Ely is the seat of White Pine County, and the gateway to Great Basin National Park. It is a small pleasant city famous for its many marvelous murals and for the Nevada Northern Railway (more romantically "The Ghost Train"), surrounded by vast natural beauty with abundant food and lodging choices.
In 2005, the Ely Renaissance Society purchased a piece of property from the Geraghty family that they had owned since 1911. Nine small houses, a barn, general store, and miners’ cabin were located on this site.
In the years since, many improvements have been made. Each house has been restored and furnished so they look just like they did in the early 1900’s. The original wood stoves, wringer washers and the other furnishings have been carefully restored, so walking through the houses is a journey back in time.
Each house is dedicated for a different ethnicity to represent the mix of people who came to the area to work in the mines, on the ranches or to run businesses. The Geraghtys were originally from England, so their house is the English house. Also represented are the French and Spanish houses for the Basque people, the Italians, Greeks, Slovaks, and Asians who lived and worked here. The miners’ cabin is the typical one-room cabin that was found in any of the mining camps around the state. The general store is now the gift shop, which offers local history books, collectables and stick candy. Together these homes make up what is now known as the Ely Renaissance Village.
Also added to the Village is a stage and amphitheater where entertainment can be provided. This area has been used for weddings and large group gatherings. A concession area has a roll-out counter for use with large dinners and bars. A covered pavilion was added in 2015. This is used for the Farmers Market that takes place in August and September.
This year will see the addition of the stories of 24 local ladies being added to the houses. Photos and short
The kitchen in the French house
biographies of each lady, along with personal effects such as clothing and equipment, will add a deeper understanding of what life was like here 100 years ago. While the men came for jobs, the women came to make homes, raise families and create a community from the mining camp.
A well-documented book tells the full story of each lady with family photos and written biographies. Descendants of each lady have supplied information, family histories and personal items to bring the stories to life. The book is on sale in the gift shop.
Now, walking into each house, you can enjoy seeing the period homes and learn about the actual ladies who lived and worked here in the early 1900’s. The Village is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays beginning May 28 and running through the end of September.
No visit to Ely would be complete without a stop at the Ely Renaissance Village located in the 400 block of Ely Street in downtown Ely. More information can be found at the Ely Renaissance Society website.
ELY IS THE GREAT CITY of Nevada's far east, closer to Salt Lake City than to Reno or Las Vegas. It is located where the southern end of the magnificent Steptoe Valley meets foothills of the Egan Range, at the conjunction of Highways 6, 50 and 93. Ely offers many excellent lodging, dining and recreation options in marvelous natural surroundings.
Its greatest attraction to visitors is the Ghost Train, the restored Nevada Northern Railway that takes passengers from the old depot in East Ely (take 11th Street north from Highway 93/Avenue F/Aultman Street) on excursions west to Ruth and northeast to McGill from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Additional trains are scheduled during the winter months, the Polar Express has Santa aboard, and the Photo Shoot specials in February attract photographers from around the world.
Railroad buffs now converge on Ely from all over the world. They light up with pleasure as the antique locomotives squeal and hiss up to the passenger depot. They exult at the conductor's "All Aboard!" They thrill at the thought of an Ely-McGill-Cherry Creek excursion train, and they faint away with joy at the prospect of going all the way to Cobre.
No wonder: Magic happens as the antique steamers chuff solemnly away from the station. Wheels clickety-clacking, cars swaying, the world gliding slowly by, kids waving from their bikes, cows looking up in dim curiosity, sky spread big and bright overhead — it's a unique and delightful experience for its own sake, and even more for being the real thing — this is not a reconstruction or a restoration.
The White Pine Public Museum at 2000 Aultman Street is the showplace for a mineral collection of considerable variety, and for unique items like the home-made cannon which once guarded the Court House in Hamilton. The museum is open seven days during June, July and August, and Monday through Friday the rest of the year. Admission is free.
Ely was established in the 1870s as a stagecoach station and post office. Only after it was designated the White Pine County seat in 1887 with the collapse of Hamilton did the population climb to 200. After the turn of the century, immense copper deposits near Ely began to attract attention away from the failing gold mines, and by 1906 a boom had developed. The Nevada Northern Railway was completed in the fall of that year and in 1908, when the smelter at McGill went on the line, mineral production leapt from barely more than $2000 the year before to more than $2 million. The Kennecott Copper Company began acquiring Ely copper mining companies in 1915 and by 1958, swhen it suspended operations, these acquisitions resulted in control of the region's copper mines and dominated the local economy. A Polish company is mining the copper here now.
The departure of Kennecott was a watershed event in White Pine County history, and for nearly 20 years nothing quite took up the economic slack. The economic downturn precluded widespread renovation, and the early 20th century small-town architecture that dominates its center give Ely a familiar look. Norman Rockwell would have liked it, and you will like it too.
Many of Ely's downtown buildings are distinguished by murals, most of them sponsored by the Ely Renaissance Society, a group formed after the closure of the big copper mine eliminated more than 400 local jobs. The murals were intended to help spruce up the 11-block central core of the city, and to create a new attraction that would help bring visitors. Depicting a variety of local subjects in a variety of styles, the murals and other outside art provide a pleasant and interesting stroll.
Another great attraction is the magnificent surroundings. Great Basin National Park provides an obvious and rewarding destination, but there is no limit to the outdoor recreation here. Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, exploring, cross-country skiing and anything else you enjoy doing outdoors is available in the countryside around Ely Chamber of Commerce information is available on Aultman Street.