Friday, June 04, 2010
Goldfield Walking Tour - Part 2
This week, we’ll continue our walking tour of the mining town of Goldfield, once Nevada’s largest and most influential community.
Wandering the dusty streets, and seeing the dozens of building foundations and decaying, abandoned structures, it’s clear that Goldfield was once a substantial place.
Founded in 1902, it had more than 20,000 residents by 1907, then declined almost as rapidly as it rose.
Across the street from the magnificent Goldfield Hotel (on U.S. 95, which runs through the center of town) is the impressive Esmeralda County Courthouse. Built in 1907-08, this two-story, stone structure is perhaps the best-maintained building in town.
The courthouse, which is still in operation since Goldfield remains the seat of Esmeralda County, is an outstanding example of an early 20th century hall of justice.
The building’s exterior is composed of course, rockface stone. It has a tall, stepped parapet at the roofline above the entrance and notched walls at the four corners of the building—all of which give it a dramatic castle-like appearance.
Inside, the courthouse has finely crafted wood staircases, ornate light fixtures and expensive courtroom furnishings, including original Tiffany lamps.
The courthouse reflects the political muscle once exerted by Goldfield. When gold was first discovered in Goldfield, Hawthorne, located 125 miles north, was the Esmeralda County seat.
As Goldfield grew, its community leaders became unhappy with the expense and inconvenience of having to deal with such a distant county seat for business transactions. So, in 1907 Goldfield wrestled the seat away from Hawthorne (which later was able to regain its status as a county seat when Mineral County was created from part of Esmeralda County).
Adjacent to the courthouse is another of Goldfield’s better preserved survivors, the First M.E. Church of Goldfield. With architecture that echoes the courthouse, the church was built in 1912, just as Goldfield was beginning to slump.
The church is a single-story structure with an articulated, square bell tower that rises 30-feet. While its facing resembles the courthouse’s stonework, the church was constructed with rusticated blocks, which is concrete that is cut and molded to resemble stone.
Across Crook Street (U.S. 95) is the E.A. Byler house, which has the distinction of being one of the few bottle houses remaining in Nevada. This residence, built in 1905, was actually constructed of used beverage bottles that were covered with adobe. In places, some of the adobe plaster has worn off, exposing the bottles.
Continuing down Crook Street, there are several other significant structures to be seen, including the 1908 Goldfield Fire Station No. 1, still used as a fire station.
This simple, rectangular, two-story stone building was paid for by the people of Goldfield, who raised half its cost by donations (the county paid the rest) and erected it using donated land and labor.
Near the firehouse is the ornate G.L. “Tex” Rickard house, probably the finest of the original boomtown homes still to be found in Goldfield. The flamboyant house was built in 1906 by Rickard, co-owner of the Northern Saloon and promoter of the 1906 Gans-Nelson championship boxing match, held in Goldfield.
Rickard is one of the more interesting persons drawn to Goldfield during its boom. The publicity he generated for the Gans-Nelson fight catapulted Goldfield into the national consciousness as an up-and-coming mining community, which helped its mines attract eastern investors.
Rickard later built and managed the first Madison Square Garden in New York.
Another unusual house is the Charles S. Sprague home, a one and a half story structure located at the intersection of Crook and Sundog avenues (at the place where U.S. 95 turns sharply south).
The Sprague place, built in 1907, was one of Goldfield’s most substantial homes. Sprague was owner of the Goldfield News and a prominent Goldfield businessman, who served as Esmeralda County’s state senator during the 1920s.
The house has a steep, gabled roof that extends the length of the house and is noteworthy for its large size and unique design, which architectural historians describe as Craftsman Bungalow style. Over the years, it has been used a residence and commercial business, most recently as a restaurant.
Still more on Goldfield next time.