Though nearly all remaining buildings in Belmont’s living ghost town have fallen victim to time, one majestic remnant from the area’s former glory stands tall: The Belmont Courthouse. Following the discovery of silver ore in the late 1860s in this central Nevada region, Belmont exploded with prospectors hoping to strike it rich. Before Belmont really took off, the Nye County seat was in the formerly successful mining town of Ione. With most of Ione’s population relocating to Belmont in search of silver, Belmont soon became the county seat. By 1875, the community was granted $3400 to construct a courthouse, which was completed a year later in 1876.
Silver fever captured the minds of many from the 1870s all the way up until about 1900 when the Silver Boom faded away. Mines began to close, buildings were being dismantled [for timber, their most valued asset] and the population dwindled as families went in search of the next big prospecting town. With few residents left, the election of 1900 drew a meager 100 votes, and by 1905, the county seat was moved to Tonopah and the Courthouse shut down.
As the timber roofs were the most valued part of many homes and buildings in Belmont, most were striped down and taken to the next camp. As a result, most of the buildings have become severely dilapidated, but nonetheless interesting. Luckily, the Belmont Courthouse sets itself apart in this case, as the roof was left completely intact. The craftsmanship on this structure in general is immaculate; the original roof managed to remain intact from the 1870s all the way up until a few years ago. While the roof stayed put, the jail cells in the rear of the property did not. Stripped from the building after the jail cells were needed in the new county seat, the jail cells were removed and transferred to nearby Tonopah. After many years of use, the fascinating historic cells were returned to Belmont and can be viewed at the rear of the property today.
Although nearly destroyed by vandals [and weather] while it was unoccupied and managed for 60 years, the Nevada State Parks system took over in 1974 and maintained the property until 2012. Now cared for by The Friends of the Belmont Courthouse, this non-profit organization formed specifically to preserve, restore and protect the historic and real property of this historic property. In addition to fundraising and preservation efforts, The Friends of the Belmont Courthouse provides tours to the public by appointment.
The interior walls of the Courthouse is decorated with thousands of signatures, marking the presence of visitors throughout the past century years. While not maintained, many sightseers have scrawled their names across the walls, dating as far back as the 1920s and include inscriptions by those who would later become prominent figures, including Richard M. Bell. While many prominent State figures stepped foot inside the Courthouse, so did another notable group: Charles Manson and his cronies. Although this is undoubtedly the most famous inscription inside the Belmont Courthouse, Charles Manson’s autograph is definitely one to see with your own eyes.
From the fascinating architecture and construction of the Courthouse, to noteworthy inscriptions, a mysterious suicide, to historic artifacts, it’s quite easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering the grounds. The next time you’re in touring this neck of the woods, do yourself a favor and add the Belmont Courthouse State Historical Monument to the list. You’ll be glad you did!
For more information on free tours or to inquire on membership, please contact the Friends of the Belmont Courthouse at (775) 498-3968 or firstname.lastname@example.org.