The old historic community of Tonopah has been mentioned in several Nevada ghost town articles that were published in this website so far. Tonopah is a recurring reference point when discussing historic towns, like Beatty, Rhyolite, Gold Point, Goldfield or Carson City. Many decisions and trends that developed in Tonapah in the days of the old west eventually influenced policy for the region and the entire state.
Tonopah was a place where savvy characters made fortunes. The story of how Jim Butler discovered a rich gold and silver ore strike while chasing down his unruly burro is what legends are made of. After the gold strike, Tonopah soon became the hub for the Central Nevada silver and gold mining industry.
Tonopah also was a place where the casino gaming industry took a strong foothold. A gambler with savvy named George Wingfield is a great case study of how a gambler constantly seek ways to increase his fortune while accurately predicting economic trends.
Wingfield amassed sizable earnings while dealing Faro in saloons and he invested his earnings in licensed casino partnership back in 1903. In short time he invested his gaming revenue in the local mining industry and his fortune grew to a few million dollars. Wingfield then invested in a local bank that bought the rights to many mines in the region.
Within a span of less than a decade, this legendary gambler was worth well over $30 million dollars and the story does not end there. Wingfield accurately predicted the trend of a declining local mining industry in 1910 and he sold off the mining stakes long before the Tonopah mining industry completely crashed. Wingfield then parlayed his fortune by investing heavily in real estate and casinos up north in Reno. This is one of the greatest rags to riches stories of all time, because Wingfield rose from a saloon gambler to being the richest man in Nevada!
Wingfield and many other investors never lost sight of Tonopah being the halfway point between Las Vegas and Carson City or Reno. Tonopah not only took shape as a mining industry hub, this town became a famous stopover for travelers and high rollers. All good things come to an end and by 1920 the mining industry was pretty much caput in Tonopah. The Great Depression sealed the fate of Tonopah by relegating this once famous place as being a living ghost town.
The dust never completely settled in Tonopah, so calling this community a ghost town is not really justifiable. Even though the population declined dramatically, small local mining ventures and the halfway point stopover status kept Tonopah alive. In recent decades, the solar power industry, nearby military test ranges and the recent trend of old west tourism have kept the local economy alive.
Many old west towns that have historical significance are now prime tourist destinations. One might say that Tonopah is the leader of the pack, solely because of its prime location. Road weary tourists that drive on US Highway 95 between Carson City and Las Vegas sure do appreciate the hospitality that Tonopah provides.
There is plenty to see and do while in Tonopah, so it is not realistic to just describe this destination as being just a halfway point stopover in modern times. It can take a day or two to explore all that Tonopah has to offer, so this town truly is a destination of its own that is worth getting acquainted with.
When first arriving in town, the Tonopah Station is a good place to start. The Tonopah Station is an old time Nevada casino that is chock full of local historical memorabilia, artifacts and antiques. This is a great place to get a taste of old Nevada and the famous local mining industry. The food in the Stage Stop restaurant has an old west theme and a bowl of their chili sure does stick to the ribs!
The Central Nevada Museum is located a few blocks north. This museum offers guided tours of the old west exhibits and mining industry relics. A short jaunt north toward the center of town lies another historical destination. The Tonopah Mining Park offers hours of exploration of the golden age of the mining industry. Guided tours and group outings are offered, but visitors can also wander the grounds on their own. Just like many old west outdoor museums, there is no admission fee, but donations are appreciated for maintaining operations. For the price of a few dollars, visitors can learn quite a bit about what it took to get the silver and gold ore processed, while ensuring that the Tonopah Mining Park will be there for future generations.
The Clown Motel is another Tonopah destination worth checking out or checking into! This definitely is not a good place for folks that suffer from severe coulrophobia. The Clown Graveyard is located just behind the Clown Motel and there is also a local graveyard where many miners met a tragic end. As everybody knows, clowns and graveyards add up to just one thing and that is paranormal activity to an extreme!
Along the main street shopping district is where the world famous Mizpah Hotel can be found. This historic hotel was built in 1907 and it was named after the local Mizpah Mine. The famous Tonopah gambler turned millionaire, George Wingfield, financed the original Mizpah Hotel. The Mizpah is one of the finest examples of luxury hotels from the golden age of the mining industry. Every item in this hotel has historical significance and the Mizpah is the source of many old west legends.
There are stories about Wyatt Earp, Jack Dempsey and Howard Hughes being involved with the history of the Mizpah, but at best these stories are only partially true. There are also legends about how this hotel is haunted by a ghost called The Lady In Red that many guests have seen. Some of the legends associated with the Mizpah have to be taken with a grain of salt, but without a doubt this hotel definitely is a great place to romance dreams of an age gone by.
All it takes is for a visitor to step through the doors of the Mizpah to experience Tonopah in its heyday. Plush leather chairs, fantastic old west style woodwork and drapes that look like they belong in a mansion were par for the course back in the old days when the gold and silver flowed freely. Old time slot machines and a long bar greet patrons and the level of comfort is superb.
The Mizpah offers some of the best dining in Tonopah too. I tend to eat simple while on the road and a Western Burger with a beer from the Tonopah Brewery at the Pittman Café in the Mizpah sure hit the spot! For those who dream of dining where the gold and silver tycoons lived it up, the Jack Dempsey Room is the perfect choice. The Jack Dempsey Room in the Mizpah offers luxurious old west style fine dining and this place is famous for great steaks.
Traveling on US 95 from Las Vegas to Carson City or Reno is a great way to see the panoramic expanses of the Great Basin Desert. This long road offers great opportunities to experience one of the most famous halfway point stopovers in the entire west, but there is one thing that should be kept in mind. Booking accommodations ahead of time is advisable, because even on a weekday every available room in Tonopah can end up being filled shortly after the sun goes down.
Tonopah is just as much of a precious gem today as it ever was and many travelers eagerly look forward to returning to this destination time and time again. Those who want to experience old Nevada to its fullest, surely will fall in love with historic Tonopah!