The town sprang to life in 1900 after Jim Butler first struck silver. Butler was not one of the most entrepreneurial of miners and the town’s development is only due to the leasers who worked against the clock pushing out $4 million in ore and using part of the revenue to build the substantial town that Tonopah became.
Within two years of the discovery of silver, Tonopah was a sprawling city numbering 3,000 residents and a hub of commercial activity. The town boasted a stagecoach service, competing newspapers, a couple of churches and dozens of saloons. In 1905 it was named as the county seat and by 1907 possessed five banks. The cultural center element of Tonopah also took off with several theatres, a casino, a dance hall and even a brothel!
In the period leading up to World War I, Tonopah boomed and peaked and the mines produced an average of $38.5 million a year. After the war, the importance of mining on the economy declined and with it, so did the Tonopah boom. During the 1930s and 1940s the main economic resources for the town were ranching and highway trade, and for the next couple of decades the town experienced economic hardship. There was a second mining boom in 1979 and a brief economic resurgence was felt, bringing with it a wave of construction and newcomers to the town. Unfortunately this surge did not last very long.
The various economic booms have left their mark on Tonopah. Construction of various hotels and motels has enabled Tonopah to be a convenient stop for a visitor touring the area. There is a spacious public park with picnic spots and a swimming pool where one can enjoy the pleasant Tonopah climate, as well as numerous restaurants in the town. The local casino also provides visitors with entertainment in true Nevadan style.
The Tonopah Historic Mining Park, located on the very spot where the original silver resources were first discovered in 1900, offers visitors a taste of mining history. The park is spread over 100 acres and presents exhibitions from the four major mining companies that worked in the area. The equipment is displayed and self-guided tours allow the visitor to amble through the several reconstructed buildings which are permanently open to the public. The highlight of the visit to the mining park is an organized tour of the underground mining shaft route.
Get a taste of a true mining town - come and visit Tonopah!
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