Ghost Town: Rhyolite, Nevada

Thursday, 14th May 2009 by

This post is part of an occasional series where we visit some of the world’s most interesting abandoned places.

A couple of hundred kilometres northwest of Las Vegas lies the former mining town of Rhyolite, one of the largest ghost towns in Nevada.

Founded in 1904, the town had an initially huge level of growth, but it was abruptly abandoned just a handful of years later. Today the eerie remains of Rhyolite which still survive here in the desert provide us with a fascinating look into America’s past.

The town was named for the richest ore in the area, rhyolite; but it was a gold rush in the nearby hills that propelled the population to around 4,000 just three years later.

By this time the town had water mains, electricity, telephones, a hospital, a bank, an opera house, a school, the railroad, and (allegedly) 53 saloons.

The ruin of the Cook Bank Building; and as it was in its heyday.

By the end of 1910 the Montgomery Shoshone Mine – the town’s lifeblood – was operating at a loss, and in 1911 it closed for good. With the mine gone there was nothing to keep the people here any longer, and by 1920 the population of Rhyolite was effectively zero.

Rhyolite School today; and as it was in 1915, already looking deserted.

One of the best surviving buildings in Rhyolite is the former Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad Depot. It’s unusual for ghost towns in Nevada1 to have this many buildings remaining – the survival of these ones in the harsh desert environment is thanks to their construction using materials other than wood and canvas. Like the house made of tens of thousands of beer bottles.

Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad Depot today; and under construction in 1908.

The buildings here won’t last forever, but the fact that they have survived this long is impressive enough.

Vimeo has a good video tour, Flickr has a ton of photos, and the official site has a wealth of absolutely fascinating historical photos.

  1. Of which there are over 500