Friday, November 03, 2006
Getting Away from it all in Belmont
If there was ever a place where you could believe that you’ve managed to escape from the hassles and pressures of daily life, it’s the rustic Belmont Inn in the historic Central Nevada mining town of Belmont.
Located about 40 miles northeast of Tonopah, Belmont can trace its beginnings to the discovery of silver in 1865. Within a few years, the town has grown to include about 5,000 residents.
In 1867, Belmont was designated the seat of Nye County and a few years later, in 1876, it constructed an impressive a two-story Italianate-style brick courthouse.
During Belmont’s heyday—which lasted from the late 1860s to about the late 1870s—the town was a beehive of building activity, boasting a bank, a couple of churches, a school, a post office, several stores and saloons.
It was during this period, in about 1866, that the distinctive two-story structure that houses the Belmont Inn was constructed. Built of wood and local limestone, the Inn originally served as the offices of the Combination Silver Mining Company.
The building was converted to a private residence several decades ago and, more recently, transformed into a bed and breakfast with five guestrooms.
The Inn, operated by Henry and Bertie Berg, is a wonder. It’s been lovingly restored so that guests can enjoy quiet, comfortable quarters in a quaint, historic setting.
Behind the main house, the Berg’s have rebuilt an old stone miner’s cabin and offer it as a kind of “honeymoon” cottage that offers plenty of privacy, although without running water or electricity. However, candles have been strategically placed around the room to provide illumination.
Large groups more interested in “roughing it,” can rent an old bunkhouse behind the main house, which has accommodations for up to ten additional guests.
The guestrooms, however, are only part of the story. The Belmont Inn also has its own, old-time saloon—Henry Berg is a great bartender who knows not only how to pour a good stiff one but lots of great anecdotes and stories about the area.
Not to be overlooked are the breakfasts, cooked by Bertie Berg. She prepares hearty, tasty fare that can include pancakes, sausage, biscuits, fruit and other delicacies.
The charm of spending time in Belmont is having a chance to explore the old mining town. The town’s silver mines began to slump after 1876. By 1890, only about 150 people remained in the town.
Jim Butler’s discovery of huge silver deposits in Tonopah in 1900 accelerated Belmont’s demise. In 1905, the county seat was moved to Tonopah and Belmont’s fine courthouse, which is now a historic state park, was closed.
Despite the years of neglect, it’s still possible to find glimpses of the settlement that once rivaled Virginia City. With more than a dozen buildings sprouting out of the sagebrush and a number of substantial ruins, Belmont looks and feels like a genuine ghost town.
For instance, at the south end of town is the Belmont Cemetery, which contains a handful of hand-carved wooden markers and is the final resting place of the infamous Nevada gunslinger Jack Longstreet and his wife.
The Belmont-Monitor Mill, located north of the cemetery, was one of several mills erected in the area in the 1870s. The site’s extensive brick ruins include a 15-foot brick smokestack.
East of the Belmont-Monitor Mill site is the main part of the town. Newer homes have been built around the ruins during the past couple of years. The main street, which leads to the Belmont Inn, is lined with a picturesque row of dilapidated brick and wooden storefronts.
Behind this row of structures is a dirt road leading to the Belmont Courthouse, which has been stabilized by the state parks. Guided tours of the courthouse are offered during the summer.
Southeast of the Belmont Inn are other ruins, including the remains of a massive brick kiln with a 20-foot smokestack. About a quarter mile west of the brick oven, is the site of the former Highbridge Mill. The two-story building retains its large, nine-window brick façade.
While exploring Belmont is encouraged, visitors are cautioned not to touch or take anything so that the town can be preserved for future generations.
For more information about Belmont and the Belmont Inn, call 775-482-2000 or go to www.belmontinn.com.