Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 | noon
Location: Goldfield is 188 miles northwest of Las Vegas via Highway 95.
GPS: 37°42’30 N, 117° 14’08 W
Elevation: 5,689 feet (beats Denver)
Goldfield came to life in the early 1900s after the discovery of gold in Tonopah. It was aptly named: the ore was filled with gold, but there wasn’t much more than a field – it was shallow and ran out quickly. While the gold lasted, Goldfield boomed. It boasted as many as 30,000 people. In 1907, there were 87 attorneys, 40 doctors and 22 hotels listed in the town directory. (And 14 cigar stores.) But the good ore ran out, and a disastrous fire in 1923 destroyed 52 blocks, gutting the town. World War II brought members of the military, who were training in Tonopah, and their families, but after the war ended, the population ebbed again.
The main thing in town is the highway and the county government, which is housed in a fortress-like courthouse built in 1907. There are other historic buildings, including the four-story Goldfield Hotel and a once-impressive school. Efforts to revive the hotel, which has been closed since the end of World War II have failed to date. Thought it does attract ghost hunters – and pigeons.
A few notable things:
Wyatt Earp’s brother died here but was buried elsewhere. … The famed 42-round Gans-Nelson championship prize fight here in 1906 drew tens of thousands of people. (Yes, it went 42 rounds. It was stopped after a low blow.) … The 150-room Goldfield Hotel was built in 1908 for upwards of $400,000, and the massive edifice has been through several owners since.
It’s difficult to seem much of a future here. The town is too close to Tonopah, which is more central at the confluence of Highway 6 and Highway 95.
If you go:
Remember, the services are limited, and overnight stay options are limited. (There are eight rooms at a motel.) Attractions include Goldfield Days, an annual three-day festival in August, draws people for a summertime celebration, complete with parades, dances, land auctions and a liars’ contest. Also, the Goldfield Historical Society has a walking tour of sites on the state and national registers of historic places. Be careful: Many buildings are in disrepair and not safe. As well, private property is private. Goldfield Days, the town’s annual celebration, is typically in August. Other things to see: nearby Gemfield, which is known for producing, you guessed it, gemstones; and the off-the-beaten-path ghost town of Gold Point, between Beatty and Goldfield to the west, has been a labor of love for its owners and is worth a look. .
On the Internet:
Goldfield Historical Society: www.goldfieldhistoricalsociety.com
Goldfield Chamber of Commerce: www.goldfieldnevada.org
Gold Point Ghost Town: www.goldpointghosttown.com