Situated just below Virginia City, Gold Hill is a quaint and tiny mining town that has seen more than its share of extremes over the years. It is not only home to the worst mining accident in Nevada history, it is also the birthplace of the Silver State’s oldest hotel: the Gold Hill Hotel & Saloon.
Whether you’re in town for dinner or a night of ghost hunting, this 1860s Comstock treasure is the very definition of a must-see when you’re in the area.
A Bit of History
Although one historical marker says the Gold Hill Hotel & Saloon dates back to 1859, local historians agree it was fully open as the Riesen House by 1861, coinciding with the start of the Civil War thousands of miles to the east. Either way, that’s long enough in the past to make this Comstock building the oldest hotel in Nevada, an impressive claim given how small the surrounding town really is.
Even before Nevada was officially part of the union, the Gold Hill Hotel was modestly running a very busy operation. It’s hard to believe that such a place could still remain in business, delivering the same exact services to modern day travelers over 150 years later, but it’s true. Though Nevada didn’t become a state until 1864, the region was recognized as the official Nevada Territory in 1861. During this time, thousands of pioneers were called West in hopes of achieving their American Dream, either by starting their own ranching operation or striking it rich themselves. As you can imagine, hotels and boarding houses were in crazy-high demand after Nevada became an official Nevada Territory, and by July of 1861 the hotel was fully operational.
Another very important event was happening just up the street – one of the nation’s largest and most famous silver strikes, the Comstock Lode – was being discovered. That entire operation was headquartered in Virginia City, while the town of Gold Hill was just one mile south. Virginia City and the surrounding area soon became one of the most famous towns in the West, drawing thousands and thousands of residents to the region. The Comstock Lode mining district was not only one of the most legendary towns in the West, it soon became one the largest cities in the West, too. It didn’t take long to incorporate schools, opera houses, newspapers, trains, factories, churches, fire departments, and police forces. During the mid 1860s, the area boasted a population of 15,000 and swelled to 25,000 by the mid 1870s. As you might imagine, it didn’t take long for the Gold Hill Hotel to become quite an important fixture in the area, drawing famous visitors like Mark Twain himself.
Over the years, Gold Hill saw its share of good times and bad times. In 1869, the nearby Yellow Jacket mine suffered a fire at the 800-foot level, killing 35 miners and devastating nearby mines. The Yellow Jacket closed for nearly a decade, only to be flooded again soon after opening. It was abandoned and remains underwater as you read this.
Eventually, other nearby mines dried up and most of the area’s occupants moved onto the next big discovery. Through it all, the Gold Hill Hotel has not only managed to hang on, but prospered as one of Nevada’s favorite Uncommon Overnighters.
Modern visitors will notice that the building’s stonework remains impressive inside and out, and it’s one of the first things you notice upon entering the Gold Hill Hotel. Inside the establishment’s sagebrush saloon, it’s easy to imagine miners mixing with travelers from the east, swapping tales of their adventures in this rough and tumble town, just as they do to this day.
For a real taste of the Old West, ride the V&T railroad out of Virginia City and wind your way down to Gold Hill where you’ll get a better understanding of the scope of the town’s former mining operations.
Modern Day Accommodations
Throughout the decades, the Gold Hill Hotel has managed to keep the original hotel rooms dating back to 1861 in tiptop shape, while offering a handful of lavish, modern-day options as well. Visitors can reserve one of the original 1861 rooms which are a bit more petite than the other options, but are undeniably special as they’re the earliest rooms in the entire State of Nevada. Located in the original portion of the hotel, visitors can expect uneven walls and floors, original plaster with exposed brick, and double brass beds.
If you want to enjoy the history of this incredible hotel but with a bit more space, try the Queen Rooms, with attached outdoor patio. That, or up the ante with a Balcony Room offering a private balcony with mountain views, as well as a sitting area, in-room refrigerator and flat screen TV.
The Doubles Rooms are great for people traveling in pairs or for families, and for even more space you can reserve the Miners Cabin. This cabin is located at the base of the historic Yellow Jacket Mine headframe, and equipped to host six people. Bask in this incredibly historic location while enjoying modern amenities and drinking in amazing mountain views. Dogs are allowed in the cabin — and cabin only — for a daily rate per dog.
For even more space, visitors can rent the Bullion Lodge, a restored historic home offering a king bed, as well as a nice outdoor patio and old-fashioned deep bathtub. If you’re looking for accommodations for large groups, then the Brewery Lodge is it, as this encompasses renting an entire home. Located across from the hotel, this property can host up to seven guests and is complete with a full kitchen and dining area, multiple bathrooms and a private deck and patio.
Gold Hill Restaurant & Saloon
For some of the best dining in the Comstock, a visit to the Gold Hill hotel is far from complete without checking out the Crown Point Restaurant. As the only full service property in the entire Comstock National Historic District, it’s safe to say they’ve got it figured out around these parts. Try everything from tasty pub appetizers like potato skins, to high quality Angus steaks and shrimp scampi. To peruse the full menu, click here.
Who are Rosie and William? To hear some folks tell it, they’re the ghosts who haunt the rooms at the Gold Hill Hotel on a nightly basis. In fact, the Gold Hill Hotel has a reputation of attracting Paranormal Investigators from near and far because of the Yellow Jacket mine collapse.
As a result of the historic tragedy, a substantial amount of paranormal activity has been detected at the Gold Hill property, drawing ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts from near and far. Some have claimed to detect miners who perished in the fire, while others have claimed to have been visited by Rosie – a famous prostitute who lived in the historic hotel for a period of time.
The Gold Hill Saloon and Crown Point restaurant are open 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, with Monday serving as “Miner’s Night.” Also, they are open for brunch from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Sundays. On Saturdays, the restaurant is open from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM with the bar opening at 2:00 PM on Fridays and 3:00 PM on Saturdays. This, of course, is subject to seasonal change, so be sure to call the establishment directly for the latest updates.
Menu, bar, and lodging prices vary. Check with the hotel for any questions.