Virginia City is one of the oldest established communities in Nevada. Folklore indicates that the town got its name from a man named James Finney who was nicknamed "Old Virginy". Finney was credited with discovering the Comstock Lode. His real name was James Fennimore, and he had fled his home state of Virginia after killing a man.
Like many cities and towns in the state, Virginia City was a mining boomtown; it appeared virtually overnight as a result of the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859.
During its peak, Virginia City had a population of over 15,000 residents and was called the richest city in America. During the 20 years following the Comstock success "about $400 million was taken out of the ground." Most of the miners who came to the city were Cornish or Irish. In 1870, Asians were 7.6% of the population. When the Comstock Lode ended in 1898, the city's population declined sharply.
Mining operations were hindered due to extreme temperatures in the mines caused by natural hot springs. The miners would snowshoe to work and then descend into the high temperatures. This contributed to a low life expectancy. Adolph Sutro built the Sutro Tunnel in support of the mining operations. The tunnel drained the water to the valley below (Carson City). Conceived in 1860, it was not completed until many years later, after much of the silver had been mined. From its creation in 1859 to 1875, there were five widespread fires. The 1875 fire, dubbed the Great Fire of 1875, caused $12 million in damages.
VIRGINIA CITY: tourist trap but rad