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Deluge of responses is a testament to this eastern Nevada town's strong community ties.
Photo: Rachid Dahnoun
Much of the excitement surrounding our Tour Around Nevada campaign, which began with our January/February 2009 issue, is anticipating each community’s reaction when we announce that it will be featured in our magazine.
The first pleasant surprise with respect to Ely came when we went to tally the votes in April to declare this issue’s featured town. The eastern Nevada town, our top overall vote getter so far, was a runaway winner. But that was just the beginning of the community’s overwhelming support.
After the Ely Times published my letter inquiring about our visit to Ely and which residents to interview, the suggestions flooded my inbox and phone. I thought readers might enjoy a sampling of the recommendations:
The Nevada Northern Railway is one of our greatest treasures. [Executive director] Mark Bassett has done so much to preserve the railroad. He and his wife, Joan, would not know what a 40-hour week looked like!—Donna Frederick
Virginia Terry and Robin Bartlett—board member and general manager of the Garnet Mercantile, Ely’s community-owned department store. The Garnet was the result of a project in which the community came together and raised $500,000 to replace JCPenney, which left Ely after 90 years, saving a downtown landmark.
Jack Smith—86-year-old native and driver of the annual Horse Races, an event that has occurred in Ely for more than 50 years. He’s a long-time Elk with a wealth of local history knowledge.—Phil Leibold
I would suggest you contact my father, John Polish, who turns 93 in September. He has resided [in the Ely area about] 70 years. He worked in the mines of Kimberly during the summer to earn money to attend college at the University of Nevada, Reno. He was known as “Ironman Polish” and was inducted into the UNR Hall of Fame in 1974 for his outstanding football and track careers. He was a teammate of [NFL Hall of Famer] Marion Motley. He met and married my mother, Jerry Black of Ely, and finished his schooling. They moved to Ely, where he had a wonderful career in teaching and coaching in the White Pine School District for 35 years. He also represented White Pine County as a State Assemblyman for three terms.—Betty Milobar
Elaine Smith—I believe she is 86 years old, but she’s as healthy and vibrant as a 40-year-old. She is active with the Ghost Train and other train events–her husband was a railmaster here for 20-30 years, I believe. She is always at the town corrals helping with animals and is traveling around the town day and night, driving her pickup all the time.—Gary Nelson
A gentleman by the name of Dave Tilford is working on a living history project, in which he is interviewing a lot of our older citizens.
There is one person in our community that definitely qualifies as interesting, but she lives in McGill (just north of Ely), and she’s new to town. Her name is Kristen Kocurek. She came to McGill about eight years ago and has been working on restoring the old Kennecott Clubhouse building [more info at mcgillclubhouse.com], usually working by herself. It’s a project most people could never imagine…but she does it with a smile.—Chris Robinson
One of Nevada’s oldest towns, Ely was established in 1870. It was designated the White Pine County seat in 1887 and served surrounding mining camps such as Cherry Creek and Osceola. In the early 1900s, copper deposits led to a population boom in Ely as workers vacated the floundering gold mines of the region. This led to the construction of the Nevada Northern Railway, which connected Ely’s copper mines to the Southern Pacific Railroad.
More than a century later, the ‘Ghost Train,” as it’s now known, is still an essential part of the community–only today it serves tourists. In addition to scheduled rides (daily this July and August, with the exception of August 24 and 31) and tours of the railroad grounds, NNRY offers specialty rides such as the July 4th BBQ & Fireworks Train and holiday-themed Polar Express. Through the Engine Rental program, tourists can experience what it’s like behind the throttle of a steam or diesel locomotive. On July 17, the railway, home to the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, will celebrate the centennial of Engine No. 40, resurrected in 2005.
A town rich in history has to have somewhere to house and display it, and that would be the White Pine Public Museum, featuring American Indian and other regional artifacts, including a cell from the former Ely City Jail. Hours are seasonal, but the museum should be operational most days during the summer.
In nearby McGill, a short drive north, visitors can witness a drugstore frozen in time. Products on the shelves date to the 1950s, and visitors can sit at a 1930s-era terra-cotta soda fountain bar. Plan ahead as tours are by appointment only (call 775-235-7082).
The Ely Renaissance Village, open June through September, is another intriguing step back in time. On select Saturdays, the Village–a collection of historic buildings that pay homage to various cultures (e.g., the Italian House)–offers living-history demonstrations. You can count on a Farmers’ Market there every Saturday from August 28 to September 25. The Village includes a general store, amphitheater, and studio and is the site of the Christkindlesmarkt holiday celebration.
The early-1900s architecture of downtown lures history buffs as well, starting with the historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall. When the six-story building opened on July 2, 1929, it was the tallest in the state. The hotel pays homage to Western culture with an abundance of murals and taxidermy exhibits. Downtown in general could be summed up by the motto of Jailhouse Casino (across the street from Hotel Nevada): “Good ole hospitality is still a priority”, the official website reads. The family-owned Ramada Inn & Copper Queen Casino, featuring Evah’s Restaurant and the Copper Flat Pub, prides itself on a down-home atmosphere.
Through mid-fall, golfers can get away from some of the more crowded Nevada greens to play Ely‚ White Pine Golf Course. The high elevation equates to long drives, and the incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks only add to the course‚ luster. The sports-minded can also enjoy seasonal dirt track oval racing at Great Basin Raceway.
A short drive south of town is Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, featuring six cone-shaped structures once used in mining to reduce wood to charcoal. Nearby Cave Lake State Park is the site of January‚ annual White Pine Fire and Ice Show, including an ice-sculpting contest and fireworks show.
About an hour‚ drive east of Ely is Great Basin National Park, one of the country‚ least-crowded national parks. Be sure to schedule a tour, available year round, of Lehman Caves, a beautiful display of stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and more than 300 other rare rock formations.
Ely is the eastern-most stop in The Official Highway 50 Survival Guide, produced by the Nevada Commission on Tourism. After you get the guide stamped by five participating towns along The Loneliest Road in America, you receive a certificate. For more information, visit travelnevada.com or call 775-687-4322.
MEET NEVADA MAGAZINE
On July 17, we will meet and greet visitors and Ely citizens at Engine No. 40‚ 100th birthday bash at Nevada Northern Railway. We invite you to visit our booth. Also, look for our magazine at Ely’s 1960s Class Reunion, July 2-4, and the Boomtown History Conference, August 4-8.
TOUR AROUND NEVADA
*Nevada Magazine is proud to partner with Virginia City etching company Botcha-Caloop’s in the production of the Tour Around Nevada plaque.
White Pine County Tourism & Recreation Board
150 Sixth St.
Ely, NV 89301
WORTH A CLICK
UPCOMING ELY EVENTS
1960s Class Reunion, July 2-4
Antique Auction, July 4
Fireworks Train & BBQ , July 4
Engine No. 40 Turns 100, July 17
High Country Pick Out, July 24-25
Art Wine Walk, July 31
Boomtown History Conference, Aug. 4-8
Arts in the Park, Aug. 7-8
White Pine Rodder’s Car Show,
White Pine Horse Races & County Fair, Aug. 21-22
Visit whitepinechamber.com for more events.