I've spent the past few days on a media tour of Nevada, USA. There's more to the state than Las Vegas, and as we tracked northwest we left the party city behind and entered a completely different realm of small towns, many with a mining past.
The one I liked the most was Tonopah. It was founded just over a century ago by Jim Butler, a prospector who was on the track of his absentee donkeys. Picking up a rock to heave at one in annoyance, he noticed it was unusually heavy. Threaded through with silver, it started a mining boom and the town sprang up.
Over the years, Tonopah's prosperity and population have ebbed and flowed. Aside from mining, its proximity to nearby military bases have helped its economy along (interestingly, the town lies not far north of the mysterious Area 51).
There's also an impressive Solar Reserve currently being installed outside town, a massive project with a multitude of solar cells which will store power within a tower containing molten salt.
But it's the older buildings of Tonopah which most impressed me. Perhaps because of its cycle of booms and busts, there seems to have been no wholesale demolition of old buildings in the town's heart. As a result, its downtown area is a classic slice of small town America...
1. This was the grand Mizpah Hotel, where we stayed the night. Unusually large for Tonopah's current population of 2500 people, the century-old hotel has been beautifully restored in recent years. The rooms are compact but the main bar area is a wonder to behold:
2. On a hill behind the hotel, these old buildings are an attractive backdrop. One of them houses the office of the Town Manager, an official appointed by local government to manage Tonopah's public services:
3. Across the road, this impressive boarded-up structure was once an office block, no doubt the workplace of the respectable townfolk such as attorneys and clerks who drank at the Mizpah:
4. Can't go past the A-Bar-L for all your bootscooting needs:
5. The rather austere post office building speaks of an age when it was one of the most important buildings in town:
6. There's the Kozy Korner Deli for that morning coffee:
7. Or something stronger from the Tonopah Liquor Company:
8. And I love the diversity of the stock at the business next door:
9. Finally, there are the structures of the Mining Park on a hill just behind the Main Street. Here, some of our group joined local astronomers to peer at the heavens. Tonopah is said to provide America's best stargazing - a neat summation of its contrast to the bright lights of Vegas.
Disclosure time... On this trip I was hosted by the Nevada Commission on Tourism.