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[A Most Unusual Travel Guide]

Odd Nevada: Ghost towns, the ‘car forest’ and a haunted hotel

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The International Car Forest of the Last Church is an artist’s creation in Goldfield, seen here on Sept. 20, 2013.
Photo: Matt Hufman

Nevada is filled with stories of boom and bust, as witnessed by the remnants of ghost towns decaying across the wide-open desert, but there are also gems throughout the state. Along with my Las Vegas Sun colleague Mike Smith, I have been exploring dozens of sites for Finding Nevada, the Sun’s project celebrating the state’s 150th anniversary. Here are three golden spots we’ve discovered on our travels. For everything else we’ve found, visit lasvegassun.com/finding-nevada.

Goldfield

A gold strike in 1902 created this boomtown 175 miles north of Las Vegas. The town boasted 20,000 residents six years later, but today only 260 people call it home. Still, the town is rich in history and offers plenty to explore, including a homespun radio station, KGFN 89.1 FM, that’s worth a listen.

The fortress-like Esmeralda County Courthouse on U.S. 95 is still in use, and an arrangement of historic documents and photos tells the town’s story. The well-kept building—trimmed with original wood, its fixtures and even the vault—bears witness to another time.

The four-story Goldfield Hotel sits just up the block. When it opened in 1908, it was the most opulent hotel between Kansas City and San Francisco, complete with a mahogany-trimmed lobby. Closed for more than six decades, it’s quiet, though ghost hunters claim there’s a bonanza of spooks inside.

On the south end of town is Goldfield’s most unusual treasure, the International Car Forest of the Last Church, noticeable by the old bus resting nose down in the desert. The creation of a few artists who had a swath of dirt, a cache of old clunkers and a backhoe, the “car forest” features more than 40 vehicles planted in the ground and painted with bright colors, whimsical scenes and portraits. goldfieldhistoricalsociety.com

Gold Point

Walt Kremin sits inside the saloon in Gold Point, which is south of Goldfield, NV, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. The town has 10 year-round residents, if you count three who live outside of what's considered town limits.

Walt Kremin sits inside the saloon in Gold Point, which is south of Goldfield, NV, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. The town has 10 year-round residents, if you count three who live outside of what's considered town limits.

Herb Robbins and Walt Kremin own about half of Gold Point, a boomtown from the early 1900s, population 7. Today, it’s a ghost town bed-and-breakfast. You can rent out a renovated miner’s shack, but it’s rustic. The shower is a short walk away in the main house, where filling meals are served at Robbins’ dinner table.

About 190 miles north of Las Vegas and well off U.S. 95, Gold Point didn’t receive telephone service until 1995; before that, residents had to drive 25 miles to use the pay phone at the brothel in Lida.

Robbins and Kremin tell great stories and can point out places to visit, but don’t miss the saloon they created out of the original telephone and real estate office. It runs 110 feet long and 16 feet wide, and it’s filled with antiques, including a century-old pool table and a player piano. And if you hear noise when no one’s around, don’t worry: The TV is on in the saloon 24/7 for the 17 spirits they say inhabit the place. goldpointghosttown.com

Gold Hill

At the historic Gold Hill Hotel, shown in 2013, a sign on the ceiling of the bar asks for donations to the effort to open a new public library. The Storey County Public Library closed in 2012.

At the historic Gold Hill Hotel, shown in 2013, a sign on the ceiling of the bar asks for donations to the effort to open a new public library. The Storey County Public Library closed in 2012.

The wood-and-stone Gold Hill Hotel, about 30 miles southeast of Reno, is the oldest hotel in Nevada. It opened during the heyday of the Comstock Lode, and a couple of the original rooms, complete with tilted floors, are available, as is a miner’s shack near the allegedly haunted Yellow Jacket Mine. (There are modern rooms, as well, but where’s the fun in that?) The tight bar’s low ceiling is covered in dollar bills, and the hotel restaurant’s menu is ambitious and well executed. Reservations are recommended because people from around the world—yes, literally—book well in advance in hopes of experiencing Rosie or William, friendly ghosts who supposedly haunt two of the rooms. goldhillhotel.net

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Matt's childhood home got three daily papers, and the ink has yet to rub off. In the last two decades, ...

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