold and silver finds that were discovered by prospectors and miners in 1859, outside Virginia City. Notable gold finds such as the Comstock Lode provided many settlers with incredible wealth and put the city firmly on the national map. In fact, unlike its Californian equivalents, the area established itself as the model of future 19th century mining facilities, including industrialized centers that combined with a high degree of urbanization.
Virginia City became the central capital in the beginning of the 1870's, combining a population of about twenty five thousand souls with its tinier neighbor of Gold Hill. However, a major 1875 city fire nearly destroyed the city, proving to many the resilience and determination of some ten thousand homeless individuals and their desire to make the area prosper again.
By the 1890's it became apparent that the boom on ore finds was over. Many headed west to California to reestablish themselves, recover their losses and find new work opportunities that had now ceased to exist in the district. As the Great Depression loomed, Virginia City's population dipped to only about three hundred. Today, visitors come from far and wide to visit its many remaining buildings, take tours of the few remaining safe mine shafts, and wander the many other surrounding areas that literally won Nevada early statehood and was the saving grace for capital funding that would ensure the positive outcome of the American Civil War.