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.
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.
Behind the house seems to be a model of the town in its heyday, constructed by shards of glass, wood, and mud.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Near the depot is an old caboose from a Union Pacific train.
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.
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.
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.
Two of Szukalski’s pieces at the museum include his version of “The Last Supper” (1984) and “Ghost Rider” (1984).
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.