The town that gold built and betrayed

Picture taken in Rhyolite Nevada

Picture taken in Rhyolite Nevada

Photos by Dustin Wax

These are pictures taken in Rhyolite, Nevada.  If you had visited Rhyolite in early January of 1905, you would have found nothing more than two dudes living in a tent. If you had visited Rhyolite two weeks later you would have found a town of 1,200 people hoping to strike it rich. Why the big boost? Gold. The town flourished during a gold rush after high quality ore was discovered at a nearby mine. The town added another 1,200 people over the next six months, and by that point the town was home to “50 saloons, 35 gambling tables, cribs for prostitution, 19 lodging houses, 16 restaurants, half a dozen barbers, a public bath house, and a weekly newspaper.”

Of course this rush could not last. The ore that was once so golden was soon used up. The new ore was crappy. What stands now in the once booming town of Rhyolite is actually barely standing these days. There’s a open air museum just south of the city now, the Goldwell Open Air Museum that has a series of sculptures that look like ghosts (as well as a giant, naked lady made from concrete pixels). The ghostly sculptures seem oddly at home in the desert. But one days these sculptures will rot as well, joining the remains of the town in a scattered heap of dust on the ground.

May 16, 2012 / By