Secrets of The Desert: Rhyolite Ghost Town

5/10/2016 [Gerard Ramalho/KSNV]

This time, our journey takes us north along US-95.

Las Vegans sometimes like to call it the Road to Reno. Our first stop? An old ghost town turned tourist spot near Beatty, Nevada named Rhyolite.

"The miners used it extensively to cuss at," said Richard Stevens, curator of the Rhyolite Museum.

Speaking of Rhyolite, Stevens said, it was hard-rock mining and that was the stuff they were drilling and picking and blasting their way through.

Few people probably cared until an old prospector named Shorty Harris came through in 1905 and discovered gold hidden in the rock.

"In 1907 there were 8-thousand people here," said Carl Olson, the current day, self-proclaimed Mayor of Rhyolite. "And they said it went all the way to 10-thousand, because of all the mines around here."

By 1907 they had electric power, 3 railroads that ran through town, they had banks, brothels, bakeries, even churches, and a school. Also, a home constructed entirely out of plaster and bottles.

"I don't think they ever drank water," said Olson. "I mean there are whiskey bottles, wine bottles, champagne bottles, and that's what this is. I forget how many types of bottles are in here, including medicine bottles," Olson continued.

The Rhyolite "hey day" however, would only last 3 years. After more than a million dollar's worth of gold was recovered, eventually, the mine dried up, and the town abandoned.

By the mid 80's though, something else happened in Rhyolite... artwork began to appear.

The first was a piece called "The Last Supper" by an artist from Belgium.

"He started by soaking burlap in plaster of pares, draping it over people, and pouring more plaster over that," said Richard Stevens. "And then the board bounders had to sit still until it set. Once it was dry he'd fiberglassed it."

Half a dozen other works have been added since, including one nicknamed the Lego lady.

Stevens said, "Actually the artist, Hugo Haderman said he was marrying the classical nude tradition with modern computer technology, and she is supposed to be giant computer pixels."

Regulars to the area like to say the gold is gone, but the treasure continues in the form of these unusual artist creations, and that's why we've added Rhyolite to our list of secrets of the desert.

Connect with Gerard Ramalho on Twitter @GerardNews3LV and on Facebook!


Secrets of The Desert: Road to Reno

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