After our super eventful morning at the Clown Motel, my brother and I high tailed it out of Tonopah and turned our wheels toward Goldfield, Nevada.
My main draw to Goldfield was the International Car Forest of the Last Church (which will be a separate blog post) and the old Goldfield Motel that now sits vacant in the middle of town. Goldfield, as the name would suggest, was once a booming gold mining town. Not much is left of the town that at it’s peak housed about 30,0000 residents. As many of these boom-towns do, the gold started to run dry and today there are around 260 residents left.
Off to the right of the US 95, right before you pull into town, over a thousand white crosses can be seen sticking up between the sage and sandy desert, making it look like a scene out of an old western movie. The Goldfield Cemetery is full of unusual plots and headstones, and I wish we had had more time to wander through more of them.
I couldn’t resist this rusty old jalopy. Especially with the fresh jerky trailer in the background.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as we pulled into town. We found the hotel immediately, as it is the most prominent building in the heart of downtown Goldfield. Devin parked across the street from it, and we jumped out in excitement as we took in the beautiful ruin that once housed Goldfield’s wealthiest visitors.
Apparently this hotel is now a hot spot for ghost hunters, and has appeared in shows like Ghost Adventures. It is said to be one of the most haunted places in the country. A few of the locals we ran into had stories of their own experiences inside the declining walls, including a story from a girl we met at the local market telling us she was pulled down a flight of stairs by a ghostly apparition.
The Goldfield Hotel
Here are a few more things we found as we wandered the streets of Goldfield. I kind of wanted to high five the person who owns the road sign house. Flippin’ awesome.
According to the Goldfield Historical Society, a horrible fire ripped through Goldfield in 1923, destroying about a 25 block radius of the heart of the town. Their website says, “The fire of July 6, 1923 completely destroyed the Main St. area, a total of about 25 blocks. The fire started in the house of T. C. Rea, immediately south of the Brown Parker Garage at 6:40 a.m. It is generally believed a liquor still in Rea’s house had exploded. The Fire Chief, I. N. Galliac, believed it was the result of a bootleggers feud.”
Below are a few photos depicting some ruins remaining from that fire:
Our next stop was the Goldfield Fire Station. The fire station is still in operation to this day, manned with volunteers. It was sure a neat old building, complete with a couple of old fire engines sitting outside.
Goldfield Fire Station
These subway station entry ways were sitting near the fire station. They are a little out of place, as there was never a subway in Goldfield. They are rumored to have come from Las Vegas, but where they actually came from seems to be a mystery. They were fun to photograph, the subway to nowhere. 🙂
Here is a photo of the Golfield Art Car Park where you will see five ornately decorated vehicles, created by the one and only “Rocket Bob”. These cars now reside next to a shop that sells various kinds of rocks and other curiosities. A kind older gentleman ventured out of the store and told us that Rocket Bob, who frequents burning man, would create a new vehicle each year he went. The amount of detail and ornamentation on them is pretty phenomenal.
Goldfield Art Car Park
One of the coolest things about this day, is that we ran into a few locals while wandering the streets that told us about other things in the tiny town we should check out. A woman who appeared to be Native American pulled up next to us in her SUV. Sitting in the seat next to her was a man that had to be in his 90’s. He was missing an eye and most of his teeth, but grinned as the woman told us about a train yard we should check out. We thanked her as she pulled away.
As we continued walking down main street, we ran into another local named John. He started telling us a little of the history about the surrounding buildings. As he started talking, he asked, “Are you guys even interested in hearing about this stuff?” To which we nodded enthusiastically telling him we loved this kind of stuff! Seeing how interested we were in the history of the town, he asked us if we had checked out the old high school yet. We told him we had taken some photos of the outside, and what a cool building it was. He then told us that he was working on restoring the high school and was heading over to work on in a little bit, and asked if we would like to check out the inside. When he asked us that, I literally felt like I was going to internally explode with excitement! My brother and I were so giddy, we told him we would LOVE to see the inside!
Before parting ways for a moment, John brought us a map outlining a walking tour of the town with a little bit of history about the buildings. We told him we would check a few of them out before meeting him over at the high school. We could hardly wait!
Below are photos of an old garage with the windows broken out. We saw the painted “shadow man” on a few random buildings all over Nevada. He will show up in other photos we took along our road trip.
According to the walking guide John gave us, the house with the fence around it is the G.L. “Tex” Rickard House that was built in 1905 by Rickard, the nationally famous boxing promoter who promoted the forty-two round Gans – Nelson fight in September 1906, the longest fight on record. Rickard went on to be a manager at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The house with the arches is the Jennie B. Elder House built in 1908. John told us the woman who owns it refuses to sell, but also refuses to maintain the home that is slowly deteriorating.
“Tex” Rickard House & The Jennie B. Elder House
As the sign says below, The Santa Fe Saloon was built in 1905 by Hubert Maxgut, and is the oldest continually operating business in Goldfield.
The Santa Fe Saloon
Also according to the walking guide John gave us, construction on the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad Maintenance and Repair Yard began in May of 1906 at Mill Town, in the Goldfield mining district, and was completed southward to Beatty by April 1907, and then reached Rhyolite by June 1907. The railroad stopped running January 1928, and had a life span of twenty-0ne years.
The Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad was one of five railroads that ran through Goldfield.
The Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad Maintenance and Repair Yard
After checking out the BGRR, we ventured back over to the Goldfield High School to find John. The outside of the building is gloriously ominous in and of itself, so Devin and I couldn’t wait to check out the inside!
The Goldfield High School 1907 – 1953
John told us to come through the basement doors of the high school (which was built in in 1907) when we arrived. One of the first things we saw was a classroom that was still full of old desks, left behind when the school closed its doors for the last time in 1953.
Not wanting to take advantage of John’s graciousness to let us check out the inside of the school we ventured up the stairs where we could hear John talking with another gentleman we would later meet. I called out his name to let him know that Devin and I were in the building. He acknowledged our presence and told us to feel free to look around. Devin and I could NOT believe our luck…we felt like we had won the jackpot in exploring an abandoned place.
As we wandered through the ground floor, we came upon a boys and girls bathroom. The girls bathroom was adorned with creepy dolls, apparently left there to entertain the spirits of any little girls that may still be wandering the rickety hallways. We were told the Tonka Truck was also left there in case one of the ghostly girls was a tom-boy.
The old school was heated with coal, so naturally the coal room was also in the basement. And it was exactly what you would expect a coal room to look like. Dark and creepy. As we walked through the doorway into the coal room, I half expected the door to swing shut behind us and flames to appear out of nowhere.
While we were in the coal room, John came down there to find us. He was on his way out, but told us to feel free to go wherever we wanted as long as we followed a couple of rules. His #1 rule was to close any door we opened once were done exploring that room, and #2 was to not get hurt. He told us the nearest hospital was about 200 miles away, and it would be easier to throw us down a mine shaft than try and get us help. And he wasn’t kidding. On that note, he left Devin and I to ourselves with three stories and an attic to explore.
As we ventured up the stairs, the main level and upper level of the school were mainly classrooms. Remnants of old lesson plans scrawled in beautiful cursive could still be seen on some of the chalkboards, along with old paper letters pinned up that barely make out “Merry Christmas 1947”.
Here are a couple of videos from inside a classroom. My first video cut out…which happened quite a bit when I was shooting short videos inside. We may have had some ghostly interference 🙂
That rickety old wooden ladder you see is the way up to the attic. Devin was brave and climbed up first, but when he got close enough to see through the open door in the floor, he decided that was far enough. There were only narrow boarded walkways and the rest was open floor, so it was pretty sketch. The giant metal tank was the gravity fed water system for the fire sprinkler system. I took the two shots looking into the attic, following Devin’s suit, and just poking my head and camera through the opening in the floor. That was far enough for me too! I have no idea how I would have gotten back down from there.
Once back outside, I took a final shot of the impressive and beautiful facade of the old high school. Below the staircase resting on a 2×4 was an old Mug root-beer can.
After touring the high school, Devin and I walked back to his car to head to the International Car Forest, which is also in Goldfield. As we were getting ready to pull away, a man driving a Razor ATV pulled up by us. He was the man helping John at the high school earlier. He walked over to us and asked if we had checked out any of the gold mines in the area, to which we responded we hadn’t. He then asked if we would like to see them, to which we enthusiastically responded it would be great to see them! He looked at Devin’s car and asked if we wanted to ride with him in his ATV, as some of the roads were kind of rough. So we got out of Devin’s car and hopped into his Razor.
As we were scooting around the desert, we learned that his name was Jim and that he had a ton of knowledge of the area. He took us around to places we never would have known existed if it weren’t for him playing tour guide. We ended up spending three amazing hours kicking around the desert checking out gold mines, old petroglyphs, the gorgeous Joshua trees in the Nevada desert, and occasionally running into wild donkeys (which I didn’t even know were a thing!) He asked us where we were from, and when we told him we from Oregon, he told us he lived in McMinnville for three years. What are the odds! For those that don’t know, that is where we were born and raised. Most people have never heard of McMinnville, so that was a really cool connection. It was such an incredible time, and definitely a highlight of our trip.
Gold Mines & More…
Joshua Trees – Goldfield’s “Forest”
Petroglyphs & Remnants of Another Life
We ended up being in Goldfield for so long, I had to get another shot of these to subway station entrances with the late afternoon lighting. They were just so random and so cool. We ran into a couple of other photographers getting their shots in too.
Subway Station to Nowhere
I can’t even begin to explain what an awesome and unexpected day Goldfield turned out to be. What we had planned to be a quick stop for a few photos turned into an adventure that my brother and I will never forget, and I’m so glad he and I have this memory to share. Thank you to Jim and to John and to all of those we ran into throughout the day. You made us feel so welcome and gave us a memory to last a lifetime. Next stop…Jim is taking us to the International Car Forest….see next blog post 🙂