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Historic Mizpah HotelIn May, 1900, Jim and Belle Butler came prospecting from their hay ranch at Belmont to stake the claims that gave rise to Tonopah. This was the first silver bonanza of the 20th century. It prompted a mining renaissance, and this heritage is Tonopah's great attraction, along with good food, lodging and all necessary services.
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    The Nevada
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    Visitor's Guide to
    Tonopah Mining Park

    Tonopah sprang to life in 1900, just as the mining excitement at Nome, Alaska, was tailing off. The Tonopah silver boom also coincided with the last waning of the Comstock, and Tonopah men managed much of the state's affairs for more than a generation afterward. By 1905 it had captured the county seat from failing Belmont and by 1907 Tonopah was thriving with railroads, banks, theaters, hotels, many of the most impressive residences in Nevada, and the Big Casino, a dance-hall-and-brothel occupying a square city block near the center of town.

    Tonopah peaked in the years leading up to World War I, when the mines averaged $38.5 million a year in production. From there it was a long, slow downhill slide. As the '20s gave way to the '30s, and the '30s to the '40s, mining slowed and finally stopped. Ranching and the highway trade became the main economic resources. The Army Air Base east of town kept the city solvent during World War II but for more than 50 years of hard times the increasingly shabby city clung to the barren swale between Mounts Oddie and Brougher.

    Travel Nevada, Nevada Magazine
    In 1979 Tonopah suddenly erupted in its second mining boom of the 20th century. Suddenly the Mizpah Annex Cafe was a crush of men in Air Force fatigues or the flannel shirts and blue jeans of construction workers and miners. Waitresses raced from table to table with pots of coffee and platters of flapjacks. Fleets of buses hauled the men out of town to work. Nine hundred of them were building the great new Anaconda molybdenum mine and mill, and hundreds more worked in a dozen gold and silver mines producing bullion at a furious rate. The Air Force was so busy at its missile test range beyond the mountains to the southeast that it leased whole motels in Tonopah to accommodate the troops.
    And then one day the boom was over. The price of gold and silver slid and the mines closed. The market for moly went so bad that even mighty Anaconda had to close. The Air Force got enough of its base built to move the men inside, and then encouraged them to stay there. Tonopah slowed down to a walk again.

    The most prominent symbol of this boom-and-bust history is the Mizpah Hotel at the heart of the city. Built in 1907 and '08 on the site of one of Jim Butler's old camp sites, the five-story hotel has gone through ups and downs along with the rest of Tonopah. Owners Fred and Nancy Cline have refurbished and restored it, not just as the icon of old Tonopah, but as an active meeting place for people from around the state. The Tonopah Brewery up the street is an allied enterprise that adds another cosmopolitan element to the old city.

    The 70-acre Tonopah Historic Mining Park is one of Nevada's supreme attractions. Located on the east side of town at the end of McCulloch Street where Jim Butler made the original discovery. The remaining structures and underground works of four old mines are being restored to working condition, with exhibits, displays and a Visitor Center in the 1905 Tonopah Mining Company power house. You can take the self-guided tour of the magnificent ruins and acquire souvenirs ar the gift shop. Access is easy; you'll see the road heading uphill from the Mizpah parking lot on Main Street.

    North of Tonopah and easily visible from the highway you can see the 600-foot tower of the Crescent Dunes Solar project, in which 10,000 mirrors focus sunlight to generate electricity.

    The Central Nevada Historical Society Museum on the south (uphill) side of town displays relics and memorabilia of central Nevada, meticulously and lovingly preserved. You can wander the relocated structures on the grounds and antique mining machinery decorates the parking lot.

    You'll also see numerous sculptures and murals here and there around the old city. They've been placed there in the hope they will lure you to park and get out of your car for a little while. Do it, you'll enjoy it.

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