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View of Virginia City, Nevada, from a nearby hillside, 1867-68
Virginia City is an unincorporated community that is the county seat of Storey Countymarker, Nevadamarker, United Statesmarker. It is part of the RenomarkerSparksmarker Metropolitan Statistical Area.


View of Virginia City from Boot hill
Virginia City is one of the oldest established communities in Nevada. Like many cities and towns in the state, Virginia City was a mining boomtown; in fact it is one of the most famous boomtowns in the Old West, as it virtually appeared overnight as a result of the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859. During its peak, Virginia City had a population of nearly 30,000 residents. During the 20 years following the Comstock success "about $400 million was taken out of the ground".When the Comstock Lode ended in 1898, the city's population declined sharply.

Adolph Sutro built the Sutro Tunnel in support of the mining operations. Conceived in 1860, it wasn't completed until many years later, after much of the silver mining had already been completed.

From its creation in 1859 to 1875, there were five widespread fires. The 1875 fire, dubbed the Great Fire of 1875, caused $12,000,000 in damages.

Virginia City and Mark Twain

Virginia City could be considered the "birthplace" of Mark Twain, as it was here in February 1863 that writer Samuel Clemens, then a reporter on the local Territorial Enterprise newspaper, first used his famous pen name.Historical data in The Virginia City historical documents point out that Clemens, was "mugged" one night as he walked over the hill from the south while returning to Virginia City (probably after consuming alcoholic beverages at the home of friends). The evidence shown points out that this was one of the reasons that persuaded him to relocate elsewhere. The highwaymen with the common "Stand and deliver!" relieved Mr. Clemens of his watch and money he had with him. This evidence is found in the newspaper office and the veracity of the robbery is likely valid as it is reported as a crime in the newspaper of the time. As a motivation for his leaving, it is just speculation since the date of the robbery is prior but close to his leaving and beginning his writing career in earnest at a more developed city. This robbery, which took place on 10 November 1863, turns out to have been a practical joke played on Sam Clemens by his "friends", to give him "material" to write about. He did not appreciate the joke, but at least he got his belongings back (especially his gold watch worth $300), which had great "sentimental" value to him.Sam Clemens also mentions the incident in his own book Roughing It, (published Feb 1872) - and he was still sore about it!

Virginia City today

Historic District

Church St. Mary in the Mountains

Virginia City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. This in effect created a Virginia City Historic District.

Today, Virginia City is but a shadow of its former glory, however, it still draws over 2 million visitors per year. It is the nation's largest National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Virginia & Truckee Railroad's northern terminus is located at Virginia City. A project was started in 1977 to begin rebuilding one of the nations "crookedest railroads." The portion of line that's been rebuilt so far stretches south to Carson City, Nevadamarker and through Gold Hill. The project ran the first steam engine from Carson City, September 5, 2009. Meanwhile, other trains are pulled by historic locomotives between Virginia City and Gold Hill, attracting thousands of tourists each year.

Town life

The population of Virginia City is 1,000 people in the town. 4,000 live in Storey County. It has 1 elementary school, 1 middle school, and 1 high school. Many locals work at the shops in town that cater to tourists, while others seek jobs in the surrounding cities. Popular hangouts for teens include the swimming pool and restaurants. Basketball is very popular, with the high school possessing the most state championship titles in Nevada.

Virginia City Hillclimb

There is an annual hillclimb that runs from Silver City to Virginia City via Highway 341 (a truck route) that is put on jointly between the Ferrarimarker Club of America Pacific Region and the Northern California Shelby Club. Originally the event was put on by the SCCA and took a totally different route; before the truck route was constructed cars would run up Highway 342, past the Gold Hill Hotel and other landmarks. Highway 342 is now the return route for cars that have completed their runs up Highway 341. The hillclimb covers , climbing and passing through 21 corners.

Virgina City in popular culture

Many tons of rich gold and silver ore such as the example shown here, built and supported Virginia City

In film and TV

  • Virginia City is near the site of the fictitious Ponderosa Ranch on the Western television drama Bonanza. As such, the show's characters made visits to the town regularly -- or at least to the flat Hollywood backlot townmarker.
  • It was the locale of the 1940 film starring Errol Flynn, Virginia City, set during the Civil War.
  • Virginia City und die wahre Geschichte des Wilden Westens, directed by Elmar Bartlmae, is a 2007 French documentary film


"Darcy Farrow", a folk song written by Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell mentions Virginia City and other places and landmarks in the area (including Yeringtonmarker, the Carson Valley, and the Truckee River). The most popular version was performed by John Denver.

In the 1950s, two Virginia City neighbors got into a dispute.. When one of the men built a new house, the other bought the lot next to it and built a house less than twelve inches (305 mm) from his neighbor's house in spite to deprive the neighbor of both view and breeze. The Virginia City Spite House still is standing and occupied.


  1. Rinella, p. 73
  2. Thomson, p.26
  3. Snell and Larew, pg.2, 8, 9
  4. Thomson, p. 35
  5. Rinella, p. 78
  6. Powers, Ron, Mark Twain: A Life. Free Press, 2005, p. 167. ISBN
  7. and
  8. On Arte-TV, May 26th, 2007, in German. Retrieved 18 November 2009
  9. Lonsford, Michael, "Ghosts of the Old West Haunt Virginia City Streets", Houston Chronicle. July 3, 1988, Section: Travel, Page 1


  • Rinella, Heidi Knapp, Off The Beaten Path: Nevada, Guildford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007 ISBN-13 9780762742042

  • Thomson, David, In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance, New York: Vintage Books, 2000. ISBN 067977758X

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