After gold was discovered on nearby Columbia Mountain in 1902, the town of Goldfield, NV ranked as one of the biggest and brightest mining towns in the west. In its boom year of 1906, the town’s mines produced $11 million in gold. A year later in 1907, the mines were generating close to $10,000.00 a day.
The earthquake-proof, four story, 154-room Goldfield Hotel was built on top of an abandoned gold mine in 1908 for $500,000.00. Being the finest lodging between Denver and San Francisco, the hotel was known as “The Gem in the Desert.”
When it opened in 1908, the hotel boasted an Otis elevator then considered the most modern lift of its kind West of the Mississippi. The Goldfield Hotel’s crystal chandeliers, elegant, mahogany-trimmed lobby with black leather upholstery, gold leaf ceilings and gilded columns rivaled the best hotels in San Francisco.
In an era when few homes or businesses had telephones or carpets, the extravagant hotel featured a sophisticated switchboard and a telephone in every guestroom. Meals were “exquisite European cuisine,” featuring oysters, quail and squid. Patrons came for dinner attired in formal clothing – black tie and tails and ball gowns
Once the largest city in Nevada, Goldfield was connected to the rest of the United States by five railroads and with Goldfield’s mines producing more than $10,000.00 a day at their peak, the town’s five banks thrived. Goldfield even had several mining stock exchanges and three newspapers. As the town boomed, its leaders were considering bringing in a trolley to run through downtown.
But, as the mines bled dry, the city lost its allure and the once splendid Goldfield Hotel ceased operation in the 1920’s. During WW II, the military took it over and added a few improvements that included a grill in order to house Army-Air Force wives whose husbands were stationed and training in the nearby remote desert.
At the end of the War, the Goldfield Hotel was once again abandoned and boarded up. Then in the 1980’s, a well-to-do new owner began to pour millions of dollars into modernizing the hotel. His dream to open the former “Gem in the Desert” in all its original splendor went broke before completion. He lost ownership to back property taxes. Vandals carried off most of the newly installed bathroom and light fixtures, eventually taking all but the bare walls.
Today the town of Goldfield is home to fewer than 300 residents, although remains the seat of Esmeralda County, which at fewer than 1,000 residents, is Nevada’s most sparsely populated county. There is no gas station, no bank, no grocery store and much less a newspaper, a far cry from when the city was known as the “Queen of Camps,” for its more than 25, 000 residents.
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