Gold Point, NV

Louise Speaks:  Heading home and about 30 miles south of Goldfield is the turn off to Gold Point.  This is heading west towards California and is a main connector.  Our purpose to go to Gold Point was to see some castle that is currently for sale.  We never found the castle but thanks to the internet I was able to do some research and find out the history.  In 1998, Randy Johnston bought 40 acres of land adjacent to Gold Point.  Two years after buying the property, Johnston began construction of his “castle,” known as the Hard Luck Castle, and he has been at it ever since.  Originally a plumber, this self-taught jack-of-all-trades does most of the work himself, occasionally helped by visiting volunteers.  He lays block, sets stone and tile, fabricates steel and iron, installs plumbing, runs gas and electrical lines, builds furniture, harnesses solar and wind power, plasters, paints, grouts, maintains his own access road and handles whatever else needs doing.   From a foundation on bedrock, the 50-foot-diameter tower of concrete, stone and metal rises four stories, capped with a plate-glass cupola perfect for enjoying expansive daytime views and glittering night skies.  The structure encompasses 8,000 square feet from basement to cupola and consists of 22 rooms.  Walls are 126 inches thick with arches for solid wood doors with hand-wrought hardware.  Many windows pierce walls for light.  The living space includes a great room, dining room, two kitchens, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a wine cellar, a media room, an electrical room and a workshop.  A large shed outside houses a larger work space.   Johnston’s bastion utilizes power generated by the sun and wind, stored in banks of batteries.  Thick walls protect the house from extremes of cold and heat.  Vents channel outside air or rising heat to keep the interior spaces comfortable.  The structure has no fireplaces, odd for a castle, but there aren’t any ready sources of firewood nearby.  Cooking is done with propane in the kitchen and on a barbecue outside that burns wood pellets.  Water is trucked in from a spring near Gold Point on the far side of the mountains and is stored in a huge gravity-flow tank.

Johnston has the basic house completed, but finishing work remains to be done, such as grouting floor tiles and applying finish coats on many walls. He is installing two pipe organs in his desert retreat, complicated instruments he enjoys playing and maintaining.  He admittedly gets sidetracked when opportunities arise, such as his recent acquisition of cast-off parts of a vintage pipe organ, which he plans to use to increase the number of pipes in his organs.  He has made many recent trips to the coast to pick up the long lead pipes and wooden covers.  By the way, the unique property was on the market for $3,250,000 but has since be reduced to $1.5 million.  This is quite the deal since Johnston has invested over $3 million dollars in the property.  Johnston says he is selling the home because his health is failing and he wants to buy a 50-foot sailboat and just relax.  The entire Hard Luck Mine and Castle estate is for sale,’ the home’s website reads.  ‘Everything – and we mean everything – comes with the sale.  All the owner wants to leave with is his truck, his trailer, and his dogs.’

Johnston interrupts whatever he is doing to give visitors a guided tour of his unique home.  A donation of $5 to $10 per person is suggested at the end of the tour.  Not sure what the cost is as different web sites have listed different donations.  We would have gladly paid the donation if we could have found the castle.  Our mistake was that we went into Gold Point instead of taking a turn before reaching town.

Upon arriving in Gold Point, we didn’t even get out of the car.  There were tents camped everywhere and we have no idea why.  There were buildings but none looked livable.  We did see people, but they were just staring at as as we drove by.  We felt like we were trespassing and the first car they had seen in days…maybe weeks.  If they call this a ghost town, this is an accurate description.  It wasn’t until I started researching Gold Point and it’s history to write this blog that I’m thinking we should have stopped and looked around. 

The town of Gold Point goes way…way back.  A mining town turned ghost town.  Fast forward to 1960.  Mining continued up until the late 1960’s, when, at the 1000 ft. level of the Dunfee Shaft, a dynamite charge went off wrong and caved a large part of the ceiling in. Rather than put out more money, on what had declined to a marginal operation, the mine turned off the lights and closed the doors.  Other than an occasional lessee here and there, this was the last serious mining operation in Gold Point.  For the next 10 years, Gold Point was basically a Ghost Town and would have blown away piece by piece like so many other towns of the Old West had it not been for the loving and watchful eye of  Ora Mae Wiley and her friends.  Ora had come here around 1930 from Georgia to have a little look and see what the wild west was like. She met her future husband, Senator Harry Wiley, one of the founding fathers of Hornsilver, now Gold Point,  and stayed in Gold Point until her death, at the age of 83 in 1980.  In addition to mining, Harry,  served on the  Board of Supervisors from 1940 until he was elected to the Nevada State Senate in 1946, where he served until his death  in 1955.  The couple also operated a little general store and a Standard Gas station.  Ora Mae was Postmistress in Gold Point from 1940 to 1964.  In 1967 the 4th class Post Office closed.   Slowly, a newer generation of Gold Pointers started moving into town.  Today Gold Point boast of a population of 6 full time residents and as many as 6 part time residents.  There are a handful of other people who own property in Gold Point, but they are scattered around the U.S. and rarely make the trip out. There are a few others who live just outside the town limits as well.  Together, everyone watches out for everyone else and that is the reason there are no problems in Gold Point. When you visit Gold Point you may not see anyone, but rest assured they are watching you, and we sure felt that way today.

The  mercantile store  and grill have both gone through restoration.  Restoration of some of the other old buildings have been going on since the late 1970s.  Apparently there are two museums in town that are open to the public on most weekends.  Today is Saturday and like I said, if it wasn’t for the wind blowing, we would be seeing nothing move.  The story about how Gold Point got to be this tourist attraction, although I don’t see it, is quite fascinating.  In 1978 Herb Robbins  and his buddy, Chuck Kremin, pulled into Gold Point, which in 1908 was a flourishing gold mining town.  They found a handful of die-hards clustered alongside a gravel road proudly named Gold Street,  which is off the nearest highway, 190 miles north of Las Vegas.  Kremin stopped to talk to the first person he saw, and after several minutes, he called out to Robbins, “Do you want to buy property here?”  ‘‘Sure,’” Robbins recalled.  They later drove up to purchase 3 lots for $500 a piece.  Kremin took one and Robbins took two, and a few months later, they were part owners of a few empty lots in Gold Point.   Once Robbins got the lots, he got hooked, and his love affair with Gold Point began.

Property ownership grew from hobby to avocation.  In 1981, Robbins partnered with Chuck Kremin and Chuck’s brother Walt to buy the old post office, the general store and the home of former state Sen. Harry Wiley.  The price included all the antiques and furnishings.  Now they had a place to stay other than in a tent or trailer when they visited Gold Point.  Chuck Kremin soon stepped back from an active role, but over the next 10 years, Robbins and Walt Kremin  continued to buy any and all the buildings that were available no matter what their condition.  In 1986 Robbins purchased the cabin/home where he lives now and plans to spend the rest of his life in that very cabin.  Their plan was no more grandiose than to save a bit of Old West heritage.  Robbins and Kremin have spent years going through mining shacks, homes and businesses, trying to stabilize and rehabilitate them.  They have re-roofed structures, gutted interiors and added framing, drywall, insulation and electricity.   Visitors coming to Gold Point stay in their small RV park or the bed-and-breakfast, yes they claim to have a B & B, which are actually renovated miner cabins that are popular with European tourists.  They have decorated the cabins with old-fashioned wallpaper and furnished them, giving people who enjoy ghost towns a chance to stay in one.  This experience of breathing fresh life into this hamlet is not about the money.  Robbins and Kremin say they’ve spent far more than they could hope to recover in a lifetime.  Such is the price to preserve and share history.

For over 30 years now Walt and Robbins, with many thousands of dollars of their own money, have been purchasing building materials and working on all the different cabins and buildings. It takes thousands of dollars to rebuild and preserve even a small old miner’s cabin, and they have 12, not to mention the other bigger buildings, so it’s been a slow process.  Each year they find the price of wood products continuing to climb.  It takes a lot of different materials to save a cabin. The only thing they generally do to the outside is put on a roof. They try not to put on any new wood unless absolutely necessary.  Rolled asphalt roofing is usually applied first. Then as they get the extra money they put on the cedar shingles.  Inside is a little more complex.  These 100 year old cabins and buildings were built without any framing like they build today.  The walls are only as thick as the 1 x 12 inch board and bats that were used. They go in and strip the walls down to the original walls and then build a 2 x 4 frame inside.  This stabilizes the cabin tremendously. They can then install the electrical wires, insulation, sheet rock, paint and/or old newspapers or old fashioned wall paper, carpet, curtains and finally furniture.  Besides their own labor they are very grateful that they have what they call our Friends of Gold Point who occasionally come and donate their time helping them.

The Bed and Breakfast idea came a few years ago when they finally took the suggestions from different friends to let other ghost town enthusiasts stay in the old cabins that they had fixed up and take donations from them to help purchase more building materials. Throughout the year they are constantly purchasing building materials with this money along with their own hard earned cash.

Living here, may sound like a romantic notion to some, but make no mistake, it’s hard.  It’s a 60-mile drive to get groceries.  The nearest Walmart or Home Depot is a couple of hours away at best.  Before cell phones, residents had to drive about a dozen miles to the now closed Cottontail Ranch brothel to use a pay phone.  Now they have some service, and they have satellite TV.  And what happens when Robbins and Kremin are physically spent and can no longer maintain Gold Point?  Both are in their 60s now and have cut back on many of the activities they used to do in the town.  “When the time comes, everything goes up for sale, not necessarily to the highest bidder but to the person who takes care of it the best,” Robbins said.  “Buy it all, we’ll sell you everything with one condition.”  That condition is that they have to live here until they die.

These buildings were 100 years old in 2008.  Each building they save they hope  will see another 100 years.  This will be their legacy. This is what they wish to pass on to future generations to see and experience as they have over their lifetime.  So you see by reading all the history of Gold Point I wish we had stopped and looked at some of these buildings.  I generally research sites before Thelma and I go on one of our adventures, but since I didn’t plan this trip, I didn’t know what I was looking for.  I’m not sure this is a place I would return to, but the idea of staying in one of these mining cabins does sound adventurous and might be worth a trip back.



Goldfield, NV

Louise Speaks:   From Tonopah, we were off to Goldfield.  We hadn’t had lunch yet and there didn’t seem like many options in Gold Field.  That was until we came upon  the Dinky Diner.  I usually don’t comment about places we eat unless there is really something special to say.  This spot won my heart from the beginning.  Although not the hot outside, it was to hot to leave Gracie in the car.  I went in the diner and the owner was cleaning tables.  I asked her if Gracie could come inside while we had lunch.  She said of course….this diner was a hit already.  The menu had everything on it from sandwiches, to burgers to taco salads.  It was hard to choose so we all ordered something different.  This is what small town home cooking is suppose to taste like.  The owner bought this building on a whim and now it’s her and her children that run this diner…a true family affair.  It is decorated like grandmas kitchen and the cooking area can be seen from the dining tables so you feel like you are in someones home.  Food was great, prices VERY good, and friendly people all around.  We were also told that between 2500 and 5000 cars pass in front of this restaurant EVERY day.  The Dinky Diner is also the only full service restaurant in Goldfield so she does get plenty of business.  Should you ever be on this road, I 100% recommend it.

Our tour guide, and my high school classmate has a thing for cemeteries.  A town as old as Goldfield has got to have some interesting tombstones so off to the Goldfield Cemetery we went.  The ground must be pretty hard in Gold Field because it looks like there is just as much dirt and stone above the ground as below it.  The graves were dug by size so you could tell instantly if it was a child or an adult.  We discovered diphtheria must have been an epidemic because many of the tombstones said the age of the child and what they died of, and there were many under 1 year of age dying from diphtheria. There were also plenty of mining accidents and gun shot deaths.  Again for being a small town this was a very large cemetery, so large that although we had walked through many of the sections, we decided to drive to the back of the cemetery.  While doing so, a young man came walking through the cemetery to visit one of the graves.  He was probably 30 and these grave sites are all from the 1920s or so.  Whomever he was visiting has to have been gone for almost 100 years yet he went directly to a grave and stopped.  The stories he must have been told.

We spent much time walking the streets of Gold Field.  We came upon the old Goldfield High School which is now under renovations.  How cool it must be to see this building and say, “my grandma went to school here”.  There is much real estate for sale here.  Many old bars, hotels, and shops of all kinds.  With as  many motorists that drive by here, what kind of business would entice people to stop?  We know…. an Ice Cream Shop…lol.  Just waking through town was like walking through a museum.  There was the old Fire Station with fire trucks outside.  They have their own radio station, and they broadcast onto the street so you hear it as you walk along.  There are some small hotels, or homes that rent rooms and there is even an RV park and one that is for sale..hmmm the possibilities.

There is a huge hotel in town, The Goldfield Hotel,  that is just now going through renovations.  There is even plan to make the bottom floor a gaming room and a bar.  This could be good and bad as the only operating bar in town is directly across the street, which means if the bar and casino go in the hotel, this small bar will go out of business.  We were able to look through the windows of the hotel and the original switch board is still in place.  The lobby desk is still in tact.  It will be interesting to see how it is renovated and how it comes to life.  The  outside of the hotel looks fairly new and with the hotel getting a paint job this will be quite the place.  The woman in the gift shop across the street seemed pretty excited about the hotel being an operating hotel again, but I see many small business going out of business…like the bar and these small places renting out rooms.

As we were heading to our last stop, which was suppose to be the best stop of all, we came across this International Junk Yard Forest.  Just outside of Goldfield, which  was once one of the wealthiest boom  towns in Nevada.  This is another one of the state’s incredible outdoor art installations worth traipsing through.  Originally created by longtime Goldfield resident , the curious exhibit was originally conceptualized an open space, where artists could let their creativity amuck on cars instead of canvases, implementing whatever medium they desired.  Thanks to these artists uncommon vision, visitors can enjoy this free, one-of-a-kind gallery comprised of over 40 cars, each a unique masterpiece of its own.  While some cars are forcefully driven into the ground clawing toward the sky, others are carefully balanced atop each other, as though they could topple over at any minute.  While other outdoor car exhibits can be enjoyed in other states like  Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Bug Ranch in Texas or Nebraska’s Carhenge it is believed that The International Car Forest  is the largest in the country.  Now after visiting all 4 of these artist car junk yards they all have an art of their own.  I still think Carhenge in Nebraska is my favorite, but I recommend you go see them all and decide for yourself.

Goldfield is definitely a ghost town of the past that is trying to come back to life.  With renovations, and the possibilities of new businesses, this town could start thriving, especially with the amount of traffic the main street sees each day.  If there was actually a reason to stop, maybe people would and this would be a good stopping point if you were driving from Las Vegas or Pahrump heading to Reno.  I don’t see myself stopping here again, but if I was passing through, it would be a good place to stop and eat…and I’m still hoping for an Ice Cream Shop.

Tonopah, NV.

Louise Speaks:  Again as part of our annual Pahrump trip, a friend of mine who lives here takes us on a Field Trip of the surrounding area.  Today we were off to Tonapah, Gold Field and Gold Point.

The drive out is through the Mohave Desert and pretty dry.  There are mountains and beautiful skies, but once again the desert flowers are not in bloom.  A pretty boring drive if you don’t have someone to converse with…luckily we did.  Tonapah from Pahrump is about 165 miles north, so about 225 miles north of Las Vegas.  This part of Nevada does not have much civilized living…it is all desert.  You must go through Gold Field to get to Tonapah.  Since we were in need of a potty break and another car in our group needed gas, we went through Gold Field to Tonapah to get gas…before you ask, Gold Field does not have a gas station.

We did not mind stopping in Tonopah.  Tonopah, is a quaint little town full of old hotels,  small shops, bars and liquor stores.  We spotted a book store and had to take a peak.  An hour and over $100 later, we were back walking the streets.  This was a very popular mining town in it’s day.  It was also the first big town you reached traveling from Reno and California.  It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 6 and 95, approximately midway between Las Vegas and Reno.  The legendary tale of how Tonoaph was  discovered,  says that Jim Butler went looking for a burro  that had wandered off during the night and sought shelter near a rock . When Butler discovered the  burro the next morning, he picked up a rock to throw at it in frustration.  He noticed that the rock was unusually heavy.  Butler had stumbled upon the second-richest silver strike in Nevada history.  As Tonopah was growing, a 24-year-old poker player, played poker and dealt faro  in the town saloons.  Once he had a small bankroll, he talked the, owner of the Tonopah Club, into taking him in as a partner and to file for a gaming license.  Where ever there is gaming there is alcohol and that leads to trouble.   In 1903, miners rioted against Chinese workers in Tonopah.  This resulted in China enforcing a boycott in China of U.S. imported goods.  Hard to believe a town this small could have that much power.  By the time the partners moved to Goldfield and made their Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company a public corporation in 1906, these two partners were worth more than $30 million.  Can you imagine $30 million in 1906?

Gold and silver production was falling and by 1920, the town of Tonopah had less than half the population it had fifteen years earlier.  Small mining ventures continued to provide income for local miners and the small town struggled on.  Tonopah  has supported travelers as a stopover and rest spot on a lonely highway.  Today the Tonopah Station has slots and the Banc Club still serves as a casino.  One of the original saloons bears the name Bug Bar with their motto, “Brew with a View”, kind of catchy don’t you think?   In the fall of 2011, a California-based solar energy company,  started construction on $980 million advanced solar energy project just outside town.  The project put Tonopah at the worldwide center of technology for this class of solar energy storage.  They could not have picked a more perfect place since it is in the middle of the Mohave Desert.  This project put 800 workers on site, and was completed in 2014.  So although small and quaint it is once again a booming town.

The most historic building in Tonopah is the Courthouse and the Mizpah Hotel.  For being over 100 years old, the courthouse is in pretty good shape.  The Hotel however, is a show stopper.  The hotel has 47 luxury suits and each room features high thread count sheets, ultra comfort mattresses, period decor, and modern amenities like flat screen TVs and free wifi.  In looking at this town, I can’t imagine 47 overnight guests staying here, but maybe for the fact of saying they stayed at the Mizpah Hotel.

The hotel opened in 1907 and was the first luxury hotel in Nevada…even before Las Vegas and Reno.  The hotel obtained new owners in 2011 who did a complete renovation.  There is a full bar and gaming room in the lobby and the lobby is decorated with plush velvet sofas and loveseats.  There are two fine restaurant on site and hosts live entertainment on the weekends.  The hotel was built for $200,000, and has  solid granite walls, leaded glass windows and Victorian-era luxury rooms.  The hotel features solid oak furniture, hot and cold running water, steam heat, brass chandeliers, stained glass windows, and an electric elevator, one of the first in the state. At five stories, it was also the tallest building in Nevada until 1929.  Gaming came to the Mizpah Hotel in the 1940s.  The first chips were issued in 1945, and the casino included a roulette wheel, craps table, blackjack, and 80 slot machines.

Like most hotels in small towns,  it is said to be haunted.  The Mizpah Hotel is said to house a ghost deemed “the Lady in Red” by hotel guests who have experienced her presence.  She is so famous there is even a wine named after her.  Legend says that the Lady in Red is the ghost of a prostitute who was beaten and murdered on the fifth floor of the hotel by a jealous ex-boyfriend.  Another widely accepted description of the events is that The Lady in Red had been caught cheating by her husband at the hotel after he had missed a train, who then proceeded to kill her in a jealous rage.  The Lady in Red haunting of the Mizpah was featured in season 5, episode 2 of Ghost Adventurers on the Travel Channel.

We had not planned to visit much in Tonapah, but just driving through made us have to stop.  The book store, the hotels, and just the hustle and bustle of Saturday traffic.  We could have spent more time here so I’m thinking the next time in Reno, we come home this way.