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Virginia City offers three restored properties to tempt travelers.
Photo: Carolyn Eichin (all)
News travels fast in tiny Virginia City. The current buzz projects a fourth bed and breakfast opening there some time in 2008. For now, Chollar Mansion, Edith Palmer’s Country Inn, and the new kid on the block, B Street House Bed and Breakfast, offer tourists a charming Victorian-Era experience. With another in the works, Virginia City has become one of Nevada’s most inviting B&B destinations.
Recently owners Gena and Jeff Wood purchased the 1861 Federalist-style Chollar Mansion, with three guest rooms, and furnished it with period antiques and reproductions. Located on D Street just below the Fourth Ward School, Chollar Mansion’s rooms are spacious, and its Victorian-style breakfast feeds the heartiest of appetites. The mansion boasts 16-inch thick walls, 14-foot high ceilings, a three-story cantilever staircase, and an arched stone bullion vault. The 164-square foot vault is said to be the largest in Virginia City and still has its original steel door and lock.
The mansion served as the business office of the Chollar Gold and Silver Mining Company until 1870. The Connecticut-born William “Billy” Chollar came to Virginia City in 1859, in the first wave of miners from California after the discovery of silver. According to historical records, Billy never lived in the building, nor did he make an enduring profit from the mine he discovered.
On the south end of B Street sit four restored Victorian homes, composing Edith Palmer’s Country Inn. The brainchild of Pat and Leisa Findley, Edith Palmer’s offers guest rooms in three of the houses, with restoration continuing on the fourth. Pat’s eyes light up when talking of historic preservation and the challenges of saving Virginia City’s oldest homes, some dating from 1863. Pat and Leisa began restoring their first home in 2000. Soon after, they purchased the Edith Palmer house, established as an inn in 1948. Edith was known for her exquisite cooking. Perhaps that’s what attracted Marilyn Monroe to stay at the inn during the filming of The Misfits (1961) in nearby Dayton.
Edith’s house was originally the Ellis Morton home with an attached cider factory. It seems odd, in the desert-mining community of Virginia City, that New Englander Morton produced apple ciders and vinegars for the Comstock, but that was indeed the original use of the restored stone building gracing the back of the inn’s property. Newspaperman Alf Doten, known for his detailed diaries, lived in the house for several years in the 1860s. The inn features 10 rooms—four in the Silver Street house, two in the Storey house, and four in Edith’s former home.
Edith Palmer’s Country Inn has preserved the practical homes of the average businessmen of 1860s Virginia City. Even the beautiful country gardens that Edith lovingly tended are preserved and available to guests wanting breakfast with a view, or just a quiet moment outside.
The 1876 B Street House Bed and Breakfast is near the historic Piper’s Opera House. It took Chris and Carolyn Eichin nearly three years to convert Henry Piper’s original home into an elegant B&B. Opened in September 2007, their B&B features three guest rooms upstairs and a large parlor and library downstairs, where a full gourmet breakfast is served every morning. Work continues on the gardens, which feature native and Victorian plants.
Built after the Virginia City “Great Fire” of October 1875, the house was a showplace of the upwardly mobile Henry Piper family. Henry was the youngest brother of John Piper, the theatrical entrepreneur of national fame in the mid-19th Century. According to the 1867 Territorial Enterprise newspaper, Henry was John’s partner in running the opera house and became the prime operator of the Piper Brothers’ saloon during the late 1860s and 1870s.
The long and narrow row style is the notable architectural feature of the B Street House. Also unique is the terned steel half dome over the five-window bay. The B Street House reflects the lifestyle of the upper-middle class Henry Piper family, who lived there until the 1890s. The original parlor wallpaper was reproduced in appropriate silver and gold colors that speak of the wealth of the Comstock silver mines under Virginia City’s streets.
Through the efforts of these Nevadans, some of the most beautiful and important historic homes of Virginia City have been saved. The newest B&B? In 2008, an 1876 Italianate house, the two-story Cobb home on A Street, is scheduled to open with six guest rooms.
The Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority is planning an historic home tour for spring 2008. All three inns will participate. Visit the tourist authority’s Web site, listed below, for more information.
565 South D. St.
Edith Palmer’s Country Inn
416 South B. St.
B Street House Bed and Breakfast
58 North B St.
Virginia City Convention & Tourism Authority