Saving our history: Historic Comstock structures stabilized

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SILVER CITY, Nev. (KOLO) Four large wooden structures cling to the hillside above State Route 341 as it winds up Gold Canyon past the old Dayton Consolidated Mill.

To be honest--in a landscape dotted with weathered and ruined structures--their importance, even their purpose may not be evident to the casual passerby. But once, they played an essential role in the mining boom we know as the Comstock Lode.

Virginia City rightly gets the glory, but Silver City and Gold Hill just up the road were important chapters in that story. In fact, the first gold nugget in the canyon was found here in 1850.

By 1861, Silver City had attracted 1200 residents. There were no big bonanzas here, but it was--until the V and T Railroad was constructed--the transportation hub for the Comstock where the mules and horses who hauled passengers, freight and ore were kept.

And some of that ore came here to the Dayton Consolidated Mill.

At one time Silver City had 8 mills. Today only this and the Donovan Mill just up the highway remain. They are important structures in the Comstock's history and so by extension are these structures.

"They're called leesor ore bins," says Steven Saylor, Executive Director of the Comstock Foundation for History and Culture, "because the mill would lease the bins to different mining companies and they would come in and put 50 tons of their ore in the bins."

And, periodically, these bins would be tapped, their ore processed in the mill.

There were once a number of bins like these. Today only these remain. Their survival, however, has been in question. Sturdy as they once were, the years have taken their toll. Then the wet winter two years ago weakened their hold on the hillside.

"When something like this comes up we step aside and we step in, because if we waited one more year this would be gone," says Saylor.

So, with another winter approaching, the Comstock Foundation brought in a crew and equipment to shore them up.

Wood four-by-fours and steel beams were hauled up the hillside to stabilize them. Like the mill below, they sit on private property, but the Comstock Mining Company is a partner here. They will continue to own them; the foundation simply wants to see them preserved and protected.
Saylor says eventually, it's hoped they and the mill could be part of a museum's guided tour to tell the story of mining here on the Comstock.

"Our history is these structures. Very little of what was here actually exists anymore. So it's very important that the ones that remain be brought back up so we can give people a snapshot of exactly what used to be here."

That's somewhere in the future. For now, it's enough to know they will be around for that day.

You'll find more information on the foundation and its work here.