Eureka on Highway 50
The people of Eureka are so proud of their relative isolation that they’ve taken to calling their community the “loneliest town on the loneliest road in America.”
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do in this historic community. In fact, while it is located in the center of Nevada about 240 miles from Reno, Eureka is one of the most picturesque of the state’s 19th century mining towns.
Silver and lead were discovered in the Eureka area in 1864, but it wasn’t until 1869 that smelters were constructed that helped make extracting the ore feasible. Eureka produced far more mineral wealth than did neighboring Austin, but never developed the hell-raising image of its sister city. By 1878, Eureka had a population of 8,000 and had surpassed Austin as the second largest city in Nevada.
It was during that period that Eureka began constructing a number of large brick buildings — and fortunately for us, many are still standing — including the Eureka Courthouse (1879), the Eureka Sentinel offices (1879), the Eureka Opera House (1879) and the Jackson House (1877).
Part of the reason for the sturdy construction, which was somewhat unusual in 19th century mining town, was a disastrous fire in April 1879 that destroyed most of the wooden buildings. When the town was rebuilt, it used brick and fireproof iron shutters and doors.
In 1875, Eureka was connected to the world by the Eureka and Palisade Railroad, which ran north to a depot in Carlin. While the tracks and equipment were sold when the railroad ceased operations in 1937, it is still possible to see the rail bed alongside State Route 278, the road that stretches from Eureka to Carlin.
As probably Nevada’s best-preserved mining town, Eureka is a great place to explore. An informative historic walking brochure is available from the Eureka Chamber of Commerce or from the Eureka Sentinel Museum, which is open during the summer months.
The Sentinel building has been converted into a fine small museum. The museum displays the old Sentinel newspaper equipment as well as other exhibits detailing the history of this fascinating town.
The two-story red brick courthouse on the main street towers over the community. Over the years, the courthouse has been maintained and restored, making it one of the best-preserved examples of late 19th century architecture in the state.
Across the street is the Eureka Opera House, restored to its 1880s appearance and now used as a theater and community center. Its Grand Hall looks much like it did in the 19th century, complete with chandelier, wood floors, stage curtain and a horseshoe-shaped balcony. It served as the social center of town in the 1880s and is still the hub of tourism in Eureka.
Written by Rich Moreno