Rhyolite

Rhyolite is a ghost town in the Nevada desert, a short drive from the town of Beatty and not too far from Death Valley National Park. It sits on a mixture of federal and private land.

 

History of Rhyolite

Rhyolite was founded in 1904, a year after prospectors Shorty Harris and Ed Cross found gold nearby. By 1908, it had a population of almost 8,000, but mine production began to fall. The town at its peak had electricity, telephones, a stock exchange, newspapers, and an opera house. People began to leave the town in 1910, and by 1920, the population had dwindled to just 14.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite

 

Bottle House

It’s possible to see a few of the ruins of Rhyolite. The first you’ll most likely come to is Tom Kelly’s Bottle House. This three room house was built out of mud and bottles by Tom Kelly in 1906 as a prize in a raffle. It was restored by Paramount Pictures in 1925 for a silent film, The Air Mail.

Tom Kelly's Bottle House in Rhyolite, Nevada

Tom Kelly’s Bottle House

Tom Kelly's Bottle House in Rhyolite, Nevada

Tom Kelly’s Bottle House

Close-up of bottles on Tom Kelly's Bottle House in Rhyolite, Nevada

Close-up of bottles

Close-up of bottles on Tom Kelly's Bottle House in Rhyolite, Nevada

Close-up of bottles

Behind the house seems to be a model of the town in its heyday, constructed by shards of glass, wood, and mud.

Model of town behind Tom Kelly's Bottle House in Rhyolite, Nevada

Model of town

 

Ruins of Rhyolite

Next are the ruins of the school. It was built in 1909, but by that time, most of its students had moved away.

School in Rhyolite, Nevada

School

Further along on the left side of the road is the Overbury Building, which was used as a bank and offices. It had indoor plumbing and electric lights when it was built in 1907 at a cost of US$45,000.

Overbury Building in Rhyolite, Nevada

Overbury Building

Across the street are the ruins of the Porter Brothers’ Store, built in 1906. In the distance, you can spot the old jail and a residence. A walking trail can take you to those buildings.

Porter Brothers' Store in Rhyolite, Nevada

Porter Brothers’ Store

Porter Brothers' Store in Rhyolite, Nevada

Porter Brothers’ Store

Jail and residence in Rhyolite, Nevada

Jail and residence

The next building as you continue along the road is the Cook Bank Building, which was built in 1908 for US$90,000. It had the town’s post office in the basement, the bank on the ground floor, and offices on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The building had marble floors, steam heating, and electric lights.

Cook Bank Building in Rhyolite, Nevada

Cook Bank Building

At the end of the road is the Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot, which is privately owned. It was built in June 1909 for one of the three railroads that served Rhyolite.

Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot in Rhyolite, Nevada

Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot

Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot in Rhyolite, Nevada

Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot

Entrance of the Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot in Rhyolite, Nevada

Entrance of the Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot

Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot in Rhyolite, Nevada

Las Vegas and Tonopah Depot

Near the depot is an old caboose from a Union Pacific train.

Union Pacific caboose in Rhyolite, Nevada

Union Pacific caboose

 

Cemetery

As you’re leaving Rhyolite, on a dirt road just off the main road near NV 374 is the old cemetery. It’s a very simple cemetery with a plaque commemorating all who passed through the town and opened Nevada to mining.

Cemetery in Rhyolite, Nevada

Cemetery

Entrance to the cemetery in Rhyolite, Nevada

Entrance to the cemetery

There are several simple graves of people who lived in the town. Many of the more recent graves are for people who had long since left the town and died several years later.

A simple grave at the cemetery in Rhyolite, Nevada

A simple grave

A simple grave at the cemetery in Rhyolite, Nevada

A simple grave

More recent grave at the cemetery in Rhyolite, Nevada

More recent grave

More recent grave at the cemetery in Rhyolite, Nevada

More recent grave

 

Goldwell Open Air Museum

Finally, you can’t visit Rhyolite without stopping by the Goldwell Open Air Museum. A group of Belgian artists, led by the late Albert Szukalski, created the art to be displayed in the middle of the desert. The museum is open 24/7 and admission is free. It is, however, on private land.

Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

Goldwell Open Air Museum

Two of Szukalski’s pieces at the museum include his version of “The Last Supper” (1984) and “Ghost Rider” (1984).

The Last Supper at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

The Last Supper

Ghost Rider at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

Ghost Rider

Other works of art you can see are “Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada” (1992) by Dr. Hugo Heyrman; Sofie Siegmann’s “Sit Here!” (2000); and “Tribute to Shorty Harris” (1994) by Fred Bervoets.

Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada

Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada

Sit Here! at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

Sit Here!

Tribute to Shorty Harris at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Nevada

Tribute to Shorty Harris

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